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Hand it to Jerry Claiborne at Kentucky and Billy (Dog) Brewer at Ole Miss. From 0-10-1 in 1982, the Wildcats went 6-5-1, but they'll have a hard time matching that performance, especially without quarterback Randy Jenkins. Ole Miss, 4-7 in '82, was 1-5 before coming on with five straight wins under Brewer. The Rebels need a D, but quarterback Kent Austin should give them an O.
Q: What do LSU and Vanderbilt have in common? A: Neither won an SEC game in '83.
LSU had no excuse, really. Its personnel may be the best in the conference. Bill Arnsparger, the Miami Dolphin defensive coach for 10 of the last 13 years, and the New York Giants' head coach for the other three, now is in charge of getting all the Tigers facing the same way, which is all he really needs to do to start winning.
Vanderbilt always moves the ball: In '83 Kurt Page finished second in the nation in total offense, and Keith Edwards, a fullback, was first in receiving with 97 catches. However, the Commodores are always error-prone: 41 turnovers in '83, 11 more than any other team in the conference.
Texas A&M, Houston and Baylor all have high hopes for sophomore quarterbacks. Kevin Murray of A&M started the final seven games of '83—the Aggies went 4-2-1—and ended up No. 1 in the conference in total offense. The mainstay of A&M's leaky defense is Ray Childress, a 6'6" 266-pound tackle/end who had 15 sacks. Houston quarterback Gerald Landry became a starter in the eighth game last fall, and in four games he produced 1,203 yards of total offense. The Cougars lost 32 fumbles last season. Fortunately, the backs who did the bobbling are gone. Baylor has two sophomore signal-callers, Cody Carlson and Tom Muecke, and they ended up as the SWC's No. 1 and 2 passers, respectively. The Bears lost a 1,000-yard rusher (Alfred Anderson) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Gerald McNeil), and that hurts. The defense is unchanged, but that's no blessing: Only Rice gave up more yards than the Bears in the SWC in'83.
Fifty-five of Texas Tech's 80 players have spent a year beefing up as redshirts, but heavier doesn't always make it better. The Red Raiders won't be any more formidable than they were last season, when the offense was next-to-last in the conference and the defense third from the bottom. TCU, however, is improving. Four of its losses in '83 were by a touchdown or less. The Horned Frogs' best player is senior split end James Maness, a two-time track All-America as a relay man who averaged 18.6 yards on 37 receptions last year.
Under Lou Holtz, Arkansas quarterback Brad Taylor ran a veer offense in 1981 and '82 and an I in '83. Now, with Holtz at Minnesota, Taylor must learn the flexbone, which Ken Hatfield has brought with him from Air Force. Rice lured coach Watson Brown from Cincinnati with a reported $1.2 million spread over six years. For the moment he's a passing coach without a passing quarterback. The only real hope is Sean Sterle, a transfer from Moorpark (Calif.) J.C.
At last, BYU is in a rebuilding year. Quarterback Steve Young and tight end Gordon Hudson have moved on, along with the rest of the backfield and three all-WAC defenders. New Mexico runs an aggressive, gambling defense. Blitzing 78% of the time in '83, the Lobos led the WAC in total defense, thanks largely to free safety Ray Hornfeck and linebacker Johnny Jackson. Tackle Tim Lopez, the team's best pro prospect, was lost for the year as the result of a bicycle accident this spring, but quarterback Buddy Funck, who ran for 633 yards and passed for 1,521 last fall, will still get solid protection.