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THE TOP 20
Mike Delnagro
August 31, 1981
1. MICHIGAN
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August 31, 1981

The Top 20

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In three years at Chapel Hill, Crum has made Carolina not only the team to beat in the ACC but also a factor in the national picture; witness his 24-10-1 record and bowl victories over Michigan (1979 Gator) and Texas (1980 Blue-bonnet). Not bad for a basketball school.

"Ah, that thing about us just being basketball-oriented is kept alive by a few writers," says Crum. Well, Dick, not exactly. "People realize we're coming on, but basketball is still the thing around here," says junior Quarterback Rod Elkins. "At the football games most of the students just get drunk."

Even the most inebriated realize that Carolina has lost two of its greatest players ever—Linebacker Lawrence Taylor, the second pick in the entire draft, by the Giants, and Tailback Famous Amos Lawrence, fourth-round pick of the San Diego Chargers—as well as a defensive tackle, Donnell Thompson, who went to the Colts in the first round. What's sobering is that Crum isn't worried. He feels he "hasn't lost a thing" at tailback and that linebacking "will be our strongest defensive position." No, that man hasn't been on a binge. While Lawrence captured the headlines, Kelvin Bryant, now a junior, gained 1,039 yards rushing, just 79 fewer than Lawrence...on 52 fewer carries.

On defense, the Tar Heels have no one with the singular talent of Taylor, but they do have three exceptional linebackers in Calvin Daniels, Darrell Nicholson and Lee Shaffer, all of whom started in '80. Daniels is a fan of Sam Peckinpah movies. When they're not showing, he can satisfy his thirst for violence by watching Nicholson in action. Nicholson led the team in tackles last season with 75 solos and 42 assists. Second was Shaffer, the most underrated of the three linebackers. On the line Crum must replace 12 years of experience, and only junior Jack Parry, a tackle who was backup nose guard last season, has lettered.

On the offensive line, the Tar Heels lost All-America Guard Ron Wooten, a sixth-round pick of the Patriots. Dave Drechsler moves from left tackle to Wooten's left guard position. "We can use Drechsler any place in the offensive line," says Crum. "He can even switch during the game." But depth may be a problem. Drechsler has twice required knee surgery and starting Right Tackle Mike Marr had knee surgery in the spring.

Quarterback Elkins is the Carolina key. As a sophomore he completed 81 of 160 passes for 1,002 yards, tying Jay Venuto of Wake Forest for the ACC passing lead. He doesn't have to run much with Bryant in the backfield, but he can scramble; he was sacked only three times last year. "Rod's a quiet leader who keeps things on an even keel, just like Coach Crum," says Drechsler. "That's how we like to keep it around here."

The Tar Heels were swamped only once last year—they were routed by Oklahoma 41-7 at Norman. But the Sooners are no longer on their schedule; ditto Texas Tech, which Carolina beat 9-3 on the road. The replacements are Miami of Ohio, South Carolina and Boston College, all at home. If the lines hold up, Tar Heel fans can start chilling the celebratory beer right now. They will, anyway.

11. GEORGIA

No conference has ever produced four consecutive national champions, and yet that is precisely what could happen this year should Georgia successfully defend the title it won in 1980, following two years of Alabama rule. Certainly one thing in the Bulldogs' favor is sophomore Running Back Herschel Walker (page 38). Also returning is Buck Belue, the quarterback with the country and western name and the ability to grin and pick apart rival defenses. If Georgia can get by Tennessee in its opener, it should have clear sailing until it bumps into Florida on Nov. 7. At worst, the Bulldogs look like a 9-2 team, and without Alabama or LSU to face, another undefeated season is a good possibility.

What makes that surprising is that 13 starters are gone, and for the first time in 17 years the 'Dawgs will be without their highly respected assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, Erk Russell, who took the head coaching job at Georgia Southern. It's quite possible the team will miss Russell more than all the other absentees put together, because he was the architect of Georgia's complex "split-60" defense. Certainly this season will be a test of Head Coach Vince Dooley's administrative skills as well as of his coaching ability.

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