Maybe they did not even belong there, huddled on Auburn's 20-yard line in their silver helmets, red shirts and dirty britches. They were drawing plays in the grass and trying to figure out a way to win a Southeastern Conference championship they had never expected to compete for. Except for Theron Sapp, Riley Gunnels, Nat Dye and most of the other good players who had graduated, this was the same Georgia football team that the year before had won only two SEC games and had finished 10th in the conference. It was a team that should have been, at best, merely tolerated by the seat-holders, the people who remembered Frankie Sinkwich and Charlie Trippi and the bowl years of a decade before.
But right there in San ford Stadium, before 54,000 persons, few of whom thought the 1959 Bulldogs had a chance, brash little Georgia called time-out for one last try. Auburn was leading 13-7, and it was fourth and 13 to the goal. "They were so big and tough," said Quarterback Fran Tarkenton (above), "I knew we had to show them something they had never seen before. So I drew it right there in the huddle, running my finger over the grass. I told our tight end, Bill Herron, to hold his block for four counts, fake right, and then run as fast as he could for the left corner of the end zone. I sent Bill Soberdash and Fred Brown on hook patterns over the middle."
The Bulldogs broke from the huddle and lined up on the ball. Tarkenton took the snap, rolled to his right and stopped, keeping his eyes riveted on Soberdash and Brown all the time. Then—at the last moment—he wheeled and arched a pass high and far into the left corner of the end zone, where Herron was racing ahead of the frantic defender who had overcommitted the other way. The ball settled easily into Herron's hands to tie the game. Durward Pennington calmly kicked the point that won the championship, but afterward the specialist had a confession to make. "Really, I couldn't have been any calmer or more confident," he said. "In all the excitement and confusion and yelling that followed that pass, I thought it was the touchdown that had won the game and my extra point was just a formality." Auburn, the unbeaten national champion in 1957 and unbeaten in 1958, was defeated. In a steamy locker room following the game, Coach Wally Butts exulted as his players shouted and laughed. "This teem," he said, "has given me more thrills than I've had in a lifetime of coaching."
But how? It was not a team with the flash, the flair or even the color of Butts's elevens that swept through the '40s. It most certainly did not have a Sinkwich or a Trip pi. He had so few good players, Butts once said, that he could put all of them in one car and drive to the next game.
It was the quality of the few that made this a special Georgia team. There were Fran Tarkenton, the son of a Methodist minister, who wound up leading the Southeast in passing; Charlie Britt, a flamboyant defender who ran back an interception 100 yards to score against Florida; Fred Brown, a halfback with knees so fragile he needed a resident orthopedic surgeon to keep him at half speed; and rookie Fullback Bill Godfrey, who was, according to Butts, "absolutely the slowest runner I've ever seen, but somehow he got the yard when we needed it most." And there was Bobby Walden, who got so much practice punting Georgia out of trouble the year before he became the best kicker in the country. Up front were fellows like Larry Lancaster, Jimmy Vickers and Herron, who were really no great shakes at anything but winning.
This was a team that got so fired up by an old line coach who was soon to die that they raced out and beat Alabama in the opening game. The coach, Ears Whitworth, cried when they gave him the game ball. Next came a 21-6 victory over Vanderbilt, but only after a 30-14 loss to South Carolina did the Bulldogs really begin to jell. Hardin-Simmons, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Florida State and Florida fell, making a win over Auburn imperative for Georgia's first SEC championship in 11 years.
Georgia's 21-14 victory over Georgia Tech the following week brought with it an invitation to meet Missouri in the Orange Bowl. The Bulldogs won 14-0, and Missouri quarterback Bob Haas stripped off a dirty, grass-stained shirt and said, "You just can't relax against these guys. They come running down that field looking for somebody to knock down, and if you're there, they're going to get you."
Georgia is the same kind of team this year. Unfortunately, so is Alabama and so is Tennessee, only more so. This is the year Georgia could use a Sinkwich or a Trippi or a Tarkenton.
Bear Bryant always gets up early, but one day last January, with important work to do, he rose at 3 a.m., dressed, heated a quick cup of coffee and hurried over to ALABAMA'S athletic dormitory, where he tacked this note on the dining room door:
"Just notified. Congrats national champions. Paul Bryant.
P.S. Let's start working today to make it three in a row."
Bryant was worried. Last years's football team was supposed to be good, but not that good. The 1966 squad was being primed as his next champion—and now it looked jinxed.
