One October afternoon in 1934, Lloyd Cardwell, a Nebraska sophomore halfback, stormed around end, knocked several of Iowa State's would-be tacklers off their feet and ran 45 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time Cardwell had ever carried the ball for the varsity and the shock of his sudden dash was so great that it caused Frederick Ware, sports editor of the Omaha World Herald, to write, "It's his roaring, tearing, gay, freebooting way that reminds me of the defiant, joyous, speeding wild horse that loves to run with the wind on the plains." Forever after, Lloyd Cardwell was known to followers of Nebraska football as The Wild Hoss of the Plains.
Cardwell was a red-faced, rangy, self-assured kid who stood 6 feet 4 and weighed 190 pounds. His specialty was the wide sweep, a favorite weapon of Coach Dana X. Bible. He would take off with long, powerful strides, his knees shooting up high and the ball—which always looked like a plump gourd in his oversized hand—held daringly out from his body. Instinctively, when tacklers got close, he would pull the ball in, lower his head and run over them. He was as effective against Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas State and Oklahoma, then among the reigning powers of the Midwest, as he was against lesser opponents. In the three seasons he played with Nebraska, Cardwell scored 20 touchdowns and led the team to 19 victories and two Big Six (later the Big Eight) championships. Nebraska has had other fine runners before and since—George Sauer, Sam Francis (Cardwell's All-America teammate in 1936), Harry Hopp, Bobby Reynolds and Thunder Thornton. None, however, was more exciting or damaging than Cardwell.
As a high school star at Seward, Neb., Cardwell had lots of college offers, but the late Indian Schulte, assistant football and head track coach, talked him into coming to Nebraska—without a scholarship. Even in the '30s, when recruiting was more casual than it is today, it was the odd football player who did not get a free ride. Cardwell remembers, "When we'd play Pitt, their guys wouldn't believe we weren't getting our tuition. So we said that we were. We didn't want to seem dumb playing for nothing."
Cardwell played for nothing in an era of spectacular backs—which may explain why he never made All-America. Players like Jay Berwanger of Chicago and Bill Shakespeare of Notre Dame were perhaps flashier, ran with more finesse and received better publicity, but in one match-up with the great Berwanger in 1935 Cardwell ran back a kick-off 87 yards and outscored his rival three touchdowns to one. Nebraska won 28-7.
"I had good balance and could run faster," recalls Cardwell who, at 52, is still lean and trim in his job as track and cross-country coach at the University of Omaha. Indeed, he was so fast that he ran the 100 in 9.7 and was the Big Six high-hurdles and broad-jump champion.
Cardwell closed out his college career the way he began it, running 58 yards for a touchdown against Oregon State the last time he carried the ball for Nebraska in 1936. It was a typical Cardwell run. "There wasn't much distance between the end and the right sideline," wrote one admiring sports-writer. "Cardie went snorting through the narrow gap, bowled over the end and cut diagonally across the field. Both teammates and foemen were behind him, and they stayed there as The Wild Hoss streaked to his last college touchdown."
They have not yet begun to call Frank Solich (see cover) The Wild Pony, but some people might before this season is over. Like Lloyd Cardwell, Solich cannot pass or punt; as the smallest fullback in major-college football, neither is he big enough to block the giant ends and tackles Nebraska will face this fall. So, he just runs.
But, unlike Cardwell, who careened recklessly into defenders, Solich darts, dodges and scurries among them like a mouse on a hot tin roof. He did it so well last year that he was the Huskers' leading rusher with 444 yards and returned 20 punts and kickoffs another 337. He ran one kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown against Oklahoma State. "He's a tough kid who doesn't recognize that he's so much littler than anybody else on the field," says Coach Bob Devaney.
Solich is only 5 feet 8 and weighs 157 pounds, about the size of an underdeveloped cheerleader. Last year he taped five pounds of weights under his shorts on weigh-in day so he would tip the scales at 162. "That looks better than 157 on the program," he said with a grin.
In this age of outsized football players, Solich is a curious sight alongside his fellow Nebraskans. But in Devaney's T formation the fullback is rarely called upon to block and Solich's lack of size, when combined with his amazing quickness, is actually a help in getting away on quick pops through the middle. This year he will play at times at left half, where his speed will enable him to run outside, hopefully, the way Cardwell did.
