On the stat sheets, Georgia has what looks to be a real problem. In seven games, the Bulldog offense has been able to sustain only two drives for longer than five minutes. Ball control has become such a sore spot with Coach Vince Dooley that before last Saturday's game at Kentucky he called his entire offensive unit together and delivered a sermon on the importance of marching methodically up and down the field.
How many Georgia players share Dooley's concern is difficult to say—particularly after they hammered the Wildcats 27-0 and ran their record to 7-0. It's never easy lecturing winners. Guard Tim Morrison put the situation in perspective when he said, "Heck, Coach Dooley just hasn't gotten used to having Herschel around yet."
Herschel is Herschel Walker, the much-heralded freshman tailback from Wrightsville, Ga. who may be blamed for curtailing a great many Georgia drives this season. Not with fumbles. Walker doesn't believe in letting go of the football once he has hold of it—but with long runs on which he either scores a touchdown or sets up a quick score for a teammate. Now those are just the sort of plays that play havoc with ball control. Here is a typical Georgia drive from the play-by-play sheet of the Texas A&M game a few weeks ago:
1/10/G12 Walker for 4 to G16
2/6/G16 Walker for 3 to G19
3/3/G19 Walker for 5 to G24 (1st down)
1/10/G24 Walker for 76 yds and the TD
Georgia 42 Texas A&M 0
(84 yards in 4 plays, time elapsed: 1:55)
In his first seven college games, including the win over Kentucky in which he gained 131 yards and scored his ninth touchdown of the season, Walker has reeled off runs of 76, 60, 53, 48, 41 and 39 yards. Against Vanderbilt he piled up 207 yards rushing by half time. He finished with 283 yards—three shy of the single-game record for freshmen set in 1977 by Amos Lawrence of North Carolina—but probably could have gone for 400 if Dooley hadn't sat him down well before the end of a 41-0 laugher. His total of 877 yards for the season is notable not only because it gives him a shot at Tony Dorsett's freshman rushing record of 1,586 for Pittsburgh in 1973, but also because a bothersome right-ankle injury, several blowouts on the scoreboard and Dooley's careful downplaying of his prize freshman's talents have resulted in Walker's sitting on the bench for the equivalent of 2� games.
Walker may be just a freshman and only 18 years old, but some experts already believe that he'll be one of the best runners ever. As Gil Brandt, vice-president, personnel development, of the Dallas Cowboys, said recently, " Earl Campbell and Herschel Walker are the only two players I've ever seen who could have jumped directly from high school football to the NFL."
Campbell and Walker are alike in other ways. Both hail from small country towns seemingly untouched by the 20th century. Both have the kind of smiling. Sunday School disposition that coaches love. Both wear No. 34, and both possess a rare collection of body parts you have to order specially from the Football Hall of Fame.
Walker stands 6'2", weighs 220 pounds and runs the 100 in 9.5. He can knock people over or blow right by them, depending on the situation. In his career at Johnson County High School, located 94 miles south of Athens, he rushed for 6,137 yards and 86 TDs. Nearly half of the yardage came in his senior year, and to make the Walker package even more attractive, he was the top student in his graduating class of 104. Recruiters descended like locusts, and twice the NCAA had to send in investigators to police the action.
Georgia needed Walker badly. The Bulldogs were coming off a disappointing 6-5 season in which they had been picked to finish in the Top 20. What's more, two players who join Walker on this week's list of the nation's Top 10 rushers—George Rogers of South Carolina and James Brooks of Auburn—are native Georgians who went elsewhere because of what Dooley admits was "poor recruiting on our part."
With timing that could only be regarded as auspicious for Georgia football, Walker finally announced last Easter Sunday that he would play for the Bulldogs. "I want to be close to home," he said. "And Georgia's criminology department will enable me to become an FBI agent like several of my relatives."