The fact that Bryant's biggest headache this past spring was trying to figure out who to red-shirt (his freshmen were, as usual, eager, tough and motivated) did not allay his fears. Steve Sloan, Paul Crane and Steve Bowman were gone. Alabama had only to meet Louisiana Tech (not State) in its home opener. Paul Bryant's problems were small enough to make every other coach in the country shudder—with envy.
Among the Tide's 34 returning lettermen are Ray Perkins, the All-America end who caught all kinds of passes last year with the bodies of defenders draped over him like sideline parkas, and Les Kelley, the solid 215-pound power runner who may well pick up where Bowman, the SEC's leading ground gainer, left off. And there is Tackle Cecil Dowdy who, at 205, does not look all that much until you see him hit ("The best I've ever had," says Bear) and Bobby Johns, a defensive halfback who intercepted six passes as a sophomore.
'Bama gave up only 7.9 points per game in the regular season, but the defense is experienced now. Ends Frank Whaley and Sophomore Mike Ford are quick, agile defenders. Tackles Johnny Sullivan and Richard Cole are two-year regulars, and Mike Reilly, a sophomore middle guard, "could be our best all-round lineman," says Bryant. Wayne Owen, Stan Moss and John Reitz can be expected to back up the line with smart, hard muscle, though Bob Childs, another sophomore, had such a fine spring game he just might squeeze in somewhere. Johns will play alongside David Chatwood, last year's roverback, and John Mosley, another regular who was under a push from Dickie Thompson for the safety position in the spring. "And we have a whole bunch of others we think have possibilities one way or the other," says Bryant, which means the Tide will be harder than ever to score on this fall.
But what typifies the Alabama defense is the same ingredient that makes its offense go: speed, and lots of it. Kenny Stabler and Wayne Trimble will sprint out as much and as fast as any quarterbacks in the country, though they will certainly not throw as much. Bryant has been building a ball-control attack ever since he finally got rid of those two young radicals, Namath and Sloan, and he is not about to let anyone start experimenting—regardless of how good the receivers are.
And they are good. Perkins caught 19 passes for 279 yards last year (10 in the Orange Bowl game alone), and Wayne Cook grabbed 9 for 144 more. Dennis Homan, the fastest man on the Alabama team, could be in for his biggest year if the defense leans too much toward Perkins. Of the 10 passes Homan caught last year, four went for touchdowns.
Kelley will open at left half and stay there if his services are not required at full, where Bryant will lead with Gene Raburn, with Hal Moore or Hunter Husband in reserve. Terry Kilgore will start at center with John Calvert and Bruce Stephens, two hard-hitting lettermen, at the guards. Dowdy is the strongside tackle, playing opposite 195-pound Jerry Duncan. Bryant's kicking game is certainly solid enough to keep the opposition jammed well inside its 40 for the better part of the afternoon. Steve Davis punted for a 41.7 average last year, good for second in the SEC. And any way you look at it Alabama plays only three good teams on its 10-game schedule, which makes the outlook bad for those three teams.
They are LSU, Tennessee and Mississippi who, along with GEORGIA, will fight it out for the SEC's runner-up spot unless Alabama gets careless. The best thing Coach Vince Dooley has going for him at Athens, outside of two powerful fullbacks and a 9.5 sprinter, is the fact that his Georgia team does not play LSU, Tennessee or Alabama. And the Bulldogs are mad. Last year, before Georgia Tech and Georgia ended the season against each other, Tech landed a Gator Bowl bid, then Georgia won the game 17-7. The Bulldogs have now raised their sights to the Orange or Sugar bowl, and if they make either, the least surprised man in the SEC will be Florida's Ray Graves. "Dooley has done the best recruiting job of any SEC school over the past two years," says Graves. "With the possible exception of Alabama, Georgia has the most good football players, and it has a proven coaching staff."
In his first two years at Georgia, Vince Dooley worried about his team's lack of size. This fall the Bulldogs are bigger, much bigger, and since even proven coaches worry a lot, Dooley says: "We could be too big." Tackles Chuck Arckwright and Ken Pillsbury go 245 and 230, and Guards Edgar Chandler and Don Hayes are each 220. Frank Richter, 218, regarded by many as the best split end in the SEC, will have to be as good as his notices. If he is not, a gifted sophomore named Billy Payne will upstage him. The fullbacks are 225-pound Ronnie Jenkins, "a real diamond in the rough," says Dooley, and Brad Johnson, 200 pounds, who has to be good to be pushing Jenkins. The sprinter is Kent Lawrence, who could make tailback awfully exciting at Georgia. "He's little [170 pounds], tough, takes care of himself, and he doesn't get hurt," says Dooley, who only asks Lawrence to run.
