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Smith is a nationally known factor in Florida football, but he is hardly the sole reason for Gator optimism. There is the matter of quarterbacks. To listen to SEC coaches this year, a spiral is nature's most beautiful shape and the one least seen. Centers all over the conference are looking back between their legs and not finding anybody to hand the ball to. No quarterbacks. But Florida has one. No. Florida has two. When Jack Eckdahl, a good passer, broke his leg in the third game last year, Larry Rentz, a defensive halfback who is built like a soda straw (6'2" and 158), came over to offense and finished out the season. Rentz, a deft runner and good passer, did so well that he is the No. 1 quarterback this fall, with Eckdahl in reserve. "They are both talented boys," says Graves, ignoring the envy such remarks cause elsewhere.
Rentz should be better than last year, but Florida's full-throttle offensive style is going to be hurt by the loss of Richard Trapp at flanker, who will be replaced by junior Guy McTheny. The Gators will throw less and run more, the more being Smith, Smith, Smith and Smith.
Leading Smith's blocking will be a highly capable offensive line. Guard Guy Dennis, All-SEC for two years, and massive, 260-pound Jim (Punjab) Yarbrough at right end set the tone. An able receiver—and what a target to throw to—Yarbrough can block like a lineman on running plays. Two sophomores may also excel. One is Tackle Jim Kiley, who beat out a two-year regular for a starting position; the other is Ted Hager, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4, the fastest ever at Florida. He will play split end if he is not needed in the defensive backfield. Indeed, he may end up playing both positions.
The offense is good, but Graves is proudest of his defense. "I'll be very surprised if this isn't the strongest defensive team we've ever had," he says.
Middle Guard Bill Dorsey, one of the best at his position in the SEC, claims Florida's defensive linemen can outrun most of the backs, "and believe me those backs can run." Dorsey will be flanked by two stern linebackers, sophomore Mike Kelley and David Mann. The line, led by Tackle Jim Hadley, is sound, and Halfback Steve Tannen, who picked off four enemy passes last year, returns with Ted Hager. But all is not so safe at safety, where two former cornerbacks, Mark Ely and Skip Albury, are trying to learn the hazard of being the last line of defense. Their main hope may be that most of this year's SEC quarterbacks can't throw the ball that far.
Florida will measure this season by the outcome of four games—Florida State, Auburn, Georgia and Miami. These are always hard-fought blood-lettings decided by scant margins—and often in the final minutes. Last year Florida won but one of the four games and finished 6-4. This season the Gators should split the four games. If they win the right two, it will mean Florida's first SEC championship and big-grin time at Gainesville.
11 TEXAS A&M
The hilarious Aggies offer raucous doings in the land of nothing to do
You know what you do, don't you, when a Texas Aggie throws a hand grenade? Sure. You pull out the pin and throw it back. This is the kind of thing that circulates around Texas—Aggie jokes, as opposed to Polish jokes in Chicago, Italian jokes in New York and Samoan jokes in Honolulu. Of course, the Aggies don't think they are any funnier than the Poles, the Italians and the Samoans do, but because A&M is a military-oriented school stuck off in a part of the state that nobody likes to drive through and because there is not much for Aggies to do in College Station except try to remember what girls look like, they were foredoomed to hear a lot of jokes about themselves.
Last year, with a joke of a football team that even the Aggies had a hard time believing, A&M almost made Texans stop laughing when it won the Southwest Conference championship and then upset Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Virtually that same team is back for Coach Gene Stallings this season, and it is so talented that it might not have to rely on the wild plays that somehow carried it through 1967.