There are few coaches who win as often as NEBRASKA'S Devaney, a man with an ineffable knack for accumulating large, capable football players by the cattle-car lot. In three seasons his teams have built a 28-5 record and won the Big Eight title twice. This year the Huskers could move up that one final notch to a national championship.
Even Devaney admits Nebraska will be good—"Better than last year," he says—but he shies away from complete iconoclasm by qualifying his optimism.' 'We have less back-field depth than at any other time since I've been here," complains Devaney.
Translated, this means that Devaney, who in the past often resembled the little old lady in the shoe, can now count all his players. The count still runs high. The Huskers, for example, may be the only team in the country this season with two outstanding quarterbacks. Taking over when Fred Duda broke his leg in the third game last year, Bob Churchich completed 54 passes for 893 yards and ran for 142. Duda, who spent the summer strengthening his leg by jumping in and out of railroad cars on his job as a laborer, is an even better passer and harder runner. Churchich, however, is more of a gambler and is slicker on the pitchouts and pass options Devaney likes to use in his multiple T. Churchich will probably start.
Then there is Lighthorse Harry Wilson, a tough-running halfback who made Arkansas' mighty defenses look plain ordinary in the Cotton Bowl. At fullback, Devaney can choose between little Solich and big Pete Tatman, a 223-pound bruiser with good speed. When Tatman is playing, Solich can move to left half in place of Ron Kirkland, the team's punter, but Devaney, ever the pessimist, would like a couple more Kirklands and Solichs as insurance.
At offensive end, Devaney may have too much insurance. Freeman White (split) and Tony Jeter (tight), are only the best pair in the country. Exceptional blockers, they also gobbled up 35 passes between them in 1964. So what does a coach do with Dennis Richnafsky, the fleet 6-foot-4, 225-pound sophomore end? Richnafsky was such a standout pass receiver in the spring game that Devaney remarked, and not casually, "He did the finest job of pass-catching I have ever seen in Memorial Stadium."
Nebraska's other offensive linemen are tinged with green—235-pound Tackle Dennis Carlson is the only returning starter—but there is a lot of size on them to tinge, such as Jim Brown's 251 pounds and Bob Taucher's 278 pounds.
The most impressive thing about the Huskers, however, is their defense. Ten members of the unit that was No. 2 in the nation in total defense are still around. The ends, Langston Coleman and Mike Grace; the tackles, 230-pound John Strohmeyer and 256-pound Dick Czap; Middle Guard Walt Barnes, who goes 234, and Linebacker Mike Kennedy are experts. Anyone who gets through this crew will have to earn his way.
With so much talent, Nebraska's one fear should be of getting bushwhacked through overconfidence. The test will come against Missouri on October 30 in Columbia.
Perhaps it is too much to hope for two miracles in a row. But NOTRE DAME, despite the loss of its John Huarte-Jack Snow aerial act, conceivably could win all of its games this time. Coach Ara Parseghian got a rare glimpse of the Holy Grail last year when, for all but the final two minutes of the season, his team was No. 1 in the nation. Then USC decided it had better take a closer look at the Irish credentials.
Right now Parseghian is not even thinking about the national championship. In fact, he is not thinking past October 23. That is when USC comes to South Bend, where more than one good team has been known to wither in the din raised by 60,000 yelling Irish. "That's the game we really want," says Parseghian.
But before Notre Dame can get ready for anyone, it needs a quarterback to replace Huarte. Bill Zloch, a tall senior who has played only 10 minutes—at split end—may be the solution, but two sophomores, Tom Schoen and John Pergine, are also in the running. None of them, unfortunately, passes like Huarte. Thus, Notre Dame's power I, so dramatically effective last season, will undergo revisions. "We'll be more of a running team," explains Parseghian. "We'll play possession and field-position football and make teams come to us."
The resourceful Parseghian has the material for this less exciting but sound game. Nick Eddy, the fast left halfback, has no equal at slashing inside tackle or around the ends, and Bill Wolski, the other halfback, is a good heavy-duty man. Fullback Larry Conjar is another hard hitter inside.
