There is a new, reassuring vigor in West Coast football. The recent crazy, mixed-up era of scandal and dislocation seems to be at an end, and the West, which for so long seemed suicidally bent on handing its college football audience to the pros, has begun to reassert its leadership in a region which obviously could use some.
The revival, of course, can be attributed at least in part to the University of Washington's two marvelous victories in the Rose Bowl the last two years over supposedly superior Big Ten teams. But the heart of the matter can very likely be found in California, where the high schools and the proliferating junior colleges have been producing genuinely good players at so rapid a rate that there aren't colleges enough in California to contain them. Coach Johnny Ralston of Utah State, for instance, has 26 California boys on his roster; Coach Ray Nagel at Utah has 30. Washington and Washington State depend heavily on Californians, but no out-of-state school does more than Oregon, which has 35.
If the exodus of players has had a debilitating effect on California college football, it is not immediately apparent. If anything, the big four—USC, UCLA, Stanford and Cal—will be stronger generally than they were a year ago. The strongest, however, and the school climbing fastest just now is UCLA. Rid at last of the gloom that settled smoglike upon its palms and red-roofed Spanish buildings at the death in 1958 of Red Sanders, UCLA has all the players it needs to justify its present cool confidence. It has, in particular, the large, powerful and dedicated Marshall Shirk, pictured below, who, as a tackle, does everything on a football field but what his last name implies. Like so many things Californian, Shirk, at 230 pounds, is a little larger than the national median. His idol is Sam Huff, the shrewd, seismic linebacker of the New York Giants professional team, whom he somewhat resembles.
Shirk leaves the subtleties of football to others. It is his aggressiveness and his passion for blocking and tackling, in fact, that make him the superb lineman he is. If he has a fault, it is that he is overaggressive. UCLA Coach Billy Barnes would like to cure him of leaving his feet when he throws an open-field block, and of steaming in at a passer with all the flexibility of a locomotive, but not at the expense of banking the flames of Shirk's competitive heart.
A rough admirer
Young Shirk greatly admires opponents who give as good as they get. He likes to recall a Pitt-UCLA game in which he and a teammate whipsawed the Pitt quarterback as the half ended.
"The Pitt end, Mike Ditka, was way over on the other side of the field," Shirk recalls, "but he came racing toward us, yelling and screaming. One of his teammates stopped him or he would have belted us both. That toughness impressed me. Ever since then, I've wanted to be just as tough as Ditka."
Apparently he has succeeded. Ditka told a UCLA line coach that Shirk was the best college lineman he played against all year—and Pitt, of course, always plays a decidedly rough schedule.
An all-California player at Anaheim, where his father is a high school administrator, Shirk began nurturing his innate toughness as a center, but broke both thumbs in his sophomore year. Unable to handle the ball properly after that, he switched to tackle on offense and middle guard on defense, and made the transition so well that offers came from schools as far away as the Ivy League. He visited a few campuses but had no real intention of enrolling anywhere but at UCLA.
"I just liked the UCLA approach," he says. "Everything was, 'Yes, sir. No, sir,' The players never talked during the practices I saw. They worked hard and listened to the coaches. I think that kind of discipline is important to a team."
Clearly, it is this kind of discipline, along with Sequoia-sized linemen like Marshall Shirk, that has given UCLA renewed hope for more successes of the Red Sanders variety.
Not all of the California prospects, of course, see football as a series of thunderous crashes. Hugh Campbell, who is from Saratoga, lives to catch passes. Last year at Washington State, where they have an almost wild compulsion to throw the ball, sophomore Campbell got his big, sure hands on 66 of them and gained 881 yards, thereby breaking assorted NCAA records. Offensively, with Pat Richter of Wisconsin, he is one of the two best ends in college today.
One of the best runners is a squat, smallish halfback named Tommy Larscheid who was lured from California to Utah State. Skyline Conference defensemen sadly gave him 1,044 yards from scrimmage last year, a total placing Larscheid second in the nation.