Even with all this talent, the Bulldogs will miss Quarterback Preston Ridlehuber. His job is falling to Kirby Moore, an accomplished but fragile passer. Defensively, Georgia will be tenacious as ever with George Patton, the 230-pound All-America candidate, anchoring things at tackle and some hard-won savvy expected to pay off in better linebacking.
A team that always seems capable of giving Alabama a tussle (before it plays its worst game of the year against Alabama) is LSU, where the Tigers get hypoed half a dozen times each fall by 68,000 chanting, screaming Baton Rouge loyalists in Tiger Stadium. LSU lost only once at home last year—to Alabama, of course—finished up 7-3 and went to the Cotton Bowl to upset Arkansas. With nine of 11 gone from the offense and seven missing from the defense, Charlie McClendon says he's rebuilding.
The people of Baton Rouge are particularly hopeful, however, because Nelson Stokley is well again—though he never looks it. Slump-shouldered and shy with gaunt, drawn cheeks, Stokley probably wouldn't get chosen for a game of touch on a fraternity lawn. But as McClendon emphasizes, "People just miss him when he has the ball—and the club jumps when he's in there." When Stokley hurt his knee early in the Ole Miss game last year, the Tigers missed him so much they were shut out by the Rebels and scored only once against Alabama the following week. Though he didn't play in LSU's remaining four games, Stokley was still voted the SEC's Sophomore of the Year.
Nelson will have the usual help, of course. Billy Masters, 6 feet 5, 225 pounds, will play strongback (McClendon's wingbackend combination) and he can run, catch and block. Sammy Grezaffi, a 9.5 sprinter, may move from the secondary to split end, replacing Doug Moreau. Jimmy Dousay steps in at tailback for little Joe Labruzzo and Gawain Dibetta will play full. Up front there's work to be done, and the hardest falls to Terry Esthay, who takes over for All-SEC Dave McCormick at tackle. Defensively, Ends Mike Robichaux and John Garlington intimidate runners and passers as if they were the best pair in the South, which they may well be. Tough John Demaire, 230 pounds, has switched from middle guard to tackle. The linebacking is sure and smart, the defensive backs 9.9ish.
At TENNESSEE, Doug Dickey has a lot going for him, and he'll need it to improve on that surprising 8-1-2 record of last year, which included a Bluebonnet Bowl win over Tulsa. The Vols open against Auburn in Birmingham, then meet Rice, Georgia Tech and Alabama on succeeding Saturdays. "I guess we'll just have to get ready quick," says Dickey, running a hand over his flat top.
One position he can forget about is quarterback. Tennessee has a superlative 1-2 punch in Dewey Warren and Charlie Fulton, who completed 73 of 138 passes for 1,013 yards between them last year. This fall the hottest will play the most—and that could be lots of fun with Austin Denney, Johnny Mills and Richmond Flowers running out for passes. Tight End Denney caught 14 for 206 yards when he wasn't wiping out tackles and linebackers, and Split End Mills led the Vols with 23 catches for 328 yards. Everybody is waiting to see what Flowers can do—indications are it's a lot—and he'll get his chance at wingback.
But pity the poor team that ignores Tennessee's runners. Tailback Walt Chadwick led the Volunteers in rushing with 470 yards, and during spring practice he was under a heavy push from sophomores Rich Callaway and Bill Baker. Another newcomer, 201-pound Richard Pickens, has shown more than enough to take over for Stan Mitchell at fullback. Center Bob Johnson leads an offensive line that can move, even though it averages 211 pounds a man.
As soon as Linebacker Frank Emanuel graduated, Dickey started worrying about his defense. Things grew worse when Tom Fisher, a linebacker drafted as a high future by the pros, was killed in an auto accident. So Paul Naumoff, Tennessee's best player, has switched from end to help back up the line, where he will play alongside Doug Archibald. This leaves Tennessee green at the ends, but there is compensating speed in the secondary and a kicker, Ron Widby, who averaged 42.8.