To get the right linemen for the offense, Parseghian has had to break up a fine defensive front. Don Gmitter moves over to split end to team with Phil Sheridan, who stays tight, and 245-pound Tom Regner goes to guard with 230-pound Dick Arrington, a fast-moving blocker who may be Notre Dame's best lineman. Tackles Rudy Konieczny, a bruising sophomore, and Bob Meeker and Center George Goeddeke round out an interior that averages 237.
Even with the switches, the defense still has a frightening look. Half the front four—Kevin Hardy, a massive 270-pound tackle, and Alan Page, the 230-pound end—remain. They will now be assisted by Pete Duranko, a 225-pound junior tackle, and Harry Long, who started at end last year but hurt his knee in the opening game. All three deep defenders, Tony Carey, Tom Longo and Nick Rassas, are also back. The only place where Notre Dame might be weaker is at linebacker—Jim Carroll is gone—but Jim Lynch and Arunas Vasys remain, and both arc big and quick.
There are no big switches contemplated at MICHIGAN. The Wolverines are content, thank you, with some outstanding football players back from a team that lost only once, won the Big Ten championship and beat Oregon State in the Rose Bowl. They are good enough to repeat that performance, but not, of course, without running the usual gauntlet of Big Ten competition.
Coach Bump Elliott, a cautious man, is aware of what lies ahead. "I figure we have to be about 50% better to win this time," he says. "Everybody will be trying to take our heads off. But it's better to be at the top than at the other end. We've been there, too, you know."
Yes, they have, and not too long ago, at that. The Wolves rooted around in the Big Ten second division for years until Elliott suddenly improved—his recruiting, that is, not his coaching. The recruiting produced players like Quarterback Bob Timberlake and Fullback Mel Anthony of last year's team and a handsome residue of linemen and backs who can keep Elliott at the top.
The loss of Timberlake is not quite the disaster it seems. Dick Vidmir, who as a sophomore last September almost had Timberlake's job until he broke his leg on the eve of the season, will run the team. Vidmir, still a sophomore in eligibility, has remarkable poise and is a splendid passer. He throws with a peculiar motion, very much like a baseball catcher, but he gets the ball away quickly and his pitches are accurate and swift. He also is an exciting runner, perfect for Michigan's multiple T with its rollouts, options and sweeps.
Vidmir will direct a group of experienced juniors. Carl Ward, the left halfback, is a 9.8 sprinter with good moves, while 220-pound Jim Detwiler, at right half, fills that position with a fullback's build. Dave Fisher, a tough inside plunger, takes over for Anthony at fullback.
Michigan does have some tender spots in its offensive line. Tom Mack and Charlie Kines, two big, hard-blocking tackles, are back, but the ends, guards and center are all gone. Consequently, 226-pound Bill Keating has been shifted from defensive tackle to offensive guard. The defense, however, is a pure joy, with Bill Yearby, a 230-pound tackle of All-America caliber, and Tom Cecchini at linebacker the leading protagonists. Roger Rosema, a 212-pound sophomore end, will be a help too.
Elliott is not bothered by the old saw that Big Ten champions rarely repeat because they lack the Rose Bowl incentive. That, he snorts, is hogwash; the Big Ten title is incentive enough. "I feel good about this team," he says and for conservative Bump Elliott that is almost like predicting a championship.
Purdue Coach Jack Mollenkopf feels even better about his team. In fact, he states flatly, "We're thinking championship. We feel we have one of our finest teams, and if we get the necessary breaks, we can win it."
Such expansive talk from a man whose team has not won the title since 1929 (when it tied), might surprise some folks. But Purdue was on the verge of winning a year ago—until it lost to Michigan State and Minnesota—and 24 of the lettermen who made that season mostly enjoyable are back.
Two reasons for Mollenkopf's optimism are Bob Griese, an excellent passer, and Bob Hadrick, a superb split end who runs unusually deceptive patterns and cuts. Griese completed 76 passes for 934 yards last year, and Hadrick caught 37 of them. A repeat performance by both could be good enough to get the Boilermakers to Pasadena.
"Griese this year is more mature, passes better and has a much better idea of what he wants to do with the ball," Mollenkopf claims. For one thing, Griese can have more confidence in his pass blockers. Karl Singer, a quick, 235-pound offensive tackle, is an especially good protector.