Deep and dependable though the California talent is, the best all-round back now operating in the West is an Oregonian. Terry Baker, while a three-sport all-state champion at Portland's Jefferson High, once took a notion that he would never play football at Oregon State. However, the Beavers' coach, Tommy Prothro, is notional, too, and he liked the looks of the temperamental Terry. At Prothro's urging, Baker changed his mind, last year broke State's alltime record for total offense in two different games and, all in all, accounted for a smashing 1,473 yards with his looping left-handed passes and graceful dashes as a single-wing tailback.
Everything considered, the quality of western football should be the highest in years. There is even talk of burying a few hatchets, which in the West are usually fine-honed. Some say the present Big Five—Washington, USC, UCLA, California and Stanford—will officially be rejoined before long by the schools they rudely shouldered aside when the old PCC broke up, namely, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State.
End of the Skyline
In the Mountain States, the Skyline Conference is playing its last year as a normal league. Denver has dropped football, and the bigger schools, Wyoming, Utah, Brigham Young and New Mexico, are to join Arizona and Arizona State in a new and surprisingly strong conference. This leaves smaller Utah State, Colorado State and Montana to fend for themselves.
All this is something of a bore to Californians, who feel that the western football world logically revolves on the USC-UCLA axis. Now that normality reigns once again, they may be right.
The Falcons lost both their wings when Rich Mayo, the slingshot passer who fired for 1,168 yards last year, and Mike Quinlan, who ran for 585 more, picked up their commissions in June. Finding replacements for his flexible wing T is Coach Ben Martin's major worry. Husky sophomore Quarterback Joe Rodwell, who has mastered the rollout, will battle Jerry Thies for Mayo's position, and sophomore Terry Isaacson, a fine running quarterback who has been moved to halfback, should win Quinlan's place. If they fail, the offensive burden will rest with workhorse Halfback Don Baucom, who does everything well, and Fullback Nick Arshinkoff. The line will be in trouble if anything happens to Center E. C. Newman, a 215-pound linebacker, Guard Ken Needham, Tackle Bruce Kohl or Ends Carl ton Simpson and Dick Brown.
CONCLUSION: An Air Force without an air arm is going to have difficulty with the likes of UCLA, SMU, Baylor and Colorado.
The Cougars, generally the have-nots in the expiring Skyline Conference, will close out true to form. Coach Hal Mitchell, who replaced the fired Tally Stevens, is in much the same fix as his predecessor. Mitchell's position, in fact, may be even shakier than Stevens' because he is putting in the single wing and it will take time for the Cougars to adjust to the new system. Mitchell's most pressing chore is to find a tailback, and the choice lies between Eldon Fortie, a slim junior who has demonstrated some throwing and running skill, and Perry Ficklin, who quarterbacked the freshman team last year. Mitchell will experiment to find the right linemen. Only Kent Home, an immovable 270-pound tackle, and sturdy Mike Brady, who has been shifted from guard to center, are sure of their jobs.
CONCLUSION: Mitchell's most valuable asset this year may be a good kicker. The rebuilding Cougars will have to punt plenty.
Scholarly Coach Marv Levy will do a great deal of analyzing this year, but his inescapable conclusion must be that he has too much schedule and too little team. Except for Quarterback Randy Gold, who throws the ball with authority (he completed 56% of his passes for 696 yards last year), and George Pierovich, a power-driving 210-pound fullback, Cal is burdened with mediocrity almost everywhere. In the line, tight End John Papini, an adept pass catcher, and Roger Stull, the long-side guard, will hold their own, but the other small linemen will have trouble handling bigger opponents. Levy has varied his wing T with an unbalanced line and split end, and is hoping that Jon Mason and Alan Nelson, a pair of swift halfbacks who were blue-shirted last year, will help make Cal at least respectable.
CONCLUSION: Too thin, too small and too green, the Bears need more than Gold's passing to survive the murderous days ahead.
After his Rams fell into the Skyline cellar last year, Coach Tuffy Mullison spent a busy winter searching for more experienced laborers. He brought in 21 junior-college transfers, but the team structure is too flimsy to be put in sound working order this season. Last year's defense gave up a discouraging 240 points and the present model isn't much better, despite the return of Tackle John Keegan, a bruising 230-pounder, Guard Nick Kohls, a good small man, and End John Nelson, who can fend off blockers. There are backfield troubles, too. Halfback Brady Keys—quick, elusive and hard running—is good, but he is pretty much all by himself, and the Rams are in dire need of a quarterback. Unless transfer LeeRoy Gutierrez can help, Mullison will have to use Bill Berringer, whose passing is spotty at best.
