Even by Texas standards, Ronnie Bull, the brilliant Baylor back pictured at the left with his wife Connie, is something special. Sam Boyd, Baylor's coach when Bull was recruited, had a file on him that reached back to his 10th birthday. It looked more like an FBI dossier on a man applying for a job at Los Alamos than notes on a boy just out of high school.
In his first game as a college sophomore Bull demonstrated to everybody's satisfaction, including his own, that all that paper work was not wasted. "I was more than nervous for that game," Bull said not long ago. "I was plain anxious to find out if I could make it in college ball." Bull did more than make it in his first college game. He won it, scoring two touchdowns on runs of 74 and 10 yards as Baylor beat Colorado 15-7. By the end of the season he had gained nearly 400 more yards, scored 30 points to lead his team in scoring and traveled a few hundred more yards with passes, interceptions—he is a superior defenseman—and most of his team's punt returns.
As might be expected in a land where football has become a crusade, Ronald Bull has been idolized so much by so many that an outsider begins to wonder if Bull actually has a kind of religious vocation for football. He has, but, paradoxically, there is something a little commonplace about him. Like many other Texas players, he looks inordinately young and callow, more like the junior tenor in the choir than the All-America football player that he is.
But on the field he plays with the ribsplattering drive that one automatically associates with a Southwest Conference game. Play doesn't stop after a runner has been brought to a struggling halt in the line. If the referee's whistle hasn't blown, the war is still on all over the field. Just as in a pasture of young bulls, players seem to hurtle at one another for the pure fun of knocking each other down.
Ronnie Bull grew up in the south Texas town of Bishop (pop. 3,000), and Southwestern coaches will tell you to a man that they always prefer boys from the small towns and ranches. "This kind of boy," says the present Baylor coach, John Bridgers, "is accustomed to hard work and accepts the pain of bruised muscles and lumps without special notice. And when you talk, he listens, wide-eyed and alert."
Bull listened and let his actions on the field speak for him. He played all the major sports at Bishop, but mostly football. "My dad always encouraged me," he says. "When I was a kid, we lived in the country and Dad would race with me. He's a fine athlete and has good speed, but he never killed my spirit by running away from me. One day—I don't remember when but I remember the feeling—I beat him."
He beat everybody else, too. For four years he was a regular on Bishop High School football teams and in his senior year he was the highest-scoring player in the state. He also was a high school All-America.
A willing decoy
After Bull's marvelous sophomore year, Bridgers realized that every team in the Southwest would be out to stop him first and the rest of the team later. Accordingly, he switched his offense to make Bull a decoy, a role that Bull accepted willingly. Surprisingly, even with far fewer opportunities to run with the ball, Bull scored more points than any other conference back. On defense he was, if possible, even better, not allowing a single pass completion all season in the zone he was covering.
This year Bull will go to fullback, a position he is looking forward to playing. "What I like to do best," he says, "is run, run, run." If not this season, then next, he will have ample opportunities to run as a pro. "I wish Baltimore had him right now," the Colts' Ray Berry said not long ago. "I never saw a back cut like he does."
This is a runner's year in the Southwest Conference, and while Ronnie Bull is the best of them all, there are some awfully good ones right behind him. Arkansas has Lance Alworth, a Mississippi-born halfback who might have gone to Ole Miss if Coach John Vaught didn't have a rule against married players. A 9.6 sprinter in the 100, Alworth gained 130 yards rushing as a sophomore against SMU. In the last few minutes of the game he turned in what his coach, Frank Broyles, has called "the greatest three-yard run in the history of football.
"We had just scored and we needed the two-point conversion to win the game and tie for the championship. SMU boys were on him thick as flies on honey. Wriggling, twisting and stumbling, he still made it across the goal line."
Playing in the same backfield with the very competent quarterback, George McKinney, who can run almost as well as he can pass, Alworth is one reason why Arkansas is considered a favorite, along with Baylor, Texas and Rice, in what is expected to be the closest Southwest Conference race in years.
Texas has a backfield that fairly bulges with fine backs. It is the flamboyant, 168-pound Halfback Jim Saxton, however, who makes the Longhorn rooters ooh and aah. Saxton reminds one of Charlie Trippi when he was playing at Georgia. He often reverses his field several times during a single run. He netted 407 yards rushing in 1960, and probably ran three times that distance laterally. As a defender once said, "If you miss Saxton, stay where you are. He's likely to come back by."
Saxton's style may be undisciplined, but he is Texas' most valuable asset. The three games he missed because of injuries last season, Texas lost. He was responsible for the critical play that won each of the seven games he got into.
