"We're either going to be an excellent passing team," said McKay, "or we've got the worst defensive backs in history."
Chandler caught 15 passes in that spring game for 315 yards and five TDs. When he wasn't faking the defensive backs into the Pacific Ocean he was winning midair wrestling matches for the ball or making contortionist catches. He is only one of the best group of receivers USC has ever had (with Gary Orcutt, Sam Dickerson and Terry DeKraai, plus Tight End Gerry Mullins). "Bobby had an exceptional day even for an exceptional player," said McKay.
With a double-threat quarterback and lots of good targets, USC will go back to its 1962-style attack—roll-outs and run-pass-lateral option plays, which make the opposition's defensive coach feel like he's trying to hold off the Normandy Invasion. There will be more razzmatazz, perhaps more scoring and certainly more chance for foul-ups. However, Jones won't have to do all the ball-carrying. There will be a lively fight for O.J.'s vacated tailback spot among Bob Giorgetti, Mike Berry and Clarence Davis, who made the interesting transition from L.A. city shotput champion in high school to sprinter in junior college. All three might be on the bench if JC hotshot Lou Harris is as good as his reputation.
The blockers up front are good, too. The starting offensive guards, Steve Lehmer and Fred Khasigian, will be back, although both missed spring practice, and either of the tackles, senior Sid Smith or soph John Vella, could make All-America. Vella, who is 6'4", is agile enough to play tight end or middle guard if needed. "He's what ya calls a hoss," says McKay. "He's tremendous."
The defensive line has some interesting additions, one of whom, 267-pound Tody Smith, is the younger brother of Michigan State behemoth Bubba Smith. The other important newcomer is Charlie Weaver, a defensive end who catches fleet halfbacks from behind. Weaver and all-conference Jimmy Gunn give the Trojans an exceptionally fast pair of defensive ends to protect the flanks of Interior Linemen Tony Terry, Bubba Scott, Gary McArthur and O.J.'s boyhood pal from San Francisco, Al Cowlings, all of whom weigh about 240 or so. If any linebackers are needed behind all that front-line beef, the Trojans have a number of them, including returning starter Bob Jensen.
All this talent confirms what frustrated recruiters up and down the Pacific Coast have been saying for a long time, that USC gets the cream in California, where the quality of high school football matches Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Many of the best players at USC are black, but even though—or maybe because—the school is private, expensive and notably conservative, there has been no racial trouble. The only black member of the coaching staff, Willie Brown, recruits and works with whites as well as Negroes.
USC has a chance to be the first team in history to appear in the Rose Bowl four straight years, but despite the talent there are some problems to solve. The defensive backfield was leaky in the spring game, partly because McKay split up his first-string defense. Help should come from three sprinters who were busy with the track team at the time. There is also the possibility that sophomore Jones, with the additional pressures that face a black quarterback, is not yet ready to run the team. Jones was dazzling on the frosh, and perhaps he fooled everyone, including the pro scouts, in the spring game. If he doesn't make it, which is doubtful, USC has JC transfer Jim Fassel, a good passer and ball handler, and drop-back passer Mike Holmgren.
The schedule is tough, especially the biennial ordeal of playing Notre Dame at South Bend, where the Trojans have won only once since 1939. There are trips to Oregon State and Washington, and the one conference team USC does not play is probably the weakest, Oregon. The opener will be at Nebraska, and interest in the Trojans is so high in Los Angeles that there will be closed-circuit telecasts of the game in the Shrine Auditorium for students and in the Sports Arena for all those Varsity Correspondents.
Despite his success, McKay has not become bored with the job. His personal medallion is encased in plastic on his desk so he can't fondle it or shine it on his sleeve, but he does have a USC Doodlepad on which he can do all sorts of creative things with Xs and Os. Very few coaches have the Xs and Os to match his.