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The defense is a lesser known quantity. "It all depends on how the boys mature," says Parseghian. Three or four sophomores could start. Tony Capers, a 248-pounder who is also being tried on offense, could be somewhere on defense—at end or linebacker—and 240-pound Tackle Pat Mudron is capable of ousting a veteran. Mike McCoy, a 6'5", 270-pound junior, will play left tackle, and Bob Kuechenberg, 245, left end. Thus, the front four will average a hopefully unmovable 251 pounds.
It is in those defensive positions that Parseghian likes to call "the skilled areas" that the Irish have a difficult situation. Bob Olson is the only linebacker returning. The other three, sophomores Jim Wright and Tim Kelly and senior John Lavin, have no experience worth counting. And neither do the men in the secondary, Halfbacks John Gasser and Ernie Jackson, a sophomore, and Safety Tom Quinn. Parseghian is concerned enough about the safety spot to have had Coley O'Brien, Hanratty's understudy star for two years, trying his hand there. O'Brien may well start on defense. Despite its lack of experience, Assistant Coach John Ray is fairly optimistic about the defense. "I think we're going to have a good one," he says. "The kids are young, but they have size and they want to learn."
They better learn fast. Unless they do, the atmosphere around South Bend after those backbreaker-to-backbreaker weekends against Oklahoma and Purdue will not be merely subdued. It will be sepulchral.
5 PENN STATE
The boss is no robot and his teams surprise—for better or for worse
On the winter banquet circuit Coach Joe Paterno of Penn State averaged three speeches a week and he invariably opened his talks with a deep sigh and the words: "O.K., I might as well start with the Gator Bowl thing." Then he would recall the catastrophic moment last December 30 when his Nittany Lions were leading Florida State 17-0 in the third quarter and had the ball, fourth and a yard to go, on their own 15. Paterno ordered the Lions to go for it. They fell just short, Florida State scored twice in the next 69 seconds, got a field goal at the end of the game and came up with a 17-17 tie. "Yes, I admit it was a dumb call," says Paterno, "but I'd do it again tomorrow. Who knows? We might do it the first game of this season. If a coach can't make a decision outside the percentages, the school might as well hire a computer coach. We're going to gamble, and we're going to play exciting football."
It was Paterno's scrambling gambles that made for Penn State's fine 8-2 record last year as well as for one of the most stimulating seat-of-the-pants revivals of the season. When the Lions lost their first game to a so-so Navy team 23-22, Paterno benched most of his senior lettermen, thrust eight cocky sophomores into his starting lineup and redesigned his defense. That did it: the Lions lost just once more, a valiant 17-15 effort against UCLA, and thus came within three points of having an undefeated season. They compiled this streak of successes despite the fact that their No. 1 linebacker, Mike Reid, and their best runner, Bob Campbell, spent most of the season recuperating from surgery. "Who knows?" says Paterno, "if we hadn't lost to Navy, we might have been 2-8."
There is no chance of any 2-8 nonsense this year, but Paterno is still no man to cling to the status quo. Even though he has 14 first-stringers back, including those pesky sophomores and Campbell and Reid, Paterno spent much of his spring-practice time juggling and rejuggling his lineups. The final result is that eight men will be in different positions this fall.
On the offense Paterno's major mission was to find replacements for Quarterback Tom Sherman and Split End Jack Curry, who holds every pass-receiving record at Penn State. Junior Chuck Burkhart, an all-but-untried understudy to Sherman last season, will probably be Paterno's quarterback. Although Burkhart does not have a strong arm, he was fairly impressive during spring sessions and completed 40 of 68 passes in his last two scrimmages. Paterno is the first to admit that Burkhart may be no more than adequate, saying, "He's not going to be any wonder quarterback, but he'll get the job done."
There are two men vying to replace Curry. One is senior Leon Angevine, who was a defensive halfback much of last fall, and the other is sophomore Greg Edmonds, a youngster who is blessed with fast reactions. The interior offensive line has been shaken up, partly to add speed and partly to fill up the holes left by graduation losses. Dave Bradley has moved from guard to tackle to pair with John Kulka, the only man in the interior line playing the same position he did last year. Dave Rakiecki, an ex-middle guard, and Gary Williams, formerly a tight end, are at the guards, and sophomore Warren Koegel will probably be at center.