At Texas Christian, which may be the surprise team in the Southwest, they talk about Sonny Gibbs, the 6-foot-7 quarterback who gained 706 yards in total offense as a sophomore and led his team in scoring with 24 points. Sixth-place Texas Tech has Fullback Coolidge Hunt, the conference's rushing leader in 1960.
Even Ronnie Bull is not alone at Baylor. Ronnie Stanley was the all-conference quarterback in 1960 with 75 completions for 1,151 yards, but Bobby Ply, his alternate, passed to four touchdowns, one less than Stanley.
Change in the Southwest
If the Southwestern schools played Negroes, there doubtless would be many more gifted backfield men in the conference. It is predicted that the policy will change in a year or two, with the University of Texas being the first to break the color line. In the meantime, most of the best southwestern Negroes are playing in the Border Conference, along with many others from outside the region. Arizona State, for instance, has 13 Pennsylvanians, including Nolan Jones, who has been among the top three national scoring leaders for the past two years, and Arizona has nine Californians. Both Arizona and Arizona State are in a class with the Southwestern Conference's schools. But, minus the same fierce competition in their own conference, they will never have the fun the Texans and those interlopers, the Arkansans, fondly look forward to this season—knocking each other silly.
The Wildcats win enough to keep the alumni sullen but not mutinous. Winners of half their games over the last three seasons, they should be able to maintain the pace in 1961, but not without heroics from a spindly (202-pound average) line which Coach N. L. Nicholson will have stunting more than any team in the Southwest. If the stunting fails, Abilene will fall back on its basketball tactics and score, score, score. The backs are fast, with Denson Moody, a squared-off 5-foot 9-inch 185-pounder, the quickest, and loose-limbed Halfback Buddy Rawls the most elusive. The quarterbacking is a reassuring muddle of three capable men, all of whom pass tolerably well. Senior Don Davis probably will start, but he may lose out to Oklahoma transfer Jerry Gibson, a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't ball handler.
CONCLUSION: The .500 habit is hard to shake, but Abilene may find stunting and/or a wide-open game good for some improvement.
Those are stars you see twinkling in the Wildcats' eyes. More calculating than foolhardy, however, Arizona has left the fastness of the Border Conference for possible national prominence as it prepares to join company with the orphans of the Pacific Coast and the refugees of the Skyline league to form the Great Western Conference. Coach Jim La Rue will meet the upgraded schedule with a bundle of high-styled offensive players. Quarterback Ed Wilson handles the split-T variations with aplomb and throws long or short with enviable accuracy (a .534 completion percentage in 1960 for 1,020 yards and nine TDs). Halfback Bob Thompson gained 732 yards for an eight-yard average, and Halfback Joe Hernandez, with 76 points, ranked 10th nationally. Five sophomores from Pennsylvania should strengthen a queasy defense.
CONCLUSION: A careful melding of senior scoring with sophomore defense could move Arizona into the suburbs of a national rating.
Like soldiers in the Foreign Legion, the Sun Devils come from all over—but not from Arizona. Of the 33 players on the first three teams, only four are home-grown. Recruiting is expensive, but Coach Frank Rush keeps the stands filled by playing exciting football. This year he has again carefully blended his expatriates into a solid team, which, surprisingly, has a line that in places runs faster than its backfield. The fastest man up front is Tackle Jesse Bradford, who has run the 100 in 9.5, the best is Guard Dick Locke from Muskegon, Mich. The backs make up for a slight heavy-footed-ness with other well-developed talents: Nolan Jones is among the nation's leading place kickers; Joe Zuger keeps the opposition pinned down with high-spiraling punts; and John Jacobs is an excellent sophomore passer.
CONCLUSION: If the Sun Devils don't improve on 1960's record, it will be because they meet those toughies, Oregon State and Utah.
Frank Broyles's field-position buddies may scorn him as a revisionist this year. Until now, Arkansas has been distinctly defense-minded and a trifle on the mossy side when it comes to moving the ball. However, the loss of most of the defensive line has forced Broyles to switch his emphasis to offense, and happily he has the men to make his new plans succeed. The same brilliant quarterbacks return: George McKinney, who last season passed for 728 yards and nine touchdowns, and Billy Moore, who gained 215 yards rushing to go with 205 yards passing. Prospective All-America Halfback Lance Alworth, who led the nation in punt returns with 307 yards gained and led his team in running, should be recovered from a season of endless ills. Paul Dudley, the big, rough-running halfback, will add power.
CONCLUSION: A more exciting team with a quite adequate line, Arkansas has a very good chance for its third straight title.
