Alabama already had Auburn convinced. The score was 38-0 with two minutes to play in Birmingham and all that remained undone in the season was for sophomore Quarterback Joe Namath to secure the 37 yards he needed to break Alabama's alltime total-offense record set by Harry Gilmer in 1945. It was third down and 13 on the Alabama 28 and one pass would get it all. Namath huddled with his team and then gave the order. Alabama quick-kicked.
Naturally, after that, Namath could not break Gilmer's record. Naturally, too, Bear Bryant admired him, not just for his selflessness but also for the guts it takes to play the defensive game that Bryant espouses. These qualities help make Namath the second—to George Mira—best quarterback in the South.
To be sure, Namath knows offense, too. He passed and rushed for 1,421 yards, and 13 of his 76 completed passes went for touchdowns last year. This spring the normally noncommittal Bryant dared to say, "I will be disappointed if Joe Namath is not the greatest quarterback in the South—ever. I will also be greatly disappointed if he is not the best quarterback in the country."
September 22, 1963
What Namath already is the only Yankee on the Alabama team. He came to Tuscaloosa from Beaver Falls, Pa., for two unshakable reasons: he "wanted to play football in the South" and he wanted to play football for Bear Bryant. Known in high school as the "Hungarian Howitzer," he had offers of football scholarships from 52 colleges, and a Chicago Cubs baseball scout was talking in terms of a "$50,000 bonus." Once in the South, the talented Namath told Alabama reporters as a freshman that it was "nice" that Bryant had varsity Quarterback Jack Hurlbut coming back because "I might get hurt." The following spring, true to his word, he won the starting job, and one day as he huddled with his cast of upperclassmen he piped: "Fellows, this is an option play. But I think old Joe's going to run with it. Let's see some blocking. Coach Bryant don't want to get me hurt."
Namath is 6 feet 2 and 187 pounds and primarily a drop-back passer in the best professional style. He seldom ran the ball in high school and it has taken him a while to accept the idea that the Alabama run-pass option is run first, pass apprehensively. Though his running improved as the 1962 season progressed, it still cost him the SEC leadership in total offense. Georgia Tech's Billy Lothridge, who ran 250 yards farther, beat him out for that.
Like an unclassified greenhouse specimen, Billy Lamar Lothridge has been the subject of mystical probing ever since he arrived at Georgia Tech. "Mechanically," says Assistant Coach Jack Griffin, "Billy leaves a lot to be desired." But then, Griffin adds, Billy's ballhandling is also sloppy, and his passing in practice "scares you to death."
Indifferent, inaccurate, sloppy, mechanically unmarvelous Billy Lothridge set four Tech records last year: most points scored (89), most passes attempted and completed (156 and 83), most yards total offense (1,484). He is only one more of the many fine quarterbacks in the South, however. Others of distinction include Georgia's Larry Rakestraw, Auburn's Jimmy Sidle, North Carolina's Junior Edge, Mississippi's Perry Lee Dunn, South Carolina's Dan Reeves and, probably the best of these, Maryland's Dick Shiner. Shiner completed 121 passes for 1,324 yards last fall, leading the nation most of the season. He is a 6-foot, 190-pound senior of German-Irish extraction from Lebanon, Pa., a stocky, methodical quarterback who passes with Mira's crispness but without his daring. Clearly, the South enjoys an impressive abundance.
On his first day as head football coach at ALABAMA in 1958, Paul (Bear) Bryant arrived at his desk at the crack of dawn, which is his custom. "I went into the office," he said, "sat down, and worried. Just like I always do." Worried ever since has been every other coach in the Southeastern Conference. The Bear has won 27 of his last 29 games at Alabama, and as this season begins he is moaning loudly, a sure sign that every other team in the SEC—except MISSISSIPPI—is in deep trouble. Mississippi can afford to relax. It does not play Alabama until 1965, and because of a schedule that is taxing only on rare Saturdays the Rebels may again finish with a better record than the Crimson Tide.
Those who attended Alabama's spring game hoping to find a flaw believed they detected one or two in Bryant's defense, which was shorn of Lee Roy Jordan, the All-America linebacker, and is without benefit of a starter from the 1962 line. Were the lack real rather than apparent, it would be strange and wondrous, for no Alabama opponent has scored more than seven points in the last 25 games and 1962 opponents averaged a pitiful 58.8 yards rushing. None is liable to do much better this year. Bryant can expect excellent performances out of Center-Linebacker Paul Crane, a 190-pound sophomore, and Tackles Dan Kearly and Butch Henry and Guards Al Lewis and Steve Allen, all 210 pounds and all qualified nasty.
