Under new Coach Mike McGee, 31-year-old former Outland Trophy winner, the East Carolina Pirates have opted for the T and its 10,000 variations, especially the pro set. To give it flair, McGee made former All-Pro pass catcher Sonny Randle an assistant.
ECU will field six junior college transfers, including two All-America linemen and a quarterback and center. The latter pair should eliminate that catchy T-formation problem of how to get the play started. One conference coach is so taken by the Pirates' new look that he considers ECU the league heavyweight even though it is coming off consecutive losing seasons. Adjustment problems make success unlikely, especially for the 26 letter-men unaccustomed to "quick guards," "strong tackles" and linebackers labeled "Will" and "Sam."
Most observers favor Richmond for its second Tangerine Bowl trip in three years, since the Spiders have the overall strength to absorb their heavy graduation losses. The Citadel, with a converted split end at quarterback, will have a ground-oriented offense, while William & Mary has quarterback problems but the league's best center in Bob Herb. Defending champion Davidson is rebuilding after the departure of key offensive personnel and a pass-minded coach. Furman and VMI had one win between them last year and can hardly do worse.
Once again in Toledo they're shooting for the moon, and there is no reason to doubt that the flight will be smooth. For one thing, Coach Frank Lauterbur, prepared to launch his Rockets to a third Mid-American title in four years, returns with 28 lettermen (15 starters) from last season's undefeated, untied and nationally ranked squad. For another, he has a quarterback who does best when it's most important, Chuck Ealey, the first sophomore in the history of the MAC to win Back of the Year laurels. Ealey will be joined by Tailback Tony Harris and Fullback Charlie Cole, and he will have reliable targets in Don Fair and Al Baker, both juniors. Toledo's greatest competition probably will come from Bowling Green. With need to replace half of its defense and still in search of receivers for strong-arm Vern Wireman (he has 16 school passing records), the Falcons look lovingly to Julius Livas, a 190-pound speed boy who was injured last year. Miami (Ohio), 7-3 last year and tied for third, expects much the same kind of season, relying heavily on the defensive prowess of Dick Adams, while at Ohio University Coach Bill Hess has the biggest rebuilding job of all, with only four seniors left in the starting lineup. As for Kent State and Western Michigan—they're still in the MAC but out of orbit.
ACC football started out well enough, with Maryland winning the national title in 1953, but since then the play has been increasingly minor league. The ACC has accumulated a nonconference record of 122 wins, 317 losses and 17 ties, and only two schools have fielded Top Ten teams. Defending champion and 1970 choice South Carolina yearns for the good old days.
The Gamecocks have threatened to go independent unless the 800 college-board-score minimum is dropped and the NCAA's 1.6 rule is accepted as the academic standard for recruiting. South Carolina also wants more than 35 scholarships. Six votes are needed to change the bylaws, but no more than four other schools are willing to go along. The critical moment could come in December, when a study committee makes recommendations at the winter meeting.
South Carolina's first battle, however, is on the playing field, where size, depth and experience could make this the first team since 1955 to go unbeaten in league games two straight years. If little Tommy Suggs (5'9", 178 pounds) can take to drop-back passing and offset key running back losses, all should go well.
North Carolina, with runner Don McCauley and the league's best defense, is a formidable second. Frank Howard has retired after 30 years at Clemson, handing over an unbeaten frosh team and 38 lettermen to Hootie Ingram. Quarterback Leo Hart and Linebacker Dick Biddie make talented but depthless Duke a threat. Inexperience should end a reign of seven straight second or better finishes for North Carolina State. Maryland, Virginia and Wake Forest hope 40 improve by passing more.