And while he's expected to do a big share of the heavy-duty work on the Washington defense, Jenkins is only the brightest star among many. Seven defensive starters return, including Mark Jerue, the former nose guard who will likely switch to linebacker. What's music to Jerue's ears?: "The sound the guy makes when I hit him." Washington's defense should be a symphony.
It's the offense that makes people around Seattle a bit nervous that there won't be another appearance in the Rose Bowl, where the Huskies lost to Michigan, 23-6, last January. Only three returning offensive players have strong credentials, and two, Anthony Allen and Paul Skansi, play the same position—wide receiver. The third is Split End Aaron Williams. "It's a little scary to think we may have the best receivers in the country but may not be able to get the ball to 'em," says Coach Don James.
That's because there's nobody on hand to replace departed Quarterback Tom Flick, who led Washington to 13 victories in 17 starts. His likely successor: Steve Pelluer, a big, strong and brainy sophomore who looks every inch a QB but who can be overly cautious. Running back is another huge question mark, following the departure of Toussaint Tyler, the fourth-best rusher in Washington history, and Kyle Stevens, the sixth-best. Probable starters are Vince Coby, who was impressive (422 yards on 102 carries) in 1979, and even stepped ahead of Stevens as starting tailback late that season, and Cliff Johnson. Both were out all of 1980 with knee injuries. Maybe they can graft a shoot off Jenkins' jade plant, to assure their full recovery.
The Huskies have a favorable schedule, including patsies Pacific and Kansas State in their first two games, and the offense probably will think they're supermen. But with Jenkins beating a tattoo on the opposition ("What I do best is get out on the field and really play"), and with a lot of help from his friends, James may be speaking straight when he eyes his crack defense, checks his questionable offense and admits, "We might wind up winning games 3-2."
16. MISSISSIPPI STATE
His name is Bond; he wears a flak jacket to protect himself; he's a great escape artist; and he has a license to kill. So why is this fellow living in an apartment with his wife, Kay, in Starkville, Miss.? The name is Bond, but it's John, not James, and he's the quarterback for Mississippi State.
Bond's emergence last year as a freshman savior (1,569 yards of total offense in 11 games) was just the first of many pleasant surprises for the Bulldogs. Along the way from 3-8 to 9-2 and a berth in the Sun Bowl, there was a memorable 6-3 upset of No. 1 Alabama. The brains behind State's turnaround: Coach Emory Bellard, father of the wishbone offense, who in two seasons in Starkville has not only recruited Bond and a few dozen other fine prospects, but also invented a new offense—the wingbone.
State won't be the surprise this season that it was in 1980, however. Fifteen starters return, including Bond and Middle Linebacker Johnie Cooks, who bolster the Bulldogs' 4-3 umbrella defense. Cooks, who had 79 solo tackles and 37 assists, was All-SEC in 1980. Defensive End Billy Jackson, who was overlooked by many schools because he is only 6'1", 220, had 14 quarterback sacks last fall as a freshman. If State has a weakness on defense, it will be in the secondary, where departed Cornerback Willie Jackson and Safety Larry Friday have left large gaps.
MSU's rushing offense was seventh best in the nation last season, and with junior Center Kent Hull and All-SEC Guard Wayne Harris back, getting running room and passing time shouldn't be a problem. The difficulty will be finding a replacement for All-America Wingback Mardye McDole, who led the SEC as a rusher-receiver last year. Bellard hopes that sophomore Danny Knight will "do a lot of things real good," and junior Michael Haddix, a proven runner, will start at halfback. Haddix finished third in the SEC in rushing last year with 724 yards, followed in close order by the mercurial Bond with 720.
Bond, an avid duck hunter (hence license to kill), grew up around the State campus because his father, Andrew Bond, was on the school's administrative staff in the admissions department. This fall he'll be wearing a flak jacket to protect his ribs. If his equipment holds up, this time 'round they may just have to issue Bond a license to thrill.