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At the conclusion of the final spring practice, girl friends and parents were politely ushered off the field. Parseghian gathered his team around and told them that if Notre Dame loses to Purdue again it won't be because the team is poorly conditioned. He listed five events, among them the mile run and the 100-yard dash, and then read off the times individuals would be expected to run them. "As soon as you get here for practice this fall you'd better be able to qualify. If you don't you'll be running them over and over again until you do."
Notre Dame football will be different this year and not just because of the girls or the Marine-type conditioning program. John Ray, the assistant coach responsible for the Irish defense and, therefore, much of the team's success, has left to become head coach at Kentucky after five years of willingly residing in Ara's shadow. Gone, too, are many headline names. Goodby Terry Hanratty. Farewell Jim Seymour. So long George Kunz, Bob Gladieux, Coley O'Brien and Ron Dushney. Parseghian will have to replace his entire backfield, pray his quarterback won't be injured and then run most of his plays through the left side of the line.
Notre Dame's backs have never been known for their speed. ("There must be a skinny Italian kid somewhere who is a devout Catholic and also happens to run the hundred in 9.3," says Assistant Coach Tom Pagna.) Parseghian's ballcarriers have been large and powerful, and this year's replacements—Fullback Jeff Zimmerman and the halfbacks, Ed Ziegler and Andy Huff—are not exceptions. Huff is the team's most talented sophomore, and Zimmerman and Ziegler have had little game experience, but all three can run.
The man who will hand them the ball is Joe Theismann, who became the Irish quarterback last season when Hanratty suffered a knee injury with three games remaining. He performed well, leading the team to an unaccustomed role of spoiler as Notre Dame tied USC 21-21. Theismann is a good runner and he is also able to throw, but he may not do much of it this year. Notre Dame is so short of receivers that the starting split end is a converted bowlegged punter named Joe deArrieta. What about tight end? "I'm thinking of running an ad in the paper," answers End Coach Jerry Wampfler.
Signal-calling should be easy for Theismann—something along the line of take the ball and run quickly to the left. There the holes will be opened by Guard Larry DiNardo and Tackle Jim Reilly, the only remaining members of last year's excellent interior line.
Even without a strong passing attack, and with the talent and experience bunched along one side of the line, the Irish should do all right, for the schedule grants them laughers in seven of their 10 games. As for the others, against those three nemeses, Purdue, Michigan State and Southern Cal, the offense will need all the help it can get from the defense. Luckily for Parseghian, the help is considerable.
John Ray has left Assistant Coach George Kelly with a strong nucleus from the only defensive unit to successfully contain O. J. Simpson—55 yards in 21 carries. Kelly doesn't have Ray's booming voice—during one practice he asked his front four to get down on one knee so they could hear him—but he does have eight years of producing stingy defenses at Nebraska. He will be pleased with Mike McCoy, who is back at tackle, all 270 pounds of him, and with Bob Olson, Tim Kelly and Larry Schumaker. Two sophomores, Safety Clarence Ellis and Halfback Ed Gulyas, compensate for the lack of experience in the deep secondary with their speed. They will be seeing a lot of each other this fall because, as the fastest men on the team, they'll also be returning the punts.
Notre Dame without a passing attack may be tough for enthusiastic Irish alumni to swallow, and this year they may have to cheer the defense. And if the defense fails, they can always stand up and cheer for the cheerleaders.
The practice of rustling is still very much alive in the great Southwest these days, as football recruiters from Oklahoma continue to run beefy linemen and pony backs across the Texas state line and into Norman. Texas Coach Darrell Royal will visit some homegrown phenom and think he has him all tied down when all of a sudden, before you can say Joe Don Looney, he's gone to Oklahoma.