The AFL's most effective recruiting campaign was carried on in the West, where the Chargers and the Dallas Texans snapped up last year's All-Americas by the pay load—generally from under the noses of the NFL. Both teams are now so far ahead of Denver and Oak land (who will battle in splendid isolation for third place) that what was a two-team race in 1961 will be still more of a two-team race in 1962. San Diego, with its new stars, should win again over Dallas and its new stars. But whether the Chargers can at last beat Houston for the title may eventually depend upon the strong right arm of Kansas rookie John Hadl, who has a way with a team
The Texans, original favorite sons, have lost some of their Dallas following in failing to beat out San Diego. But Owner Lamar Hunt turns bravely away from the lure of New Orleans, which is clamoring for a franchise, to say that Dallas will get its chance to support—or not support—a championship team before he pulls out. The Texans had remarkably good luck in the draft, outbidding NFL teams for such fine stock as Backs Curtis McClinton of Kansas and Jimmy Saxton of Texas, End Bill Miller of Miami and Quarterback Eddie Wilson of Arizona. Dallas fans like to equate the Texans' failures with the inconsistencies of Quarterback Cotton Davidson, who has terrible cold spells. Wilson could do fine, but needs grooming; in the meantime, Lenny Dawson will work behind Davidson. McClinton, whom Dante Lavelli calls another Jimmy Brown, will understudy Fullback Jack Spikes and Halfback Abner Haynes (left), who between them missed 13 games due to injury last year (Haynes was still only 108 yards from the AFL rushing leadership). With Miller, who has exceptional hands, at fanker in tandem with Split End Chris Burford, the Texan running and pass receiving is as good as any in the league. The interior line, however, continues to be a worry to Coach Hank Stram. The conversion of Curt Merz (Iowa) from end to guard may help, but the loss of Center Irv Goode to St. Louis of the NFL won't. Defensively, the linebacking is excellent, with Sherrill Headrick, Smokey Stover and E. J. Holub. The Texans will be fortified for their battle with the NFL Cowboys for Dallas' affection. Beating out San Diego is another matter.
Denver: looking snappy
The most striking change in the Broncos is sartorial. From the drab brown-gold-white uniforms of the past they have gone to a splashy orange, blue and white (and discontinued those unsightly vertical-striped socks). Most important change, however, is in the coaching. Jack Faulkner, 36, succeeds the deposed Frank Filchock and becomes the youngest head coach in pro football. Old-pro Quarterback Frank Tripucka, 34, is so satisfied with the new atmosphere that he has quit talking about "this being my last year." To aim at, Tripucka still has the most overworked target in pro football, sure-handed Split End Lionel Taylor (87, left), who has caught 192 passes during the last two seasons. Hunter Enis, over from San Diego, has won at least equal time at quarterback. Tripucka or Enis throwing, Taylor is likely to still be doing most of the catching, for the Broncos lack another good end. This obstacle may be overcome for Faulkner by rookie Flanker Back Jerry Tarr (Oregon), the NCAA high-hurdles champion. Tarr has one distinct advantage over most college trackmen who get carried away by the pros: he played college football. The Bronco running game has been pitiful. Don Stone is not fast enough to handle it alone and there is little punch at fullback, with either holdover Jim Stinnette or Bo Dickinson (traded from Dallas). Defensively, Tackle Bud McFadin is a giant in any league, and Safety men Goose Gonsoulin and Bob Zeman are certainly the best pairing in the AFL. But for all their added color, the Broncos are still only skin deep. They are not yet ready to challenge in the West.
Oakland: fast and weak
Coach Marty Feldman began the new season with so many weaknesses from 1961 he hardly knew where to trade first. But, while the past was dark, the future became darker still. First-string Quarterback Tom Flores was sidelined for the season with a lung ailment. End Doug Asad, the club's leading pass receiver, retired, and his replacement, rookie Bob Coolbaugh, fractured an ankle. Volney Peters, after nine years as a pro tackle, also retired. Feldman didn't panic. Instead, seeking speed, he traded away Wayne Crow, his leading rusher, and asked waivers on George Fleming, his top scorer. He now has live backs who can run 100 yards in less than 10 seconds: new men Bo Roberson (from San Diego), Eugene White (Florida A&M) and Dobie Craig (Howard Payne), and regulars Charley Fuller and Clem Daniels. (Roberson, the Olympic broad jumper, is a legitimate 9.4 sprinter who can turn the corner, but some say he wouldn't at San Diego and ran straight to the sidelines.) Nevertheless. Feldman's most important acquisition came from among the forgotten: Quarterback Don Heinrich, six years a pro, came out of a two-year retirement poised as ever when Oakland upset Boston in a recent exhibition. Trouble is, when you are through talking about Heinrich, Captain Jim Otto (00, right), the two-time all-league center, and speed, you have pretty well talked about the Raiders. They need pass catchers badly, although Feldman believes he turned up one in Max Boydston, who quit the Dallas Texans after two years as a starter. If the Raiders are improved, they are still not good enough to escape last place in the West.
San Diego: surplus buying
Seven Charger rookies were in the College All-Star Game, and though San Diego has won the Western title twice in two years Coach Sid Gillman feels he really needs them. Actually, the only rookies presently in his starting lineup are Flanker Lance Alworth of Arkansas and Halfback Bert Coan of Kansas, who didn't play in the All-Star Game. Coan replaces all-league Paul Lowe, who broke his arm in an exhibition. The affluence of the Chargers is certainly imposing, but there is no doubt Gillman can make good use of such All-Star dandies as Quarterback John Hadl, also of Kansas and the All-Star Game's most valuable player; End Reg Carolan (Idaho), Guard-Tackle Richard Smith Hudson (Memphis State), Center Wayne Frazier (Auburn) and Linebackers Frank Bun-corn (USC) and Bob Mitinger (Penn State). Hadl will understudy the often injured but always effective Jack Kemp (right). Gillman has moved all-league Tackle Ron Mix to guard and has made a fullback out of Lineman Jacque MacKinnon, a 246-pounder. Keith Lincoln, moved to fullback last year when Charlie Flowers was injured, is back at halfback, and Flowers has said that nobody's going to beat him out of his old job. Defensively, the Chargers are immense: the rush line includes Earl Faison (262), Bill Hudson (277), Ernie (Bigger than Big Daddy) Ladd (317) and Ron Nery (247). In the secondary are three all-leaguers: Linebacker Chuck Allen, Cornerback Dick Harris and Safety Charlie McNeil. The only thing the Chargers have to worry about is whether San Diego, which has been on an economic slide, can afford them.