"Everybody wants another great team here. Yes, like the one in '58," he sighs. "Well, so do I. The trouble is we could have a great team one of these years and never know it. Our schedule [which includes Texas A&M, Miami, Mississippi and Alabama this season] won't let us be great."
There are 36 lettermen back from the good but not sensational 6-3-1 team of last year. There is reasonable speed, strength and, of course, experience just about everywhere except the one spot where a No. 1—or even a No. 10—team must excel. At quarterback.
If Nelson Stokley, the fragile little leader of last season, were back, it could be quite a different year. But he departed after becoming one of the best quarterbacks LSU has had in years, and McClendon will probably start Fred Haynes, a so-so senior who saw quite a bit of action during Stokley's convalescent weeks in '66 and '67. Haynes is rugged, confident and reasonably steady. But he is small (5'9", 165 pounds) and he does not have either the good arm or the inspirational qualities of a Stokley. Behind Haynes are some other possibilities. Junior Jimmy Gilbert is more spectacular but less reliable than Haynes. Buddy Lee is big (6'4", 205) and throws well, but he missed spring practice with a knee injury. Sophomore Butch Duhe is a good prospect, but hardly for this year. With rather grim understatement, McClendon says, "We will have some trouble keeping our offense up to what it was last year. But if it were not for this quarterback crisis..."
One can sympathize with McClendon's sadness, for his nonquarterbacks are leading quite a team. At fullback is Eddie Ray, 6'2", 225 pounds, who is an agile runner, a magnificent blocker, a sound receiver, a middling-good passer and a punter who averaged 42.9 yards last year as a sophomore. This season Ray is going to add to his versatility by playing middle linebacker on the goal-line defensive unit, and he just might be used at defensive end, too, because LSU's top man at that position, Jerry Kober, flunked out of school last spring and is ineligible. Shifting with Ray into the myriad formations of LSU's "walking I" attack will be veteran Tailback Tommy (Trigger) Allen, who led the 1967 team in rushing with 534 yards, Tailback Glenn Smith, who was the running star of the Sugar Bowl, and Allen Shorey, a sophomore. At split end is senior Tommy Morel, an off-season guitar and piano player in his own combo. He caught 28 passes for 404 yards last year, plus two TD throws in the Sugar Bowl. The offensive line has weaknesses in the middle, although Guard Tony Russell, All-SEC in '67, is back, along with Tackle Bill Fortier, who is considered a better than average professional prospect.
Graduation took some of LSU's defense, including Defensive End John Garlington, Safety Sammy Grezaffi and Linebacker Benny Griffin. Along with Kobler's scholastic problems, that would seem to leave some unfillable holes. But McClendon says no. "We're hoping the defense will be better than last year," he says. "A little quicker." The middle of the defensive line may be a trifle spongy, although Fred Michaelson, who won his letter as a tackle, looks reasonably good at middle guard. Tackle Carlos Rabb and End Tommy Youngblood are both two-year veterans, and the linebacking should be solid. It could be superb if George Bevan, a sensation as a '66 sophomore before he suffered a severe Achilles' tendon injury last year, can return to play. If he can, then LSU will have as strong a set of linebackers as any team in the country: Bevan, Bill Thomason, who was good as a sophomore last year, and Mike Anderson, a 6'3", 215-pound sophomore who is, in his spare time, a giant-size pole-vaulter. McClendon is particularly impressed with Anderson. "He has the football savvy to read the offense," says Charlie. "He knows where to go, he has the speed to get there and he is a destructive tackier." In the secondary, senior Barton Frye will be LSU's bushwhacking safetyman, and he may be nearly as good as Grezaffi was. He will be supported by Halfbacks Frank Matte and Gerry Kent and the other safety, Jim Lambert, all three seniors.
Whatever else may be different about LSU this season, one thing remains unchanged from 1967 when the team was nicknamed the Toeless Tigers because of its painful lack of placekickers. This year half the Tiger toes on campus, including those of a South American soccer player, have been tried and, so far, all have been found inferior. For want of a foot...
Given his problems, Charlie McClendon does not figure to be in anyone's catbird seat at the end of the season. But his team certainly should perform well enough to keep Charlie sitting cool. Anywhere but in Louisiana, that is.
The Hurricanes have everything except a way to deliver a blow by air
When it all began in 1926, the University of Miami had less than 800 students. Today there are 17,000. Its campus is one of the most modern in the country: 260 lush subtropical acres ornamented by colorful, stylish classroom buildings and residency halls, a magnificent student center, a nine-story library and a five-story Computing Center. Its Institute of Marine Sciences is one of the best-known oceanographic stations in the world, and its research vessels scour the seas on marine missions. "We have a responsibility to maintain an atmosphere in which ideas may flourish," says Dr. Henry King Stanford from the president's chair. "Where students may become acquainted with the accumulated knowledge of the ages, where they will be intellectually challenged and inspired to make a contribution toward preserving and extending the finest that is bequeathed to us."