Eddie Versprille, a solid (6 feet, 190) fullback who was equally good at line busting and linebacking last year, is one of the two 1962 starters among Alabama's 26 lettermen returnees. The other, of course, is Quarterback Namath. To run with Versprille, Bryant has Benny Nelson, a quick senior halfback, and possibly Mike Fracchia, the SEC's best powerback in 1961 but sidelined last year by a knee injury. The knee is still doubtful.
Alabama will have plenty of time to get respectable enough for Bryant's tastes. The schedule is Mississippi-type until it reaches Florida on Oct. 12. By season's end, all will be well and Bryant will be worrying about which bowl bid to accept.
Ole Miss graduated Quarterback Glynn Griffing and Wingback Louis Guy, now with the New York Giants, and All-America Tackle Jim Dunaway, now with the Buffalo Bills, three men chiefly responsible for the Rebs' first perfect season in 70 years. But the remaining assets are considerable. Vaught has 26 experienced players, including good linemen, and a large supply of sophomores classified as "unusually talented." Just to be sure his motion T does more than go through the motions, however, Vaught has returned Fullback Perry Lee Dunn to quarterback, where he played behind Griffing as a sophomore. Dunn is a better runner than Griffing and is an adequate passer, best at long range. Halfbacks Dave Jennings and Larry Smith and Fullback Buck Randall have excellent speed.
Vaught's teams have lost as many as three games only once since 1952, and if they lose at all this year it will almost have to be to LSU, the only real heavyweight they meet. But LSU has problems. For one thing, the new substitution rule broke up Coach Charley McClendon's three-team system and left him with 16 lettermen who now have to learn to play both ways. For another, LSU will not be quite so stylish without All-America Halfback Jerry Stovall.
On the credit side, LSU has 14 good red-shirt sophomores on deck. The most impressive is Pat Screen, a slender quarterback who can pass and runs the option like a halfback. The competition for Stovall's job is four deep—red-shirts Beau Colle and Joe Labruzzo, and two legitimate sophomores, George Haynes and Ken Cormier. Any one of these should fit nicely with Halfback Danny LeBlanc, who runs down people in the atavistic style reminiscent of Jimmy Taylor, a former Tiger. All the Tiger linemen except Robbie Hucklebridge, a stubby 225-pound guard used to double duty, will need time to adjust to two-way football, but there are plenty of good men who learn fast.
Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd has been around long enough (18 years at Tech) to know that in the Southeast defense is the ticket. Tech will not be in the SEC much longer, but while it remains it will have the right defense to keep it in strong contention. Although Dodd lost the interior of what he considered his best line ever at Tech, his replacements are not exactly struggling. And with Lothridge running the offense and passing to Ends Billy Martin, 6 feet 5, 236 pounds, and Ted Davis, 6 feet 1, 225, possibly the finest pair in the country, Tech should score often.
Despite its first-game loss to Georgia Tech, FLORIDA moves up as a challenger in the SEC. Coach Ray Graves has a line that averages 231 pounds and includes Tackles Frank Lasky, an agile 270-pounder who has already been drafted by the Giants, and Dennis Murphy, 262-pound junior. Roger Pettee, 220-pound center-linebacker, is the man the Gators' stunting defenses are built around. End Russ Brown is easily one of the league's better two-way players.
There are also two quality backs: Fullback Larry Dupree, 10 pounds heavier this year at 195, a smart and brutal runner (he led the SEC in rushing with 604 yards), and Tom Shannon, the flashy southpaw quarterback whose passing shattered Penn State in Florida's 17-7 Gator Bowl victory last January. The Gators need second-line depth and a halfback to keep the opposition honest.
In addition to Mira, MIAMI also has two surprises in sophomore Running Backs Russell Smith and Pete Banaszak. Coach Andy Gustafson will need both to compensate for his masochistic tastes in scheduling. Smith's older brother, Frank, was a Charley Justice type of runner at Miami in the early 1950s, but Russell is sensitive about the comparison. The truth is he is bigger than Frank, faster, stronger and can even throw the ball. Fullback Banaszak (6 feet 3, 203) is said to be as tough as and faster than the graduated Nick Ryder. Gustafson obviously has a mind to give Miami some offensive balance: Mira accounted for 2,059 of the team's 3,524 yards in 1962. Mira again has five receivers, including Flanker Back Nick Spinelli (33 catches for 506 yards), and a large and protective line, headed up by Tackles Dan Conners (6 feet 2, 238) and Rex Benson (255). But Gustafson is still concerned about a defense that gave up 287 yards a game last year.