CONCLUSION: Improve the Rams by 25% and you still have a team that is giving up 18 points a game. That's a cellar-type handicap.
Although 18 lcttermen return. Coach Skip Stahley has to decide whether to go with seniors who have managed only two wins in two years or turn to a sparkling group of sophomores. His best senior is Reg Carolan, a big end who should make a good living after college as a pro. Carolan caught 33 passes for 488 yards last year, blocked viciously and was excellent on defense. Unfortunately, the other linemen gave up 2,563 yards. Stahley hopes to plug some holes with weighty tackles like seniors Zeke Urko (220) and John Desmond (233) and sophomores John Miller (240) and Jim Moran (255). Without prolific passer Sil Vial, however, the Vandals will find it hard mustering an offense. Their lack of backfield speed won't help either, but Stahley hopes to lick this problem with a trio of quick sophomores.
CONCLUSION: The season is a long one, the schedule difficult. No amount of innovation will stave off the losses this year.
The Grizzlies this fall will feel the first effects of the de-emphasis program instituted a year ago. The 20 nonscholarship sophomores on hand to backstop 26 lettermen can neither back nor stop the kind of lines they will be meeting. Center Gary Schwertfeger, the only returning line regular, will be surrounded by forwards who are willing but not particularly able. The best of the lot, in fact, may be his own brothers, Carl and Dale, a pair of 210-pound tackles who like to mix it up. If Coach Ray Jenkins' team is to make any kind of a dent in the Skyline, the momentum will have to come from its experienced backs—Quarterback Bob O'Billovich, an able passer who isn't afraid to run when trapped, which may be often this year; Halfbacks Pat Dodson and Terry Dillon and Fullback Gary Smith.
CONCLUSION: The tenacious Grizzlies do have one talent: they intercept passes; not, however, enough to win many games.
Asked what Oregon would do if Quarterback Dave Grosz were injured, an assistant coach once replied, "Why, we'd call off the game." Grosz has departed now, but the Ducks aren't about to call off any games. Instead, they will turn to three sophomores to move Coach Len Casanova's tricky and versatile T. Bob Berry is a better-than-adequate passer, and he has Halfbacks Mel Renfro, a truly fast runner (9.6 for the 100), and Lu Bain, a deft open-field man, with him in the backfield. Ahead of them will be a typical Casanova line—big, mobile and two-deep all over. Tackle Steve Barnett, a 245-pound junior, is the best of the lot, but by no means all by himself. Ends Paul Bauge and Kent Petersen, Tackle Ron Snidow, Guards Mike Rose and Mickey Ording and Center Joe Clesceri will gladly assist him.
CONCLUSION: If the defense can hold on while the backs learn the hard facts of life, this should be another good year at Eugene.
There was some astonishment when Coach Tommy Prothro, a confirmed believer in the single wing, quietly announced that he was adding the T to the Oregon State repertoire. But there is method in Prothro's sanity: he can now use his two star tailbacks, Terry Baker and Don Kasso, in the same backfield. Baker, who ran and passed for 1,473 yards (sixth in the nation last year), becomes the T quarterback, a position he played in high school, and Kasso (who ran for 51 I yards) the left half. Between them, they should give the Beavers an exciting offense. On the line. Tackle Mike Kline, at 235 pounds, is good, and Neil Plumley, a 240-pound giant, will be better when he gets meaner. The middle is solid, but Roger Johnson and John Thomas, a junior college transfer, will have to prove themselves on the outside.
CONCLUSION: After a period of adjustment (this means the Syracuse game) the Beavers will be wiser in the ways of the T and tough to beat.
SAN JOSE STATE
Last year's Spartans threw the ball recklessly, mainly because they had Quarterback Mike Jones, who could pick a receiver out of a mob (he completed 71 of 152 for 1,049 yards), and Flanker Back Mack Burton, who could grab passes in a mob (he caught 23). Burton is back but Jones is gone, and while his successor, Chon Gallegos, can throw short passes, he splatters when he goes long. Coach Bob Titchenal, as a result, is prepared to put more emphasis on the running of Johnny Johnson, a fullback who made 523 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1960. Johnson will get help from a big line that averages 225 pounds. Leon Donohue, a 6-foot 4½-inch tackle who has been drafted by the 49ers, and Guard John Sutro are 245, Tackle Jim Cadile 225, and Guard Bill McGrath and Center Hank Chamness 220.
