"Best of all—the thing that really sets Hixson apart from other good passers—is his ability to see the whole field and to go to the second and third receivers when the first is covered. He also has tremendous poise—standing tall in the pocket we call it—letting the defense pour in and still getting the ball away."
Hixson completed 265 passes last season for 3,103 yards and 21 touchdowns. Those figures—as well as those for the Ohio State contest—set Southwest Conference records. With Hixson running Fry's anything-goes-and-usually-does Alphabet offense, the Mustangs became one of the most exciting teams of 1968. Time after time Chuck rallied SMU, outscoring opponents 171-96 in the second half. SMU's only losses in a 7-3 season were to teams that won major bowl games: Ohio State (Rose), Texas (Cotton) and Arkansas (Sugar). Not bad for a squad most people had felt would finish no better than 5-5.
"Just once I'd like to get in front early," Hixson says. "I'd like to see what it would be like if we could start with the ball on our 35 yard line instead of inside our 10 all the time. The first two times we had the ball against Texas A&M we took over on our own four and then on our one."
This season Hixson will be missing two of his biggest helpers—Split End Jerry Levias and Halfback Mike Richardson—so the offense may not be quite as explosive. Levias was second in the nation in pass receiving with 80 catches, and Richardson became the fourth SWC runner to gain 1,000 yards in a single season.
Back again will be End Ken Fleming, who gathered in 53 passes, and Flanker Sam Holden, who caught 30. Another pass-catching prospect is sophomore Gary Hammond, who came to SMU as a quarterback.
"He looked real good at quarterback this spring," Fry says of Hammond. "But who can compete against the No. 1 quarterback in the nation? He could be our new wide receiver and our No. 2 quarterback."
When it comes to running power, Fry will have problems unless Bickey Lesser, Walter Haynes or Gordon Gilder can maneuver well enough to take some of the pressure off Hixson. Another member of the backfield could well be Daryl Doggett, who will try to cash in on one of the most improbable of all parlays. He is converting from the defensive secondary to the offensive backfield and, at 5'6" and 170 pounds, will try to serve as a fullback. Despite his size, Doggett is a tough-to-bring-down runner and a sturdy blocker.
Good blocking is a must if Hixson is to pass properly. He will be shielded well by a line that is light, quick and two deep in lettermen from tackle to tackle. Guard Rufus Cormier, who scores high in the classroom and hits hard on the field, is the standout on an all-letterman defensive line. Cormier is a 225-pound 6-footer with a 3.8 scholastic average and a double major in anthropology and psychology.
Experience and quality are lacking in both backfields, especially the defensive. Despite such shortcomings, Fry remains optimistic about the season ahead. This is because, as he says, "Each year some unknown surprises everybody. I think I'll have at least one or two of those this year."
Fry, though, will have far more than one or two offensive alignments. His Alphabet runs the gamut from A to Z, one of his underlying theories being that every defense has weaknesses. It may take extensive probing to find those soft spots, but then, as Fry likes to say, "We scratch where it itches." This fall, Chuck Hixson's right arm will be doing most of the scratching.