Mississippi plays more conference teams than any other member—seven, including Alabama. LSU, Tennessee and Georgia—which is a change from recent schedules. In addition, Johnny Vaught is without All-America Guard Stan Hindman, and Tailback Mike Dennis and Cornerback Bill Clay, both All-SEC. But everything considered, Vaught is more optimistic than one would expect. "We made a million mistakes in our early games last fall," he says, "but the sophs came around and we finished with a real good football team." Those sophomores Vaught likes are the 24 he carried on the traveling team, 23 of whom are now among his 34 returning lettermen.
Most of the experience is on defense, where seven letter winners return up front, six of them starters. Tackles Jim Urbanek and Dan Sartin, 240 pounds apiece, can hit and run as can Middle Guard Jimmy Keyes, who also kicks (six field goals, 19 of 20 conversions). Linebacker Lee Garner does so much that Vaught contends he's the best in the SEC. To Bruce Dillingham goes the task of filling Clay's lowcuts at cornerback.
Offensively, Mike Magee moves from weakside guard to replace Hindman, and junior lettermen Bobby Hendrix and Alan Bush, both 230 pounds, have inherited the tackles. Replacing Dennis will not be easy, but three candidates are Bobby Wade and Don Street, powerful when in shape, and sophomore Steve Hindman, Stan's brother. Quarterbacks Jody Graves and Bruce Newell are not in the Gibbs-Day-Griffing mold, but they will be adequate.
Bobby Dodd says last year's Yellow Jacket backfield was "the most exciting and fun to watch" that he's had in 21 years at GEORGIA TECH—and that includes a raft of backfields. Quarterback Kim King, Halfbacks Lenny Snow and Craig Baynham and Fullback Tommy Carlisle frisked the opposition for 2,848 yards and 222 points, and for the 52,000 who jam Grant Field for Tech home games that was fun to watch. Not so much fun, however, were the 3,341 yards the opposition drained in return payment from a woeful Jacket defense, which prompted changes in everything from coaches to players last spring. Four new coaches showed up on the practice field, and nothing like that has happened at Tech in years. The results remain to be seen, but Dodd—of all coaches—promises, "We'll be a lot tougher." Bud Carson, brought down from North Carolina to stop the parade into Tech's end zone, says: "I think you'll see more long gains made on Tech this year [wait a minute, Bud!], but I think you'll see more opposing runners thrown for big losses [that's better]."
The reason is a defense they call "Tech Wrecker," which closely resembles Michigan State's rover. But to help launch it some good offensive players like Giles Smith, Bill Myddelton and Carlisle will be wrecking instead of wreaking this fall.
With an attack built around King (112 completions for 11 touchdowns last year), Snow (597 yards rushing and five touchdowns) and Baynham (30 catches for 368 yards and 7 touchdowns), Tech will not miss the converted attackers. And, as usual, the Yellow Jackets have those hole cards (seven home games) guaranteeing them a record no worse than 6-4 and possibly as good as 8-2.
Though he's still looking for a quarterback like Thomas Ray, CLEMSON's Frank Howard appears to have everything he needs to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. Among 30 returning lettermen are the Tigers' top four receivers and a big, experienced offensive line. Tackles Dave Burton and Wayne Mass go 240 pounds apiece, and Guards Harry Olszewski and Mike Macciolo are 232 and 220. Graduation bit into the defense, but there is still a lot of size around with tackles like 243-pound Floyd Rogers and Wilson Childers, 237.
Either Jimmy Addison or Tommy English will step in for Ray (1,165 yards in total offense in 1965), and Buddy Gore, a 6-foot 180-pounder who can run faster than anyone has in 10 years at Clemson, will take over for Hugh Mauldin, the tailback who led the ACC in rushing. Howard has a nonconference schedule that indicates almost sure defeats at the hands of Georgia Tech, Alabama and USC, but the team that wins the ACC will still have to beat Clemson.
Steve Spurrier is back at FLORIDA, where he ran and passed for 2,123 yards last year and came within 64 yards of Frankie Sinkwich's SEC record. Unfortunately, Spurrier and Larry Smith (see box page 60), the extraordinarily gifted sophomore runner, are about all that Florida can count on. Twenty-one lettermen, the majority of whom played three full seasons, have graduated and left Coach Ray Graves with what could well be his weakest team in six years at Gainesville. The schedule is less imposing than in former years but, in the face of the expected furious pass rushes, Spurrier will not have receivers in the class of Charles Casey either. Graves must refurbish the offensive line and defensive backfield and hope that Smith, who many believe may be the South's best back in years, will take some of the pressure off Spurrier. "But Steve," warns Graves, "is a great athlete who rises to the occasion and gets better under extreme pressure." At Florida the occasions should be many and the pressures adequately extreme. Expect the Gators to rise as high as one man can take them.