Purdue's game will also feature some spirited running. Halfback Gordon Teter, fast though small, racked up 614 yards last year, while Fullback Randy Minniear, who pounds the middle hard, plunged for 438 yards and eight touchdowns. With runners like these, opposing defenses cannot afford to spread too far for Griese's passes.
Defensively, Purdue will have to correct a few weaknesses if it is to beat out Michigan. The Boilermakers gave up points—146 of them—much too easily in 1964. Now Mollenkopf thinks he has the solution to his problem: size. Tackle Jerry Shay is 230 pounds, Mike Barnes, the other tackle, is 239, Middle Guard Jack Calcaterra is 235, and Jim Long, the left end, is 226. The pass defense, so vulnerable in the past, should also be improved. George Catavolos, Charlie King and John Charles, all 10-second men, have had a year to review their mistakes.
To hear OHIO STATE's Woody Hayes tell it, he has more problems than a man caught barefooted in a briar patch. He lost his defensive ends and tackles plus the best defensive back (Arnie Chonko) in the Big Ten. Worse yet, his halfbacks run like dray horses. Nevertheless, he predicts, "We'll be in the race for sure."
When Woody Hayes talks like this, the rest of the league listens. It should, for what Hayes is alluding to is the best middle defense—"the claws and the beak," he calls it—in the conference. Linebackers Ike Kelley and Tom Bugel are the claws, and Middle Guard Bill Ridder the beak, and all three like to devour ballcarriers. So does Dick Himes, an exceptional 235-pound sophomore who is the new short-side end. Ohio State also has a sharp-blocking offensive line that has been strengthened by some switches designed to make the Bucks more formidable up front. Doug Van Home, a 236-pound tackle, was moved to guard and 230-pound Guard Ray Pryor to center.
Almost any other coach would be delighted to have a quarterback who is a good passer. Not Woody Hayes. He bemoans the fact that Don Unverferth, who last season threw more passes (160) and completed more (73) than most Ohio State quarterbacks do in several years, cannot run. The apples of Hayes's eye are a fullback who can bash up the middle and a halfback who can make an occasional sweep to relieve the monotony of the fullback's bashings.
Happily, Hayes has the kind of fullbacks he likes. Will Sander, a 215-pounder who plunged 147 times for 626 yards last season, is back, and Tom Barrington, a plunger of similar proportions and propensities who played halfback in 1964 is a fullback now, too. Unhappily, State is desperate for outside speed. Hayes thought he had some in Rudy Hubbard and Dave Reynolds, a pair of sophomores who looked so good Hayes toyed with the idea of changing his philosophy of offense. But Hubbard had a knee operation in the spring and now may not be sprightly enough to warrant a big change, and Reynolds flunked out of school. That leaves Hayes with Bo Rein, more a power runner. The tried and true look of fullbacks-up-the-middle and halfbacks-off-tackle will be seen for another year at Ohio State—a successful year, to be sure.
If Nebraska is going to come a cropper in the Big Eight, the team most likely to dust it off is MISSOURI. We say this on our own authority, not Coach Dan Devine's. He is the sort of man who frets even with a 42-0 lead. Give him 18 lettermen, a quarterback who has twice led the conference in total offense and his swiftest backfield ever and Devine will discover an inexperienced man subbing on the offensive line—and who trusts passing?
Devine's football is about as exciting as Woody Hayes's. He pounds opposing teams with off-tackle smashes and deadly wide sweeps out of his wing T and then waits for them to make a mistake. When they do, his quick, eager defenders usually swoop in to snatch away the game. The explosiveness of this year's backfield, however, may conspire to make the Tigers interesting despite their coach's conservative bent.
The halfbacks are so good that Johnny Roland, who was the ninth-best runner in the country with 802 yards as a sophomore in 1962, plays mostly defense. Charlie Brown, provided he has fully recovered from a springtime knee operation, and Earl Denney are dazzling runners who will have to be superdazzlers if they are to outshine Monroe Phelps, a smallish junior who has been restored to eligibility after a year at Joplin Junior College. Gary Lane, the quarterback, runs like a halfback, too, and gained 432 yards in 1964. But Lane's passes (he completed 50 for seven touchdowns) sometimes tend to splatter. He threw 14 interceptions, mainly because he has trouble picking up alternate receivers when the primary one is covered.
