It has been five years since Sonny Grandelius took Colorado to the Orange Bowl and then was asked to betake himself elsewhere because his recruiting methods did not meet accepted practices. Lean years they were, too, until a tough former quarterback from Oklahoma's heyday, Eddie Crowder, came up to Boulder to see what he could do to save the Buffaloes from extinction. In his third year, 1965, Crowder got them to 6-2-2, and last year it was 7-3 in a season that was two minutes too long. Those were the final 60 seconds of the Oklahoma State and Nebraska games, in which Colorado blew its chances at the Big Eight Conference championship.
But rather than sending Buffalo fans in search of mountain cliffs to plunge over, the defeats raised a wait-till-next-year cry. Now next year is here, and it may well prove worth waiting for because the Buffaloes have the brawny look of potential Big Eight champions. Pro scouts will tell you this. So will Nebraska's Bob Devaney and Missouri's Dan Devine. In fact, the only disagreement with the assessment comes from Eddie Crowder. "Oh, we've got more balance and experience than before, that's true," he says. "But we lack depth and quickness at several positions, and there is the quarterback problem."
The quarterback problem is of the classic kind. There is this senior, you see, and this sophomore...(both of whom, incidentally, date the same girl, Tom Harmon's daughter, Kelly). The senior is Dan Kelly. He was pressed into service briefly last year when Colorado's top quarterback, Bernie McCall, who has since graduated, was injured. Kelly was spectacular until he sprained his right wrist—which is the kind of thing Kelly does. In two years he has also broken his right arm twice and his right foot once. A tower of strength he is not. This means that Crowder feels he should take a long, considered look at Bob Anderson, the most-talked-up Colorado sophomore in years. Anderson is 6', 198 pounds and does not break anything except opponents' skulls. He does not look like a quarterback. Inspecting him from the top down, one sees hair and ears, then a whole lot of muscles, and then the points of his shoulders. It is the kind of build achieved by lifting weights. "I lift weights," says Anderson. What he really looks like is a fullback and he plays like one, relishing the fine feeling that comes with knocking people over. He is a good passer, poised, competitive, and enjoys pressure. He is inquisitive, too. "Other freshmen," says Crowder, "you tell them to do something and they do it. Bob does it, but he will come back to find out why. He wants to know the theory behind everything, and he is learning fast." But, as Crowder quickly points out, he is also inexperienced and, more serious, he is not fast afoot. So Crowder must decide between a quick quarterback who is breakable and a slower one who is not. The chances are he will start with Kelly, but use Anderson increasingly.
Regardless of who winds up at quarterback, the offense is a good one. At fullback is Wilmer Cooks, a 215-pounder who was All-Big Eight last year and led the conference in scoring with 12 touchdowns. A strong inside runner, Cooks suddenly has decided it is also a lot of fun to run outside where there is more fresh air. "We never expected him to be a breakaway back," says Crowder, "but maturity has done a lot for him. Now he realizes that an extra step may get him a 50-yard touchdown instead of a 15-yard gain." Cooks will be supported by Tailback William Harris, who picked up 538 yards in 105 carries last season, and John Farler, who averaged seven yards a try from his wingback position.
The offensive line is likely to have two sophomores at end, Monte Huber and Mike Pruett, but they are good ones, especially Huber, who is a converted quarterback. He is contesting for a starting job with Larry Plantz, who last season caught 22 passes, three for touchdowns. The interior line, led by Mike Montler, one of the league's best sophomores last year, is experienced and big.
The defense suffered much heavier graduation losses than the offense and will be hoping Colorado's offense is as strong as it looks. Two of last year's second-stringers, Mike Schnitker and Mike Veeder, move up as the defensive ends. In the interior line, which is brawny but has some players in new positions, the key figure will be Frank Bosch. He was an All-Conference lineman a year ago, but injured his neck wrestling and required an operation that kept him out of spring practice. He has been working out this summer, and says he is ready.
The linebacking is sound, but the defensive secondary is open to question. It had some crucial lapses last year and now must play without one of the conference's best safety men, Hale Irwin. But Charles Greer was a sensation as a sophomore, and may be ready to return to form as a senior. Dick Anderson managed five interceptions last year and Ike Howard added three more even though he did not see action full time. Greer is the man that the most must be hoped from.
It would seem that Crowder has cleared the hurdle which every new coach faces—that of being positive he is teaching winning football. But this will be Crowder's year of greatest challenge, for no longer can Colorado surprise opponents with its strength, and the Big Eight is a tough league. What is more, his team must play Nebraska and Oklahoma on the road. Crowder is aware of the hazards ahead. "It used to be," he says, "that we knew we would be somewhere between 0-10 and 5-5. Now we're pretty sure we're going to be somewhere between 5-5 and 10-0."
Make that 7-3 and 10-0 this year, Coach.