Even though Shug Jordan is 103-46-5 in 15 seasons, a wait-and-see attitude has prevailed at AUBURN ever since two assistant coaches quit in dissatisfaction following last year's 5-4-1 record and another was assigned to alumni administrative affairs. But the team that lost the SEC title to Alabama on the final day of the season is largely intact (27 lettermen return), especially in the offensive line, where Auburn figures to go 220 pounds per man. Tom Bryan is at fullback, where he led the team in rushing last year with 561 yards. The rest of the backs will be sophomores. Quarterback Larry Blakeney throws well enough for the Plainsmen to hint at a pro-type offense, and Dwight Hurston could be a find at left half. Andy Gross, 230 pounds, is among the best guards in the SEC. Defense will make or break Auburn—and that's what Shug Jordan is worrying about most.
Defense is not the problem for KENTUCKY'S Charlie Bradshaw. "It is better right now," he said last spring, "than it has been at any time during the four years I've been at Kentucky." That could be bad news for the SEC in general and LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Tennessee in particular. The Wildcats made so much progress in spring practice that Defensive Coach Buckshot Underwood promised, "We'll give the ball to the offense in good position a lot of times this fall." His reasons are men like Jim Swart and Doug Van Meter at the ends, Tackles Paul Bernard and Basil Mullins and Middle Guard Rich Machel. The secondary, long a Kentucky trouble spot, jelled too. "Now, instead of dreading a pass on third and eight, these boys look forward to it," says Bradshaw.
The Wildcat offense will miss Rick Norton, the All-America passer, at quarterback and Rodger Bird everywhere. But the talents of Quarterback Terry Beadles, who will roll out and throw, and Tailback Larry Seiple, Wingback Don Windsor and End Don Spanish, who will run and catch, are not inconsiderable. Fullback Donnie Britton is the best blocker Kentucky has had in a long time. On paper, the Wildcats seem to have several—but not enough—fine players, but on the field they may prove to be something more than paper Wildcats.
Don Saget, 6 feet 4, 220 pounds, caught 24 passes for 373 yards as a sophomore at MISSISSIPPI STATE last year, but Coach Paul Davis has made him a quarterback, and this fall Saget will be throwing, hopefully to catchers as able as he. The Bulldogs are still looking for someone to replace Fullback Hoyle Granger, State's best plunger for three years, and the offensive line needs a helping hand or two. Marcus Rhoden returns at tailback, but the defense will leak. To make the outlook even bleaker, the Bulldogs are hopelessly outclassed by a schedule that includes the best of the SEC.
Vanderbilt will be improved, but not enough to move up in the conference standings. Like Mississippi State, the Commodores simply play too many teams that are better than they. Gary Davis gives Vandy some class at quarterback, as does Jim Whiteside at fullback. But the offensive line, despite the presence of Scott Hall, is not consistently good. With the defense getting more than its share of action, Defensive Back Charlie Orr and Chip Healey, the monster, will find more opportunities to shine than even they can handle.
Duke, North Carolina State and North Carolina will be on Clemson's heels from the start of the schedule, although the Blue Devils and Tar Heels, along with South Carolina, are ineligible for the Atlantic Coast title because they do not play enough league games. Scotty Glacken and Sonny Odom have graduated at Durham, so the Duke Blue Devils will bank on a stern defense. Thirty-four lettermen greeted new Coach Tom Harp when he came from Cornell this year, and among them were Bob Matheson, an All-ACC linebacker, and Middle Guard Bob Foyle. The rushers up front are strong and there's speed at the ends. The defensive secondary picked off 16 passes last year that were meant for somebody else. Fullback Jay Calabrese was All-ACC as a sophomore, and he'll head up a powerful running game. Todd Orvald takes over for Glacken at quarterback and Jake Devonshire steps in for Odom at halfback.
North Carolina State would like to pick up where it left off in 1965. The Wolfpack will carry a five-game winning streak (and 31 lettermen) into spanking-new 41,000-seat Carter Stadium and, as Coach Earle Edwards warns, "If we continue to eliminate mistakes at the rate we did last year, this fall could really get exciting." Size, speed and depth in the backfield help ease the loss of Shelby Mansfield, who came within 18 yards of Alex Webster's school record of 636 yards rushing. Bill Wyland leads the way at fullback, and Quarterback Charlie Noggle can move the club. Defensively, Tackle Dennis Byrd, 250, and End Pete Sokalsky rank high. However, the secondary could use some patchwork. How well Edwards gets it mended could determine how far the Wolfpack rises.