That is a worry and so is the offensive line. Five starters were graduated, and Devine is concerned that he will not find guards fast enough to lead the sweeps. But there is nothing wrong with the defense, especially the left side where sophomore End Russ Washington plays alongside 220-pound Bruce Van Dyke at tackle and 215-pound Bill Powell at guard. The only trouble is Missouri will have to play Kentucky and Minnesota before it even gets to Nebraska.
Tulsa may not be the best team in the Midwest, but the Hurricanes will be college football's flashiest—and No. 1 in the Missouri Valley. Coach Glenn Dobbs would rather pass than run any day. He believes football is more fun that way.
It was not much fun for Tulsa's rivals last year when Jerry Rhome was pitching, Howard Twilley catching and the Hurricanes were winning their third straight NCAA passing title. Rhome is gone, but Twilley, an elusive split end who caught 95 passes, is back. Dobbs thought he had two good passers to throw to Twilley but now he is down to one. Glenn III, the coach's son, had knee surgery early in the month, and that left only Billy Guy Anderson, an expert short passer. Preseason operations also cost Tulsa two other starters—Wingback Brent Roberts (knee) and 9.4 sprinter Jimmy Hall (shoulder), while Tailback Bob Daugherty is still recovering from his knee surgery.
With those kind of injuries, most coaches would be wringing their hands. But Dobbs has the biggest linemen in college football to protect his new backs. His defensive line averages 240 pounds, the offensive interior 245. The largest is Willie Townes, a 271-pound tackle who loves to bat down passes—and ballcarriers—when they come his way.
Bowling Green has a new athletic director, a new coach and the usual complement of large, able players. It should win the Mid-American Conference title again. Doyt Perry, who was the nation's winningest coach (77-10-5) in the last 10 years, retired to the athletic director's chair, and Bob Gibson, his personable young assistant, has taken over.
Gibson faces a pleasant future. His squad is two-deep in prize lettermen, including four All-Conference stars, and it has size and speed. Jerry Jones, a mobile 270-pound tackle, 230-pound Center Heath Wingate and End Jamie Rivers are the kind of linemen who bury ballcarriers. Tom Luettke, a 240-pound sophomore fullback, is so good that he has moved Stew Williams, another 240-pound blockbuster—he was the Falcons' leading rusher and All-Conference as a sophomore—to halfback. Luettke broke Williams' freshman records for yardage gained.
Bowling Green could use an experienced quarterback and some speed at the halfbacks. But Dick Waring, a transfer from Detroit, may do at quarterback and, with boomers like Williams and Luettke, who needs scatbacks?
Whenever a Big Ten coach appraises the teams in his conference these days, he almost always winds up with a warning to watch out for Iowa and Minnesota. Considering what happened to both teams last year, this seems curious, particularly where IOWA is concerned. The Hawkeyes won only three games in 1964, gave up 209 points, more than any other Big Ten team, and finished in a tie for last place.
But they did good things, too, and these are what rival coaches choose to remember. Iowa gained more yardage than anyone else, and only Michigan scored more points. Also Iowa has 25 lettermen returning, including John Niland, a 238-pound guard who could end up an All-America, and Flanker Karl Noonan, the finest pass catcher in the league. And then there is Gary Snook, a cocky quarterback who had the conference in a dither last season. He threw 311 passes, completed 151 of them for 2,062 yards and 11 touchdowns, all this behind an offensive line that leaked like a New York City reservoir. Noonan, his favorite target, caught 59 passes.
Coach Jerry Burns has now changed his offense to accommodate his quarterback's talents, so opponents can look for a double dose of Snook. Burns has gone to the I formation with a flanker and a split end and will use some belly options. This, he figures, will make the passing game even more effective. The trouble is Snook is just about Iowa's entire offense. The running is skimpy, the defense still suspect and Burns probably will discover that the Hawkeyes cannot live by passing alone. But Snook will scare a lot of teams and maybe beat some good ones.