Miami opens with FLORIDA STATE this weekend. This should decide right off who is the best independent in the South. A girls' school until 1947, FSU has risen fast and wants badly to get into the SEC, whose teams it annually scares silly. Coach Bill Peterson held out 21 men last year. He now has depth as he never had before. He has, too, the nation's biggest quarterback in 6-foot-5, 200-pound Steve Tensi and a powerful tackle known as Li'l Abner—Avery Sumner, 6 feet 2, 212, a lad who used to stack peanuts on his father's truck farm. The Seminoles tied Georgia Tech and Auburn last year, and with that kind of audacity they may never make the SEC.
Of CLEMSON, DUKE and MARYLAND, one befuddled Atlantic Coast Conference coach says, "Any of us could win—and probably will." Clemson's Frank Howard sees it more clearly than that: "Clemson's going to win," he says. "I don't see how the others can ever beat us." We are willing to accept Howard's prognosis, not because his gift for mountain gab can be convincing but also because he has two teams of almost equal strength, and because Quarterback Jim Parker can do practically anything when he is not feeling poorly. "We looked better in the spring than any time since I've been here," says Howard, starting his 24th season at Clemson. "We've got the best backs we've had in years, and more speed. What changes will we make on offense? We'll block better." Now if Howard can figure a way to get by Oklahoma and Georgia Tech in his first two games, the rest of the schedule will seem downhill.
Duke, winner of three straight ACC titles, has lost both quarterbacks and 10 of last year's first 14 linemen. "We're green as grass," says Coach Bill Murray, thinking mostly of his line, but in the next breath he admits he just might have the best fullback in college football in Mike Curtis, a 209-pound junior who can, according to one starry-eyed report, "hit like a steamroller, spin like a top, block, tackle, intercept, catch, place-kick, great!" Duke also has an outstanding sophomore quarterback in Scotty Glacken, who will probably take the job from junior Dave Uible by midseason, and capable runners in Halfbacks Billy Futrell and Jay Wilkinson, son of Oklahoma Coach Bud Wilkinson. Unfortunately for Duke, these pluses will not be sufficient to stave off Clemson when the teams meet Oct. 19.
Maryland Coach Tom Nugent, the most inventive mind and fastest mouth in football and a man totally unappreciated by Clemson's Howard, will have a team good enough to knock off either Clemson or Duke and interesting enough to watch if it never wins a game. Nugent now has a "shifty I offense" (Howard says that sounds like Nugent) in which the wingback will occasionally shift into the line to become a split end and the split end will drop off to become a wingback, the good of which only time and Tom Nugent will tell.
Maryland also has Darryl Hill, the first Negro ever to play in the ACC, ready to start at wingback. He is a 165-pound transfer from Navy, and he "moves," says Nugent. Even better are Dick Shiner at quarterback and Tailback Len Chiaverini, who led the ACC in rushing last year with 602 yards. Maryland's line will be smaller and faster than last year's and could be pushed around quite a bit. But Shiner's arm and Nugent's guile will take the Terrapins a long way.
West Virginia is making plans for its centennial, and Governor W.W. Barron, one of the more active recruiters for the home team, is making plans to be thrilled when Coach Gene Corum provides an undefeated West Virginia University football team for the occasion. It will not happen because the Mountaineers must play Navy, Pittsburgh, Penn State and Syracuse outside of the Southern Conference. Inside they are safe and secure. Corum's mountainous Mountaineers have a starting line that averages 228 pounds and backs who average 203. Quarterback Jerry Yost passed for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaged 4.6 yards rushing last season; and a tackle, Bernie Carney, 225 pounds, has been compared with Sam Huff. It is enough to make a governor proud, if not prophetic.
Auburn, always respected in the South, has had two years of humiliation in its own state (34-0 and 38-0 losses to Alabama), and Coach Ralph (Shug) Jordan must grin and bear it one more year at least. The Plainsmen are improved, yes. Jordan has 22 lettermen, the "fastest line in 10 years," a good all-round quarterback in Jimmy Sidle, and sophomore Halfback Gerald Gross, who made a specialty of spectacular scoring plays as a freshman. But beat Bear Bryant?
New Coach Jim McDonald approaches his TENNESSEE job with fresh ideas about making the old single wing work: "I'll use split ends, flankers and men in motion," says McDonald, "and even a few T formation plays." Two who will do much to help are Tailback Mallon Faircloth and a typically tough Volunteer guard, 6-foot-3, 215-pound Steve DeLong. Tennessee has won more games in the past 35 years than any other major team, but a carryover of the worst pass defense in the SEC and too few experienced hands make a better than break-even season remote.
