Those who attended Alabama's spring game hoping to find a flaw believed they detected one or two in Bryant's defense, which was shorn of Lee Roy Jordan, the All-America linebacker, and is without benefit of a starter from the 1962 line. Were the lack real rather than apparent, it would be strange and wondrous, for no Alabama opponent has scored more than seven points in the last 25 games and 1962 opponents averaged a pitiful 58.8 yards rushing. None is liable to do much better this year. Bryant can expect excellent performances out of Center-Linebacker Paul Crane, a 190-pound sophomore, and Tackles Dan Kearly and Butch Henry and Guards Al Lewis and Steve Allen, all 210 pounds and all qualified nasty.
Eddie Versprille, a solid (6 feet, 190) fullback who was equally good at line busting and linebacking last year, is one of the two 1962 starters among Alabama's 26 lettermen returnees. The other, of course, is Quarterback Namath. To run with Versprille, Bryant has Benny Nelson, a quick senior halfback, and possibly Mike Fracchia, the SEC's best powerback in 1961 but sidelined last year by a knee injury. The knee is still doubtful.
Alabama will have plenty of time to get respectable enough for Bryant's tastes. The schedule is Mississippi-type until it reaches Florida on Oct. 12. By season's end, all will be well and Bryant will be worrying about which bowl bid to accept.
Ole Miss graduated Quarterback Glynn Griffing and Wingback Louis Guy, now with the New York Giants, and All-America Tackle Jim Dunaway, now with the Buffalo Bills, three men chiefly responsible for the Rebs' first perfect season in 70 years. But the remaining assets are considerable. Vaught has 26 experienced players, including good linemen, and a large supply of sophomores classified as "unusually talented." Just to be sure his motion T does more than go through the motions, however, Vaught has returned Fullback Perry Lee Dunn to quarterback, where he played behind Griffing as a sophomore. Dunn is a better runner than Griffing and is an adequate passer, best at long range. Halfbacks Dave Jennings and Larry Smith and Fullback Buck Randall have excellent speed.
Vaught's teams have lost as many as three games only once since 1952, and if they lose at all this year it will almost have to be to LSU, the only real heavyweight they meet. But LSU has problems. For one thing, the new substitution rule broke up Coach Charley McClendon's three-team system and left him with 16 lettermen who now have to learn to play both ways. For another, LSU will not be quite so stylish without All-America Halfback Jerry Stovall.
On the credit side, LSU has 14 good red-shirt sophomores on deck. The most impressive is Pat Screen, a slender quarterback who can pass and runs the option like a halfback. The competition for Stovall's job is four deep—red-shirts Beau Colle and Joe Labruzzo, and two legitimate sophomores, George Haynes and Ken Cormier. Any one of these should fit nicely with Halfback Danny LeBlanc, who runs down people in the atavistic style reminiscent of Jimmy Taylor, a former Tiger. All the Tiger linemen except Robbie Hucklebridge, a stubby 225-pound guard used to double duty, will need time to adjust to two-way football, but there are plenty of good men who learn fast.
Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd has been around long enough (18 years at Tech) to know that in the Southeast defense is the ticket. Tech will not be in the SEC much longer, but while it remains it will have the right defense to keep it in strong contention. Although Dodd lost the interior of what he considered his best line ever at Tech, his replacements are not exactly struggling. And with Lothridge running the offense and passing to Ends Billy Martin, 6 feet 5, 236 pounds, and Ted Davis, 6 feet 1, 225, possibly the finest pair in the country, Tech should score often.
Despite its first-game loss to Georgia Tech, FLORIDA moves up as a challenger in the SEC. Coach Ray Graves has a line that averages 231 pounds and includes Tackles Frank Lasky, an agile 270-pounder who has already been drafted by the Giants, and Dennis Murphy, 262-pound junior. Roger Pettee, 220-pound center-linebacker, is the man the Gators' stunting defenses are built around. End Russ Brown is easily one of the league's better two-way players.
There are also two quality backs: Fullback Larry Dupree, 10 pounds heavier this year at 195, a smart and brutal runner (he led the SEC in rushing with 604 yards), and Tom Shannon, the flashy southpaw quarterback whose passing shattered Penn State in Florida's 17-7 Gator Bowl victory last January. The Gators need second-line depth and a halfback to keep the opposition honest.
In addition to Mira, MIAMI also has two surprises in sophomore Running Backs Russell Smith and Pete Banaszak. Coach Andy Gustafson will need both to compensate for his masochistic tastes in scheduling. Smith's older brother, Frank, was a Charley Justice type of runner at Miami in the early 1950s, but Russell is sensitive about the comparison. The truth is he is bigger than Frank, faster, stronger and can even throw the ball. Fullback Banaszak (6 feet 3, 203) is said to be as tough as and faster than the graduated Nick Ryder. Gustafson obviously has a mind to give Miami some offensive balance: Mira accounted for 2,059 of the team's 3,524 yards in 1962. Mira again has five receivers, including Flanker Back Nick Spinelli (33 catches for 506 yards), and a large and protective line, headed up by Tackles Dan Conners (6 feet 2, 238) and Rex Benson (255). But Gustafson is still concerned about a defense that gave up 287 yards a game last year.