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Starting at Four. It ought to be, considering how much effort goes into it. At Tennessee, Coach Doug Dickey allots 60% of his practice time to passing drills, only 40% to runningalthough passing accounts for only 40% of the Volunteers' offense. U.C.L.A.'s Prothro and Notre Dame's Parseghian both insist that their quarterbacks throw for at least half an hour every day, in season and out. The quarterbacks rarely have to be reminded. There's no trick to learning how to pass, says John Huarte, star of Parseghian's 1964 Notre Dame team (which lost only to Southern Cat in its last game) and now a pro with the Boston Patriots. "You start when you are about four years old and throw and throw and throw." In the offseason, Huarte still throws to "anybody who will catch the ball. I'd throw to my wife if she could catch it."
There is one other explanation, according to Parseghian, for the quality of today's college passing game: "The population explosion." What the population seems to be exploding is mostly football players. "We're getting more and greater quarterbacks, more and greater receivers," Ara says. "Maybe vitamins are part of it too." Compared to 6-ft. 1-in., 190-lb. Terry Hanratty, Gus Dorais, at 5 ft. 7 in. and 145 Ibs., was practically a midget; he would have had the devil's own time trying to spot Knute Rockne over the heads of today's massive linemen. And how would Rockne, at 5 ft. 8 in. and weighing 145 Ibs., compare with a giant like Jim Seymour? But in college football today, rangy, strong-armed passers like Hanratty and rawboned, speedy receivers like Seymour are the rule rather than the exception. Practically every team in the U.S. boasts somebody who can throw "the bomb" and somebody who can catch it. Among the best:
> Florida's Steve Spurrier, 21, and Richard Trapp, 20, have a simple system of signals: whenever Flanker Trapp sees that he is not being "double-teamed"meaning covered by two defensive backshe nods to Quarterback Spurrier, who immediately throws to him. A 9.8-sec. sprinter who is most dangerous on flat passes, Trapp has caught 31 passes for 489 yds. and six touchdowns, is one of the main reasons Florida is ranked No. 8 in the nation. Frank Jackson, an end on the pro Miami Dolphins, says Spurrier is "already better than a bunch of passers in both pro leagues."
> U.C.L.A.'s Gary Beban, 20, and Harold Busby, 19, provide the punch for a razzle-dazzle offense that has averaged 431.2 yds. and 37.6 points per gameboth tops in the nation. The closest call experienced all year by the unbeaten, No. 3-ranked Bruins came at Rice, when they trailed 24-16 with a little more than three minutes to go. Quarterback Beban threw a 33-yd. pass that was deflected by two Rice defenders; Flanker Busby, a 9.4-sec.-dash man, flashed behind the defenders, leaped, and snared the ball for a touchdown. A 2-point conversion and a last-minute field goal rescued U.C.L.A. from near disaster 27-24. "It sure helps to have fast ones out there to receive," says Beban, who runs as well as he throws, has gained a total of 1,254 yds. so far this season.