CONCLUSION: There are some serious soft spots at quarterback and end, but that oversized line will smother a multitude of sins.
Reluctant defenders and slow, plodding backs forced Coach Jack Curtice to keep the ball in the air during the past few years, when his teams were rarely dull but rarely won anything either. Now Curtice has some swift halfbacks and a bright new spread split-T he hopes will spring them loose. Quarterbacks Rod Sears and Steve Thurlow will still throw a lot, but the halfbacks, senior Larry Royse and sophomore Danny Spence, are the men Curtice will be counting on. How far they go depends, unhappily, upon a young, inexperienced line. End Steve Pursell, Guard Tom Walsh and Center Chris Cottle, along with three sizable sophomores, Tackle Al Hildebrand (230 pounds), Guard Frank Dubofsky (218) and End Chris Jessen (202), and a large junior, Tackle Randy Vahan (220), will have to do most of the work.
CONCLUSION: Curtice's wit helped him survive 10 straight losses in 1960. He'll be slightly less funny this year, Stanford more winning.
That heady scent in the air around UCLA is, of course, roses. Some question, however, arises whether the aroma is the real thing, or just simulated. Everything is here for a championship team except another tailback like Bill Kilmer, but that is a rather large exception in the single wing. Coach Billy Barnes does have Bobby Smith, an undistinguished passer but good runner, and Rob Smith, a better thrower but less nifty on his feet. Until either develops, Barnes must look to his excellent line. From tackle to tackle, where 230-pound Marshall Shirk and 213-pound Steven Bauwens provide rousing protection, the Bruins will be devastating. Center Ron Hull is a superior linebacker, Guards Frank Macari and Tom Paton are tough, and sophomore End Mel Profit, 6 feet 5 and 210 pounds, runs dextrous patterns.
CONCLUSION: The path to the Rose Bowl won't be smooth, but those fine linemen could carry the Bruins on to Pasadena.
UNIVERSITY OF PACIFIC
This, the Bengals say, will be "a year of reorientation." Exalted now as a university, Pacific has brought in new Coach John Rohde to replace Jack Meyers, cut back severely on its football scholarships and schedule and, for its efforts, lost its major-college football rating. As if this were not enough, graduation has deprived Rohde of a half ton of interior linemen, including Carl Kammerer and Willie Hector, two of the best guards in Pacific history. The replacements, Tackles Don Schackleford and Dolph Trotter and Guards Mike Porter and Dan Silva, are hardly the kind to make the Bengals ferocious. But there is some hope. Fullback Dick Scott and Bob Vander Wall, a good passer, are back and so are two of the West's quickest halfbacks, Bob Reed, who does the 100 in 9.7, and Waymond Hall, a step slower.
CONCLUSION: Smaller and a bit weaker on defense, Pacific will look to the tight T and wing T to provide running room for its fast backs.
The so-called thundering herd is gone, and in its place are some light-footed swifts who may quietly make everybody forget last year's highly publicized disappointments. Now Coach Johnny McKay will turn from grind-it-out football to more deception. Willie Brown, a sophomore halfback, is the reason. As "Z" back, he will shuttle between slot and flanker, but always behind the strong side. From there he can cut inside, sweep the ends or rush downfield for a pass. Quarterback Bill Nelsen, who runs better than he passes, Halfbacks Alan Shields and Lynn Gaskill, a 9.7 sprinter, and Fullback Hal Tobin will help out. A shaky line will have to get its strength from End Jim Bates, who runs 9.6 for the 100, husky Tackles Mike Bundra and Frank Buncom, moved over from end, and superior Guard Britt Williams.
CONCLUSION: An overage of young players on the line will cost USC dearly, especially in the first four games. After that, who knows?
