While Notre Dame will play another killer schedule, which includes eight bowl teams—too bad for NBC that its $38 million deal to carry all the Irish home games doesn't go into effect until 1991—Florida State opens with four cream puffs: East Carolina, Georgia Southern, Tulane and Virginia Tech. Coach Bobby Bowden's team won't be tested until October, when it plays Miami and Auburn on the road. Before spring practice began, the replacement for Peter Tom Willis, the quarterback who was one of last season's biggest surprises, figured to be junior Casey Weldon. But one of his classmates, 6'6" junior Brad Johnson, a reserve on the Seminoles' basketball team the last two seasons, wound up winning the job.
The Seminoles' most interesting receiver is tight end Dave Roberts, who has already earned his B.A. and is working toward a masters in communications. Roberts is also a rock guitarist who formed a band known as Oooz and Oz. Amp Lee sounds like a piece of equipment for Roberts's band, but he is, in fact, a tailback who gained 290 yards on 61 carries last season. Lee and Chris Parker, whose 6'2", 221-pound frame invites comparison with ex-Seminole star Sammie Smith's, will share the position.
Florida State's best lineman is offensive guard Hayward Haynes, who can carry his 278 pounds over a 40-yard distance in 4.77 seconds, though Carl Simpson, a sophomore defensive tackle who played tight end last season, blossomed in the spring. Linebacker Kirk Carruthers, a contender for the Butkus Award, is back, and at cornerback the Seminoles have another Deion Sanders, sans the jewelry, in Terrell Buckley. Asked how many interceptions he would get in the spring game, Buckley said, "However many they throw over here, divide by two." He picked off one and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown.
Like Bowden, Auburn's Pat Dye never seems to run out of talent. The Tigers are shy eight starters and a placekicker from last season's 10-2 team, which won a share of the SEC title (with Alabama and Tennessee) for the third straight year, but so what? The defense, according to senior tackle David Rocker, "will be the best of any of the four I've played on." That's saying a lot, since last season's unit was ranked sixth in the nation. The offense will pull its weight, too, even without Reggie Slack, who finished his career as Auburn's second-ranked passer. The Tigers have three outstanding runners in James Joseph, Stacy Danley and Darrell (Lectron) Williams, who will all enjoy darting through holes opened by Ed King, the 6'4", 284-pound junior guard who will probably leave after this season for the pros.
Auburn even has its own Fridge, Walter Tate, a 6'2", 306-pound noseguard who carried the ball twice for seven yards in the spring game. The crowd loved it more than Tate, who later said, "I don't want to ever be a ballcarrier after today. What I did will get you killed in the SEC."
At Michigan what might get you killed—well, at least fired—is not measuring up to the record achieved by Schembechler in his 21-year career at Ann Arbor. Moeller's first Michigan team will have a typically stingy defense—Moeller was the Wolverine defensive coordinator from 1973 to '76 and from '82 to '86—led by strong safety Tripp Welborne. The offense, though, will have a somewhat different look. "We have to throw more, with the type of quarterback we have," says Moeller, referring mainly to Elvis Grbac, who was 4-0 as a starter last season while Michael Taylor was out with an injury. Under Moeller, Grbac—who, for the last time, was not named for You Know Who—hopes to get opposing defenses all shook up by passing at least 25 times a game.
Understand, however, that the Wolverines aren't quite ready to install the run-and-shoot. Their main weapon, as always, will be the run, which is wise considering that, though Tony Boles has been lost to poor grades, they have three fine tailbacks—Allen Jefferson, Dennis Washington and Jon Vaughn—to follow the blocking of Greg Skrepenak, the 6'6", 322-pound strongside tackle. And if any of those rushers falls by the wayside, Moeller can turn to Ricky Powers, a freshman from Akron who was ranked as one of the nation's best prospects.
At Tennessee, the Volunteers should come a lot closer to duplicating last season's 11-1 record than their 5-6 of 1988. Coach Johnny Majors has his top two quarterbacks, two of his top three receivers, four of his five leading tacklers and three of his top four rushers returning. In addition, Majors offset his meager losses by signing nine junior college players, three of them All-Americas.
The Vols have never before had players quite like tailback Chuck Webb, who gained 1,236 yards and scored 12 touchdowns in '89 despite not starting until the sixth game, or Carl Pickens, a two-way threat who caught seven passes as a wide receiver and intercepted four as a free safety. So it's understandable that national-championship talk is being heard around Knoxville. "I feel it's in the back of everybody's mind," says fullback Greg Amsler. However, the schedule may not cooperate: The Vols, who tied Colorado 31-31 on Sunday, play Auburn on the road and host both Notre Dame and Alabama in Knoxville.
The Buffaloes, unbeaten last season until their 21-6 loss to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, could make another run at the national title. This season's team slogan is Can You Trust Me? Explains Colorado quarterback Darian Hagan, "Each individual has to ask himself if he can be trusted in a critical situation. In turn, can everyone on our team rely on each individual?"