Quarterback Danny Talbott did a lot for NORTH CAROLINA last year and he is back again. Operating this year behind a bigger and better line, he may even improve on his record of 1,481 yards in total offense and 70 points (two short of Charlie Justice's alltime record). He also punted for a 38-yard average and for all this was voted the ACC Player of the Year. But, of all his skills, Talbott likes throwing best, and that means a big year for End Charlie Carr, who caught 14 for two scores last season even though he missed three games with a broken hand. Tom Ingle, 245, has come along fast at left tackle, as has Center Chip Bradley. They will be protecting Talbott and trying to clear the way for Running Backs David Riggs, Tom Lampman and Mark Mazza.
The defensive backfield ranks with the offensive line as the Tarheels' most improved department. Billy Darnall is a two-year starter, and Jack Davenport, a tough corner man, should be even better at safety. But Coach Jim Hickey worries most about his defensive line and the men who back it up. Outside of End Bo Wood and Tackle Hank Sadler, the defenders are no more than adequate. That is why so much depends upon Talbott.
South Carolina had to give up its only ACC title in history this July because some of the athletes who had helped earn it were discovered belatedly to have accepted more than mere hoorays for their efforts. New Coach Paul Dietzel is expecting neither a conference championship this fall nor an investigation next summer. Even though he has a lot of experienced Gamecocks—35—Dietzel had only nine days of spring practice to install his system after his abrupt departure from Army. Adding to his troubles is the fact that South Carolina must play LSU in Baton Rouge and Georgia in the first three weeks of the season and Tennessee and Alabama later on.
But Quarterback Mike Fair is good (1,127 yards in total offense in 1965), and so is Benny Galloway, an All-ACC defender who has shifted over to tailback. Ben Garnto, who led the team in rushing with 437 yards, returns at wingback. J. R. Wilburn, finest receiver in the history of South Carolina, is gone, so Roy Don Reeves, formerly on defense, has moved into his spot. Gene Schwarting, a promising sophomore, could be a great defensive end. But aside from these four, too many of Dietzel's men are question marks. By late fall there may even be times when he will long for the certainties of West Point.
After two straight American Football League titles as coach of the pro Buffalo Bills, Lou Saban moved to MARYLAND. With 33 lettermen back, he had visions of similar success right off in college ball, but his great expectations suffered a rude jolt when the best player he had, Fullback Bo Hickey, turned out to be one of his poorer students. Hickey will not play, and the absence of his fine running is going to place too much of a burden on those left—such as runners Whitey Marciniak, Billy Van Heusen and Ernie Torain.
To quarterback his pro-type attack, Saban has cither Phil Petry or Alan Pastrana. He has fine receivers in Bobby Collins, Chip Myrtle and Dick Absher, and should the passing be good enough the football at Maryland will be exciting, if not very much improved over last year.
The rest of the ACC will look forward, as usual, to meeting VIRGINIA and Wake Forest. Bob Davis, after a year of carrying the ball at halfback, will be throwing it again as Virginia's quarterback, where he starred for Coach George Blackburn as a sophomore. In his place the Cavaliers are touting a speedy sophomore halfback, Frank Quayle, believed by some people around Charlottesville to be Virginia's best in years. But games are won and lost in the line and, aside from Offensive End Ed Carrington and Defensive Tackle Don Parker, Virginia does not have a line. When the jousting is over, the Cavaliers will be fortunate if they have improved on last year's 4-6 record.
Depth is still so much the problem at WAKE FOREST that Coach Bill Tate cannot fill out two platoons. He is prepared to go with the best 22 men he can find and have the better 11 in the game when he needs them the most—which will be often (the Deacons were 3-7 last year and little help has arrived). Tate may make a few changes in his offense to take advantage of his most promising sophomore, Jimmy (The Jet) Johnson, who led the frosh in rushing. Andy Heck is the other halfback and Jon Wilson will again run the club. Defensively, Tate is counting on his finest football player, 6-foot, 236-pound Lynn Nesbitt, who has switched from guard to tackle, and Bob Oplinger and Ken Henry. He needs more like them.
