The main question is whether Stallings can find a quarterback good enough to get the ball to splendid receivers Prince Wimbley and Craig Sanderson, both of whom are back after being sidelined with injuries early last season. The main candidates to replace Gary Hollingsworth at quarterback are redshirt freshman Jay Barker and senior Danny Woodson. On defense the stalwarts will be nosetackle Robert Stewart, a 270-pounder who bench-presses 500 pounds, and linebacker Antonio London. True freshman Dameian Jeffries could be the latest in the school's recent string—Cornelius Bennett, Derrick Thomas and Keith McCants—of All-America linebackers.
17. Southern Cal
The Trojans' 8-4-1 record was only so-so by USC standards, and yet it was a minor miracle, considering that coach Larry Smith sometimes started as many as four freshmen on defense. In addition, Smith had to put up with talented but temperamental quarterback Todd Marinovich. Now Marinovich is gone, having chosen to enter the NFL draft after being arrested on drug charges. In spite of various other off-the-field incidents (during the past 12 months several USC players were convicted of offenses ranging from public drunkenness to kidnapping and robbery), the mood at Troy is surprisingly upbeat. Says Smith, "Our war cry in 1991 is, Get it back!"—meaning the league title from powerhouse Washington. While that probably won't happen, the Trojans are getting an assist from the schedule makers; they'll meet Washington at home on Nov. 9.
Despite being somewhat thin in the line, the Trojan defense should be better, especially at linebacker, where Kurt Barber and Willie McGinest are potential All-Americas. The depth at linebacker is such that USC will often play five linebackers and only two down linemen in passing situations. Of the offense Smith says, "I like running the football. I like knocking people on their butts. We're going back to good old Trojan football." That might be because sophomore quarterback Reggie Perry is not the passer Marinovich was, though the Trojans do have all sorts of good runners, including Perry and tailback Mazio (Rolls) Royster.
If Perry is disappointing, Smith will turn to Curtis Conway, who could eventually become the Trojans' most potent weapon. "He's like having O.J. Simpson at quarterback," said defensive coordinator Chris Allen after watching Conway slip five tacklers for a 30-yard touchdown run during spring practice. Conway would prefer to play flanker, though, because that's where he figures he'll play in the NFL. Says Smith, "I told him, 'I know what you're thinking. You see guys like Tony Rice and Major Harris, and they don't get drafted.' But I told him the big difference is that you can eat peanuts off their heads. Curtis is a legit six-two."
Although coach Tom Osborne insists that everything is serene in the land of the Big Red (SI, May 6), some diehards are concerned about the team's recent late-season swoons. The Huskers have lost their last four bowl games, and at least part of the problem has been an unimaginative, predictable offense that throws a bomb about as often as Johnny Carson goes home to his native state. This season, however, might see the introduction of—a drumroll, please—Air Nebraska.
"I think it will be a lot different," says senior Tom Haase, who will share the quarterback job with Mickey Joseph. In addition, Nebraska may often attack from a one-back set, with sophomore Derek Brown, a can't-miss star, getting most of the work at tailback.
The Husker offense had better be good, because the defense has to plug some big gaps left by the departure of eight stalwarts, all of whom went to NFL training camps this summer, six as draft picks. "I'm not alarmed, nor do I feel that we can't have a good defense," Osborne says. Yet he needs to find more hitters like junior outside linebacker Travis Hill, who could be as good as anybody in the country.
Defense isn't a concern for the Longhorns, despite that shellacking at the hands of Miami in the Cotton Bowl. Write that off as just one of those afternoons for a defense that ranked 18th nationally in total yards allowed per game. Look for the Longhorns to hook 'em even more fiercely this season, especially if Shane Dronett, a 6'6", 258-pound junior end, has recovered completely from the broken hand that hampered him during spring drills. The offense is solid, with quarterback Peter Gardere and tailback Butch Hadnot, but Texas needs to find some receivers. Jason Burleson, who has trained at four positions, may have found a home at tight end.