Coach John Bridgers, who revived the forward pass in the Southwest Conference, by now must have proved to the doubting Texans that you can win with it. Not that Baylor has forsaken running—it used 433 ground plays to 205 pass plays in 1960—but the Bears are willing to pass perilously close to their own goal lines. One reason is that they have the backs to correct any serious errors. Quarterbacks Ronnie Stanley (75 completions, five touchdowns in 1960) and Bobby Ply (4 TDs in 29 completions) can run, too, or they can pitch out to the authentic All-America, Ronnie Bull, and Ronnie Goodwin, who runs almost as fast as Bull. For the more defense-minded there are End Bobby Lane and Guard Herby Adkins, who should repeat on the all-conference team, and Tackle John Frongillo, who may join them.
CONCLUSION: Baylor should win its first conference title in 37 years, but no pre-season favorite ever wins in the Southwest.
The Cowboys are a pale patch of their former rough, tough selves. Oddly, Coach Howard McChesney has had some excellent players, and will again this year. The trouble is he never seems to have enough good ones at the same time. Last year, for instance, he had Hayseed Stephens, an outstanding quarterback who has departed along with three guards. Now along comes Jim Williams, a 6-foot 4-inch 200-pound rambunctious sophomore who could be brilliant playing the outside game while Fullback Sam Oates handles the inside. But a corral of capable receivers—Oates, End Tom Echols and Halfbacks Williams and Bruce Arrant—will go untested because Quarterback Fred Martinez can't find the mark, especially if he has to dodge the flood of tacklers who are expected to pour through the guards.
CONCLUSION: There is one hope in the line, 265-pound sophomore Tackle Roland Perry, who could help stiffen the defense.
Not long ago Coach Hal Lahar said, "We can play anybody in the United States and welcome the chance." These are brave words for a man facing a schedule like Houston's, but Lahar has a team to prove his point, and this may be the year Houston is recognized nationally among the best. Only at guard has Lahar had to improvise, and here he has excellent material in ex-Fullback Dick Elliott, a more than dependable linebacker. The rest of the line, led by Tackle Murdoch Hooper, Center Dan Birdwell and Guard Joe Bob Isbell, is burly and tough. The strength continues in the wing-T backfield, where Lahar can call on the passing of Quarterback Don Sessions (724 yards on 65 completions in 1960), the running of Halfback Ken Bolin (542 yards for a 7.2 average) or the punting of Halfback Larry Lindsey (38.9 average).
CONCLUSION: More than one prestige team will feel the Cougars' bite but, short of reserves, Houston is still a meow away.
The Indians have a serious problem—how to squeeze all that size into one small line. At 220 pounds apiece. Ends Bill Bailey and Fred Tomphson are what you might call the minnows of the team. Remarkably, the two largest men, Guard John Thomas (252 pounds) and Tackle Del Wiley (270), are also the fastest, and since a fast line snuffs out running plays this augurs well for the Indians. Coach John Teaff has tailored the straight T to a powerful ground game with only occasional—but climactic—passes from Quarterback Lee King, who has shown a fine hand at this sort of thing (seven touchdown passes in 1960). The running backs, Don E. Davis (195 pounds), Bill West (185) and Jim Bensman (200 pounds and 10 flat for the 100), are big enough to make their own holes and fast enough to turn the ends.
CONCLUSION: There will be a pack of happy Indians in Abilene when McMurry reverses last year's record of three wins and seven defeats.
The Lobos broke even last year, but they were wolves on defense, leading the country in recovered fumbles (25) and intercepted passes (11). Their sharp tackling and alert ball hawking might well make them conference champions if they can find a replacement for all-conference Tackle Frank Gullick and regular Guard Bob Lozier. Even so, the defense, built around 215-pound End George Heard (he does the 100 in 9.9), Center Gene Scott and Guard Chuck Cummings, will be formidable. Coach Bill Weeks's wing-T offense all but eschews long passes. Quarterback Jim Cromartie instead works pitchouts and handoffs to Halfbacks Bob Santiago (596 yards gained rushing in 1960) and Bob Morgan (393 yards in 82 carries) and occasionally passes short to Heard, who is almost as good on offense as defense.
CONCLUSION: Last season the Lobos won their final four games. They might go right on if some hefty transfers come through.