An odd thing happened at Utah. Coach Ray Nagel flatly predicted: "This will be Utah's best team ever." What is even odder, he probably is right. There is no outstanding star on the Utes, but among the 24 returning lettermen there is a plethora of competence. Center Ed Pine, who packs 220 pounds on a stalwart 6-foot-4 frame, flushes opposing backs like a bird dog does quail, and the ends, Marv Holmes and Marv Fleming, are adept at choking off sweeps. The tackles and guards are all schooled in the kind of blocks and tackles that demoralize the other team, nor will the backfield lack for much with Halfbacks Jerry Overton, Gordy Lee and Dennis Zito and Fullback Gordon Frank around. The only weakness, which may be more imagined than real, is at quarterback, where untested Gary Hertzfeldt will start.
CONCLUSION: Nagel is a brave man. As good as his Utes are, they will have to struggle to beat Utah State and Wyoming.
Last year State led the nation in rushing, finished second in total offense and rushing defense and tied Wyoming for the Skyline title. There have been a few notable losses, like the Camilli brothers, Dolph and Bruce, who defected to the New York Yankees, but Coach Johnny Ralston's Aggies are still deep in power. They start with Halfback Tom Larscheid, a darter who scored 92 points in 1960 and was the No. 2 rusher in the country with 1,044 yards and an 8.4 average. They also have 260-pound All-America Tackle Merlin Olsen, as gentle as a grizzly; 250-pound Tackle Clark Miller, good enough to be drafted by the pro 49ers, and All-Skyline Guard Willie Redmond. And now the Aggies, with sharp-passing quarterbacks in Bill Munson and Mel Montalbo, are planning to step up their attack.
CONCLUSION: Next year Skyline foes can rejoice. State will no longer be a member. In the meantime—down to the storm cellars, men.
After two years of sunshine, the Huskies now confront the long arctic night. Twenty lettermen, including Quarterback Bob Schloredt and Halfback George Fleming, are gone from the surprising team that eked out the close ones last year and shocked Minnesota in the Rose Bowl. Coach Jim Owens has taken steps to replenish the supply of players, but the junior-college transfers he recruited will need time to fit into the Husky traces. Until they do, most of the offense will have to come from Quarterback Kermit Jorgensen, only a fair passer but adept at running the swing-T keeper play, and Halfback Charlie Mitchell, an exciting brokenfield sprinter. In the line the only secure spots are those occupied by 215-pound Guard Jim Skaggs, a zealous defender switched from end, and aggressive junior Center Roy Mansfield.
CONCLUSION: Owens will use his new redeye formation—a variation of the double wing—if nothing else works.
When in doubt the Cougars usually throw the ball. And why not? Quarterback Mel Melin, who fires long and short with equal accuracy, was the nation's No. 3 passer (and second in total offense) last year with 119 completions in 221 tries for 1,638 yards and 11 touchdowns. End Hugh Campbell, as elusive as a weasel, made a shambles of NCAA records by catching 66 passes for 881 yards and 10 touchdowns. Halfbacks Jim Boylan and Pete Schenck caught 39 passes between them. But no team can win on passing alone, and Coach Jim Sutherland simply has too few runners for his flanker T and too many tender spots in a line that gave up 161 points last season. There is plenty of size up front in Tackles John Wyffels (234 pounds) and Bob Colleran (225) and End Mike Martin (225), but not enough experience.
CONCLUSION: The exciting Cougars may claw out a few wins, but lack the balance to cope with a heavy schedule.
Coach Bob Devaney loves small, agile linemen and big, bruising backs. Last year he had both and the Cowboys rode an unyielding defense (best in the nation) and a pummeling attack to a deadlock with Utah State for the Skyline championship. Devaney still has the mobile forwards, but those big backs are gone and he will redesign his offense to revolve around Quarterback Chuck Lamson, the All-America candidate and transfer student from Iowa State, who can pass and run (he did both for 786 yards in 1960) and also defends handsomely. He will be helped by Halfback Dick Behning and Fullback Bob Bisacre, who hit hard, and a sure-blocking line led by Ends John Engel and Lonnie Dunn, Tackle Howard Colling and, if he has recovered from an ailing knee, Center Dick Williams.
CONCLUSION: The Cowboys lost 19 lettermen, but there are still enough hands left to make a run at the conference crown.