Kevin Moran, 6 feet, 230, leads an EAST CAROLINA defensive line that just could buy the Pirates a Southern Conference title in the first year they are eligible to win it. Coach Clarence Stasavich calls his defense "the very best I've ever put on a field," and he's had a few, having won 32 of 39 games since he came to Greenville. Fullback Dave Alexander, a Little All-America, led the conference in total offense last year. He is gone, but Tom Grant, a wingback, and Bill Bailey, a tailback, return. The Pirates will make people wonder why they ever let them into the conference in the first place.
For years they didn't, but now they do—fear WILLIAM AND MARY. The reason is Coach Marv Levy who, after the Indians were strafed 42-14 by Navy, spurned platoons in favor of his best 22 men and won five of his last six. It was the school's first winning season in 12 years. Twenty of those 22 best are back again, including End Chuck Albertson, Linebackers Bob Gadkowski and Adin Brown and two fine quarterbacks, Dan Darragh and Mike Madden. George Pearce, who caught 61 passes last year and finished with a helmetful of records, will be missed, and that's why Albertson will be playing his third position in three years. The Indians will be good, but the early going—East Carolina, West Virginia and George Washington—will pretty much decide how good.
Not that WEST VIRGINIA and George Washington are about to win the Southern Conference title. Both are minus too much, and the Mountaineers' new coach, Jim Carlen, has spent most of his time installing the I formation he brought with him from Georgia Tech. With 16 of the 22 starters missing and as yet no permanent quarterback, West Virginia followers would do well to concentrate on Garrett Ford, who ran for 894 yards last year. He will be trying to prove he is the best back in the South.
George Washington is almost as inexperienced as West Virginia, and because Garry Lyle, a victim of the classroom, will sit out the season, the Colonials have the same quarterback problem. Tom Metz is back, however, and he led the team in scoring in addition to running back kicks and playing safety. End Bruce Keith could make the indoctrination of whoever fills in at quarterback somewhat easier.
Eddie Teague has moved up to athletic director at THE CITADEL just in time. He has left new Coach Red Parker with a team lacking everything. In fact, Parker has to stick with Bill Ogburn, a defensive back turned quarterback. The Bulldogs, with Backs Gene Morehead and Dick Hanes, can be expected to run much more this year.
Coach Vito Raguzzo will, in John McKenna's place, install a pro-type offense at VMI, and he has the conference's best quarterback, Hill Ellett, to run it. But even with Charlie Schmaus, an All-Southern Conference basketball player, running out for passes, the Keydets will be trailing too many league members at season's end. Another new coach is at RICHMOND, where the Spiders failed to win in 10 games last year. Frank Jones, formerly of Mississippi State, can improve on that performance with only one win. He may get it as Larry Zunich returns at half and some needed help appears in the line, but he shouldn't expect much more. Mike Bragg, who averaged 41.7 yards as a punter last season is likely to be Jones's busiest man.
At DAVIDSON last year's 6-4 record seems out of the question, although both of Coach Homer Smith's quarterbacks, Jimmy Poole and Jake Jacobsen, return, along with Linebacker Tom Dews and Tackle Tupper Morehead on defense. FURMAN could improve on its 5-5 record. Twenty-five lettermen are back, the schedule is softer and some good sophomores are reporting for duty. Clyde Hewell is the best of them. He may psych Bobby Stillwell out of his quarterback spot.
If there is a sleeper in the South, it is MIAMI. The trouble with the Hurricanes in the past, however, has been a tendency to go to sleep on sparkling Saturday nights in the Orange Bowl when a little alertness could have placed them with the country's best. Whether this year's version will be similarly afflicted may be answered this weekend in Boulder, when Miami meets Colorado. The Buffaloes are the kind of test that could make or break a season.
Bill Miller, who took over at quarterback midway through 1965, is so highly regarded that Bob Biletnikoff's signing with the New York baseball Yankees drew scarcely a whimper. In seven games Miller completed 72 of 141 passes for 856 yards and 10 touchdowns. The rest of last year's backfield—Fred Cassidy, Jerry Daanen and Doug McGee—returns too, though Jimmy McGuirt, a junior, has taken over at fullback. Defensively, Miami is led by Corner Back Tom Beier, who impressed Notre Dame in the scoreless-tie game last year. Potentially, this is one of the best Miami teams in years. Now if it can just stay awake...