NEW MEXICO STATE
Coach Warren Woodson's old gang is gone—one All-America and four first-string all-conference players—but to a man who firmly believes that this year's transfer is next year's All-America, rebuilding won't be quite like starting from scratch. So far, Woodson has collected 12 transfers. Jim Pilot, a 200-pound ex-Kansas halfback, runs the 100 in 9.8 and could take up where Pervis Atkins left off. Weldon Rutledge, a 5-foot-10 195-pounder from Riverside J.C., is a blink slower at 10 flat. To handle the complicated controls of the wing T, there's Jim Head from Victoria J.C., and in front of him at center, Phil Ehly, a 205-pound SMU transfer. Meanwhile, five stout linemen return from last year's remarkably successful team, along with the conference's best fullback, Bob Jackson.
CONCLUSION: Feeble defensive end play may frustrate the Aggies' almost psychopathic urge to dominate the Border Conference.
NORTH TEXAS STATE
Coach Odus Mitchell dotes on huge, hulking linemen and this year—with the biggest batch of oversize farmboys ever seen in the Missouri Valley Conference—Mitchell is fairly bug-eyed with delight. Averaging 220 pounds, his line abounds in tough tacklers, notably Guard Bill Weaver and two tackles, Bill Kirbie and Gerry Hawkins, who should be all-conference. Turning again, as is his seasonal wont, to experienced transfers and junior-college graduates to fill team vacancies, Mitchell will have a 240-pound Tyler J.C. graduate, Dick Farris, at guard and Texas Tech transfer Bill Ryan at quarterback. The running is nicely divided among the robust rushes of 222-pound Fullback Arthur Perkins and the more delicate sallies of Halfbacks Bill Christie and Chuck Holloway (who does 9.8 for the 100).
CONCLUSION: One stylish passer and an end would make this a complete team. Only half complete now, it should win half its games.
"Loaded!" Houstonians have been warning people about Rice this season. Undoubtedly the Owls are richly endowed but they will be sorely tested by seven straight Southwest Conference games. Fortunately for Coach Jess Neely, there is a sizable senior squad to draw on and a reservoir of conservative tactics. Nongambling Rice lost the ball on fumbles only seven times in 1960 and had only 11 interceptions. Although the offense is spirited, with Quarterback Bill Cox (45 completions for 80 attempts) handing off to all-conference Fullback Roland Jackson or pitching out to Halfback Bob Wayt, it is not spectacular, and the Owls' real strength lies in their line, where End John Burrell (20 receptions and three TDs) and Tackle John Cornett (6 feet 4 and 240 pounds) operate like the All-America candidates that they are.
CONCLUSION: This is Rice's 50th year in intercollegiate football, and the school wants it to be a golden one, but, oh, that schedule!
The once ripsnorting Mustangs have been broken. Last season, while suffering five shutouts, they failed to win a game. The prospects this year, viewed in the most optimistic light, are but slightly improved. With the exception of Left Guard Ray Schoenke, who last year blocked three punts, there is hardly a firm spot in the lineup. This is particularly so in the line, where Coach Bill Meek will have to do some fancy innovating. But the backfield has a make-do quality, too, and is not likely to improve on last year's average 3.1 points scored a game. Meek, whose job is in jeopardy, may be starting five rookies: Halfbacks Tom Sherwin and Bill Gannon, Tackle Jim Freeman, Quarterback Jerry Rhome and Center Mike Kelsey. On them rest his hopes for an improved fall.
CONCLUSION: Bill Meek might well be a casualty as the Mustangs stumble up from last to next to last in the conference standings.
Last spring there were mutinous mutterings from the rest of the Southwest Conference when the University of Texas rounded up 50 of the state's swiftest schoolboys. They won't be ready for another year, but they won't be particularly needed either. The 1961 Longhorns will be a quiet team. They will stick closely to their unspectacular field-position tactics despite having some pretty spectacular players in the backfield: Quarterback Mike Cotten, Fullback Ray Poage and Halfbacks Jimmy Saxton and Jack Collins. Saxton, a quick dipsy-doo runner, averaged 5.4 yards a try in 1960. But it is defense, Coach Darrell Royal believes, that will win games for Texas, and there are ample replacements for the five graduated line starters, with Center Dave Kristynik and Tackle Don Talbert the most imposing.
CONCLUSION: Deep and conservative, Texas will play a waiting game—most likely successfully—hoping for the smaller clubs to wear out.
At College Station the public word is that Coach Jim Myers is well liked, but the private word is that he would be well liked better if he would win some conference games. With at least five teams in strong contention for the title, this is hardly the year to begin winning in the Southwest. Yet Myers still has hope. He has the biggest, strongest set of backs in the conference, with 215-pound Fullback Sam Byer almost certain to get four yards a try (in 105 carries last year he never lost a yard). Myers' line, led by Tackle Wayland Simmons, will be experienced. Unhappily, the big backs are not quite as fast as they should be in the wing T, and Myers may have to pass over his first choice for quarterback, Ron Brice, because of his inconsequential arm, and turn instead to the untested Jim Linnstaedter.
