Experience is deepest where it matters most—on the offensive line. Guard Joe Shearin, Center Mike Baab and All-America Tackle Terry Tausch are seniors now and have been first-stringers since the day they arrived in Austin. Same for 6'6" Tight End Lawrence Sampleton, the No. 2 receiver in 1980.
Back, too, is Jones, the Longhorns' top ground-gainer in 1980 with 657 yards in 146 carries—in only seven games. Trying to stay sound, Jones hit the weights in the off-season—hard. "I want to get my upper body strong," he says. "Then I know I'll have a good year," good meaning "1,000 yards rushing and no visits to the trainer."
Little, the mad scrambler and No. 1 signal-caller for most of 1979 and 1980, no longer is the Texas quarterback; in January, he persuaded Akers to shift him to wide receiver because he figures that's where the pros will want him to play. In his stead, the starter will be aspiring lawyer Rick McIvor who connected on 69 of his 154 passes (44.2%) in spot duty the past two seasons. Slower afoot than Little, McIvor has an amazing arm; in high school he once cut loose with a 90-yarder. Texas publicist Jones Ramsey is so wild about McIvor's arm that he can't even contain himself when talking with Akers.
"Fred, I've seen him wing the ball 88 yards on a fly," Ramsey recently reported.
"We don't have an 88-yard play," said Akers.
"Let's put one in," said Ramsey.
Crippled as it was, the Longhorn defense was No. 2 in the SWC, behind Baylor's. Once again it will be led by All-America Tackle Kenneth Sims, who in 1980 made 100 unassisted tackles, had 13 quarterback sacks, caused five fumbles and recovered four. Behind him will be the linebacking firm of Scholtz & Shankle ( Bruce and Doug), and in the backfield will be all-SWC Mike Hatchett, among others. Last fall Hatchett knocked down a Longhorn-high 18 enemy passes and intercepted five others. There may be more promising defenses, but not in the SWC.
Akers' main concern, he says, is depth at defensive tackle. But Sims is a DT, and Mark Weber, John Haines and Donald Sirles have been waiting for their time to come. Besides, about 138 other major-college coaches would be thrilled to have depth at defensive tackle as a main concern.
Akers' real main concern is keeping his job. If the Longhorns stay healthy, it's a lock.