Virginia Tech has 17 starters returning and must decide only on a quarterback. He either will be Tommy Stafford or Wayne Rash, and while neither has shown great savvy so far, the team has so much excellence at other positions that the lack may not be too serious. There are the good halfbacks, Tommy Francisco and Dickie Longerbeam, who will be operating behind the experienced line headed by Ends Gene Fisher and Ken Barefoot. And defensively, there are Sal Garcia, a former fullback who will play linebacker, and Tackles Sands Woody and Andy Bowling, all of whom demand—and get—respect. Coach Jerry Claiborne would shock absolutely nobody if he came up with another 7-3 year.
Florida State can be expected to score, as usual, but the defense will hurt, as usual. Even though Steve Tensi and Fred Biletnikoff (Miami Bob's brother) are now with the pros, Jerry Jones, T. K. Wetherall and Donovan Jones remain, and passes caught by these fellows mean points. Bill Moreman, Jim Mankins and Larry Green will handle the running and Kim Hammond probably will run the team. He is an unknown quantity, as is the defense, which has lost nine of the 11 players who gave up 119 points last year. For all its proven abilities, hard-hitting FSU is not likely to spoil the season for too many opponents.
Tulane is finally out of the SEC, where each new football season brought nothing better than sadness. Coach Jim Pittman, flat-topped and silver-haired, will try to instill some of his Texas (and Darrell Royal) background and spirit into the Green Wave, but a softer schedule would have helped more. Linebackers Bill Goss and Dick Steigerwald are gone, as is Tackle Bill Brown. Pittman, however, is encouraged by a good spring practice, during which he turned up some fine runners in Pete Johns, Jim Trahan and Tim Couglin.
Twenty-seven lettermen are back at MEMPHIS STATE, but Quarterback Bill Fletcher (11th in the country in total offense during 1965), is not among them. Don Deaton probably will take over, with Herb Covington and Dale Brady running at the halfs. The defense will revolve around Middle Guard Larry Duck, but probably not well enough to cope with the likes of Mississippi, whom the Tigers meet this weekend.
A Smith to remember
It is not difficult to understand why the entire state of Florida is anxious to see what sophomore Larry Smith of the University of Florida will do against Northwestern this Saturday. What is difficult is deciding whether Smith is as good right now as Tucker Frederickson, a Florida high school boy who was at Auburn two years ago. Frederickson made All-America in his senior year, and he is a star for the New York Giants now. His talents are great and proved, but appreciative people in Gainesville are saying there doesn't seem to be a thing Smith cannot do. Smith's coach, Ray Graves, wants desperately to reduce the publicity buildup—at least until after Smith's first game—but even he has to admit, "You know, Larry does have unlimited ability."
He does. The most sought-after high school athlete in the history of the state. Smith is an exceptional runner, pass receiver, punter, punt returner, kickoff returner and—you guessed it—passer. Smith, who can carry his 6-foot-4, 216-pound frame over 100 yards in 10.1 seconds, was a high school All-America at Tampa's Robinson High. While there, he averaged eight yards every time he carried the ball, amassed a total of 960 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. In addition, he caught 42 passes for 799 more yards and eight touchdowns and passed eight times for 227 and two scores.
Predictably, college offers poured in—and then flooded in after Smith scored 465 out of a possible 495 points on Florida's Senior Placement Test. Smith narrowed his choice to Florida or Princeton, but settled on Florida because of his deep admiration for Graves—and because he plans to be a doctor or a lawyer in his home state when he has finished with football.
In his first year as a tailback with Florida's Baby Gators, Smith averaged almost five yards per carry and was easily the outstanding back in the spring game. "He simply does it all," marvels Graves. "He could play anywhere on the offensive or defensive teams, and his attitude, combined with his skills, makes him an almost sure bet to be a star." In a Florida offense that appears to have only the passing of Steve Spurrier, Smith is bound to get his chance.
Another Southeastern sophomore, Richmond Flowers Jr. of Tennessee, will not find it so easy to make the varsity, but then challenges have never frightened him (SI, March 14). Bear Bryant practically revamped his entire track program at Alabama in attempts to lure the 6-foot-1, 185-pound two-sport wonder out of Sidney Lanier High of Montgomery, Ala., but Flowers, who always seems to know where he is going, chose Knoxville, where the climate is more temperate and the track program more advanced. A resentful Alabama freshman team clobbered Flowers but the hurdler cum sprinter cum football player was not disturbed. As a wingback this spring, he gained 250 yards in 50 carries. Should Larry Smith ever falter, Richmond Jr. is ready to take over in the South.