CONCLUSION: Two conference wins are a modest goal, but the lead-legged Aggies will be lard pressed to keep their coach in office.
Coach Abe Martin has his opposing coaches psyched even before he meets them. His Horned Frogs are highly regarded, but picked to finish fifth. This is the way Abe, who wants no pressure on his predominantly junior squad, likes it. There are obvious weaknesses: Center Bob Biehunko has a lame knee and no experience, End Bud Iles catches passes (24 for 237 yards in 1960) but not ball carriers, while End Lynn Morrison reverses the procedure. But there is plenty of strength to offset the deficiencies, especially in the interior line, where two possible All-Americas, Tackle Bob Plummer and Guard Ray Pinion, will play. And there is junior Sonny Gibbs, college football's largest quarterback (6 feet 7, 230 pounds) and his team's highest scorer last year, who is expected to be more consistent after a year's experience.
CONCLUSION: TCU doesn't quite measure up to the other four contenders, but it is beautifully positioned for an effective spoiler role.
The new boy in the neighborhood—Tech starts its second season in the Southwest Conference—hasn't really caught on yet. Meanwhile, with parental solicitude, Coach J. T. King is doing what he can to help. Either Dennis Grims, a former end, or Charlie Harrison, a transformed fullback, will be at center, a sophomore, Dave Parks, goes to end and two obscure upperclassmen, Kelly Mitchell and Jim Little, to guard. The primarily small, inexperienced line will keep the backs scurrying frantically to make amends for its little failures on defense, but offensively it should sharpen the workings of the multiple T. In the backfield, to complement the inside bursts of Fullback Coolidge Hunt (he led the conference with 527 yards last year) and Halfback Bake Turner's end scoots, King has John Lovelace, a good 6-foot-4 quarterback.
CONCLUSION: In a make-do situation, Tech could score a bushel of touchdowns, but it will return generously everything it takes.
The Miners may be the only team in the country rash enough to play their quarterback at linebacker. In spite of this taxing defensive chore, which is an admission of partial poverty, Quarterback John Furman remains the most accurate left-handed passer in college football. Last season he completed 94 passes for 1,094 yards, and he will once again pump passes from the slot T and never, never run. Most of Furman's passes are gathered in by Del Williams, a water boy-size halfback (5 feet 7, 145 pounds) who in 1960 caught 36 passes for 414 yards and, like Furman, does remarkable double duty on defense. That takes care of the offense. Unfortunately, outside of 280-pound Tackle Luis Hernandez and Guard John Young, who together make most of the team's tackles. Coach Ben Collins has no defensive linemen.
CONCLUSION: There will be a few new faces and new defensive tactics, but this will be another season of basketball scores.
The NCAA granted major-college status last year to Trinity of Texas, then, realizing its mistake, withdrew the distinction this fall. With a schedule that is too ambitious and abilities which are too minor, all the Tigers have left is a major headache. Coach W. A. McElreath must make do with the same bunch that last year won only two of 10 games (one was tied). The firmest spot in the line is at end, where Troy Shirley (17 catches for 229 yards in 1960) and Don Peltier (12 catches for 129 yards) are skilled at both offense and defense. Moving from there toward the center, the line gets progressively weaker. In the backfield Quarterback Jack Sommer and Halfback Obert Logan, who played with the varsity as a freshman last year and averaged eight yards a try, are McElreath's last hopes.
CONCLUSION: This will be a violent year for the Tigers, with only occasional moments of pleasure provided by Sommer and Logan.
W. TEXAS STATE
Joy in Canyon City these last few years has been about as plentiful as rain in August on the Panhandle, but now a small smile is beginning to curl some lips. The reason? Coach Joe Kerbel has managed to import a herd—15, to be exact—of transfers. The Buffaloes have a shining, improved look, with junior-college All-America Fullback Ollie Ross and Halfback Dan Anderson dovetailing their talents nicely in the split-T attack with the sure-shot passing of Quarterback Jim Dawson (88 completions in 150 attempts for 921 yards in 1960). Ends Joe Granato and Dean Faulkenberry caught 29 passes for 425 yards, but they may be eased aside by transfers Jim Perry and Howard Verrinder. On the line only Center Frank Thrasher and Tackle Jerry Behrens are secure from the transfer menace.
CONCLUSION: Even with heavy transfusions of new blood in the line, the Buffaloes are too weak to cope with opposing runners.