Minnesota, the Big Ten's other potential spoiler, has a slick passer in its stable, too. The Gophers also have 23 of the players who came on fast near the end of 1964, winning three of their last four games. Quarterback John Hankinson, a lean fireballer, was the one who got his team going. He broke just about every Gopher passing record and is so good that Coach Murray Warmath, for years a devotee of the knocking game, has changed his ways. Hankinson will roll out and throw to some excellent receivers. The ends, 6-foot-4 Aaron Brown, who weighs 241 pounds and plays both ways, and 6-foot-5 Kent Kramer, and Flanker Kenny Last, caught 65 passes last year.
Warmath, however, has some weaknesses to overcome. He lost all his linebackers and top defensive backs, and his runners—Halfbacks Dave Colburn and Charley Sanders, a sophomore, and Fullback Joe Holmberg—are untested. The line is intact, but aside from the pass-catching ends and Gale Gillingham, a 235-pound tackle, it does not have the usual forbidding Minnesota look. Unless some sophomores come through quickly, the Gophers may find themselves in a hole.
One other team everybody fears is MICHIGAN STATE. The Spartans will be a little bigger, much faster and, Coach Duffy Daugherty hopes, more productive than they were a season ago. "Last year we had a wide-open passing game, broke every record in Michigan State history—and lost all our big games," he says. "This year we'll run and throw one long incomplete pass every game just to loosen up our opposition."
Daugherty is kidding, of course. He has Quarterback Steve Juday, a gifted thrower who completed 79 passes for 894 yards and nine touchdowns, and Gene Washington, a very fast end (he is the NCAA indoor hurdles champion and runs the 100 in 9.6), to catch. He grabbed 35 last year. Daugherty is not about to ignore that kind of talent. But the Spartans do have some good runners, like Halfback Clinton Jones, another track hurdler who sprinted for 350 yards in 1964, and sophomore Fullback Bob Apisa, a 205-pounder from Hawaii. Daugherty will help his backs to get through the line faster by adding some I to his ever-changing multiple offense.
State's defense also will be tougher. Bubba Smith, a 6-foot-6, 241-pound end, and Middle Guard Harold Lucas, who goes 257 pounds, are impressive, and so are Linebackers Ron Goovert and Charlie Thornhill.
Illinois is not considered much of a threat, and that is all right with Coach Pete Elliott. But he is ready to unleash the finest crop of backs he has ever had. There is Jim Grabowski, the All-America fullback who plowed 186 times for 1,004 yards last season, Quarterback Fred Custardo, who can run and pass, and Sam Price, a halfback who can dodge. What's more, Elliott has the best sophomore backs in the conference. One of them, Cyril Pinder, runs with bursting speed that breaks tackles. Ron Bess and John Wright, two other swift sophomores, are good enough to play, too, and they will—Bess behind Price and Wright at split end.
But what is lacking at Champaign is Dick Butkus, the No. 1 college lineman of 1964. He is gone now, and so is almost everybody else from the Illini's offensive and defensive lines. Don Hansen, the other '64 linebacker—and a mighty good one, too—will be busier than a Tokyo subway guard trying to field enemy ballcarriers coming through. Things are so bad that one assistant coach says, "We will have to hold the ball nine minutes a quarter to stay in the game."
At INDIANA new Coach John Pont is ready to scare the rest of the league. The question is, is his team ready, too? Probably not. The Hoosiers have a losing complex to overcome, and then they have to find some pass-rushers and defenders worthy of the name. In losing 13 games during the past two years, Indiana gave up 33 touchdown passes. Pont may move Randy Beisler and Ken Hollister, two big, fast tackles, to defense, hoping they can put some fear into enemy quarterbacks. One thing is sure, under Pont the Hoosiers will be better organized and less inclined to give away games.
About all WISCONSIN and NORTHWESTERN can hope for are quiet, unmutinous alumni. Wisconsin's offense is Charley Burt, a limber-armed quarterback who has never played a varsity game. He was out with mononucleosis in 1964, but Coach Milt Bruhn thinks he passes well enough to disconcert a few opponents. Northwestern's Alex Agase has the same old problem—too few players for his demanding schedule. With Tommy Myers gone, Agase has junked his pro-type attack for a roll-out offense better suited to Dave Milam, the new quarterback, who runs better than he throws. He also switched linemen around recklessly in the spring, but the only really good one is Cas Banaszek, a 230-pound tight end.