As fall practice began, KENTUCKY'S roster numbered 47 men, 30 of them sophomores. Six players have left since (40 quit on him last fall), and tough Charlie Bradshaw, the Kentucky coach, says, "So what. I can't even remember their names." About the only names Kentucky fans will remember this year belong to Tackle Herschel Turner, the team's best lineman, and Halfback Darrel Cox, a versatile athlete who runs, passes, kicks and plays safety.
Georgia, with an excellent passer in Quarterback Larry Rakestraw, an excellent receiver in 6-foot-4 End Mickey Babb and a superior tackle in Ray Rissmiller, will have greater experience and more good linemen than before. But Coach John Griffith must also cope with a stiff schedule and, worse, the residual confusion of the unfortunate Butts-Bryant case. Like Georgia, MISSISSIPPI STATE has an unrelenting schedule that begins deceptively (with Howard College) and becomes deadly (with five bowl teams). State could finish high in another league. Not in the SEC.
Vanderbilt and TULANE will again win the most sustained sympathy in their conference. Vandy's new coach, Jack Green, of Army fame, hopeful that something—anything—will work, shifted letterman Halfback Steve Shaw to quarterback, converted letterman Guard Bill Waldrup to fullback, moved letter-man Tackle Sam Sullins to center, and then announced, "We do not expect to be humiliated." Tulane Coach Tommy O'Boyle lost all 10 games in 1962, his first season, "a tough way," he said, "to break in a new coach—especially when it happens to be me." Tulane plays six bowl teams, and though returning End Clem Dellenger and Halfback Jerry Graves, along with some promising sophomores, raise some interest, O'Boyle does admit that it will be tough again.
North Carolina and North Carolina State will be strong and well-matched entries in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but North Carolina has the Edge—Junior Edge, fancy passing quarterback (1,234 yards last year) and End Bob Lacey, the nation's seventh best receiver (668 yards). Fullback Ken Willard and Tackle Vic Esposito are not minor contributors and Coach Jim Hickey has 29 seasoned lettermen to help. State, two deep in lettermen at all but one position, is not complaining. Four Wolfpack backs—Quarterback Jim Rossi, Fullback Pete Falzarano and Halfbacks Tony Koszarsky and Joe Scarpati—rushed 200 yards or more in 1962. Rossi also completed more than 50% of his passes for 792 yards. The tackle combination of Bert Wilder and Chuck Wachtel is the best in the ACC. NCS will bother the leaders.
Maybe Deacon Dan Reeves should have amassed his 1,401 yards of total offense for Wake Forest, where the nickname would be more fitting, but SOUTH CAROLINA is just as happy it owns this 19-year-old elder. In fact, it wishes its team were a little more elderly, a little more experienced. VIRGINIA, which lost too many good men, and Wake Forest bring up the rear in the ACC.
Independent MEMPHIS STATE, with 24 returning lettermen, has a big, quick offensive line, a defensive line in which transfers balance out graduation losses and at least one man with ability to move the ball well—Fullback Dave Casinelli, the South's leading groundgainer (826 yards in 1962). The Tigers beat Mississippi State of the SEC last year and now have an eye for bigger game: Mississippi, SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI is still classified as small-college, which is not the way nine out of 10 opponents felt about it last year (Southern lost only to Memphis State). The successes included a 30-0 slaughter of N.C. State. Southern will not be as contentious, with only Fullback George Sekul returning to its backfield, but a strong line is assured, headed by Guard Nick Kolinsky and Tackle Charley Porter. LOUISVILLE, in its first year as a Missouri Valley Conference member, hoping for improvement on a 6-4 record, can count only on 317-pound Tackle Ken Kortas and Halfback Larry Compton.
VMI, blessed with the return of its four leading rushers, probably will repeat as Southern Conference champion because West Virginia does not play enough league games. The Keydets, however, could use more passing—and maybe a little less competiton from VIRGINIA TECH, which has a fine quarterback in Bob Schweickert, a good fullback in Sonny Utz and 27 other letter-men. RICHMOND derives some optimism from its Bill Silvi-John Hilton passing threat. WILLIAM & MARY will be respectable. Otherwise, the rest of the Southern Conference has only individuals to recommend: Fullback Nick DiLoreto, Center Joe Buckner at THE CITADEL; Fullback Elliott Keller, Center Doug Stacks at FURMAN; Tailback Dick Drummond at GEORGE WASHINGTON and End Steve Heckard at DAVIDSON.
Namath is one of many
Again it is Alabama and Mississippi
Clemson will dominate the ACC
Memphis State is after bigger game