Back in the Big Eight, almost everything possible, it seems, has happened to OKLAHOMA'S Gomer Jones. First he lost 12 starters, including Fullback Jim Grisham, Halfback Lance Rentzel and Tackle Ralph Neely, all All-Americas. Then Jerry Goldsby, a defensive tackle, underwent a knee operation; Larry Shields, the star safety man, decided to quit school; and Carl Schreiner, a starting guard, signed a baseball contract with the Boston Red Sox.
Is Gomer ready to take the gas pipe? No, he is too philosophic for that. "I try to look at the good things," he says, smilingly, "but some years it is kind of hard finding them."
The "good things" are Carl McAdams, a hyperenergetic linebacker, Ben Hart, a sure-handed split end who has been moved to wingback, and a flock of bright sophomores who just need time to mature. Ron Shotts, a fast 210-pound halfback, is the best. Jones plans to put his young team into a new scatter-and-shot offense and let them go, if he can find a quarterback who can shoot. It could be John Hammond or maybe even one of the two sophomores, Jim Burgar or Gene Cagle. The Sooners will be better in November, in the nick of time for Nebraska and Missouri.
Just about everything is new at KANSAS. The cheerleaders have been replaced by 12 pretty pompon girls, the team will wear red helmets instead of blue and most of the players will be distressingly young. What else is new? Well, Coach Jack Mitchell insists, "We're going to throw the ball."
That will be an innovation. Except for the days when he had John Hadl, Mitchell has always treated the forward pass with the disdain reserved for a fifth cousin. But Gale Sayers now does his running for the Chicago Bears, and Mitchell has Bobby Skahan, a roll-out quarterback who spins a respectable pass. To prepare for the new image, Halfback Sim Stokes has been switched to slotback and Willie Ray Smith to split end. But that does not necessarily mean that the Jayhawks have given up running altogether. Mike Johnson, a flashy carrier, is supposed to take care of that.
Mitchell also has made some shifts designed to improve the defense. Mike Shinn, a 225-pound end, now sound of knee after an operation, may wind up at tackle, and Jeff Elias, another end, moves to linebacker. If the sophomores can supply some badly needed depth, Kansas could cause trouble.
The have-nots in the Big Eight are also on the rise. COLORADO, for one, appears to be on the verge of recovering from the recruiting scandal that turned it into a second-rater. Coach Eddie Crowder has gathered together some impressive sohpomores, and Fullback Wilmer Cooks (see box) and Halfback Sonny Greer will give his switching T the zest it has lacked. The Buffs would be even tougher if they had a decent passer, but a staunch defense, led by Sam Harris, a bulky 221-pound, two-way end, could possibly turn an upset or two.
Oklahoma state dressed eight teams for spring practice and perhaps Missouri's Dan Devine has a point when he says, "No one has been able to find out exactly how many players they brought in last year. They won't tell—which makes me think they have a lot of players to conceal." Only seven are gone from a 4-6 team, and Coach Phil Cutchin is not complaining about lack of depth. Fullback Walt Garrison led Big Eight rushers with 730 yards, and Quarterback Glenn Baxter passed for 845 in 1964. The Pokes can form a sizable defense, too, with Tackles Rusty Martin (232 pounds) and Dennis Randall (222 pounds) and Guard Hugh McCrabb. They will be dangerous.
Iowa state and Kansas state are still not ready to play on even terms with the other Big Eighters. Iowa State's passing is too sketchy and its defense too ragged, but it does have Les Webster, a strong sophomore halfback. K-State's prospects are mostly in the future. Coach Doug Weaver has 49—yes, 49—sophomores on his roster along with 21 lettermen. At least five of the rookies will start, and one of them, Vic Castillo, will be Weaver's quarterback.
Those perennial Mid-American contenders, Miami of Ohio and Ohio U. may have to take a back seat to a couple of precocious intruders. KENT STATE is ready to give Bowling Green a tussle. Coach Lee Strang has 22 of 28 lettermen back, plus the cream of what he calls "the best freshman team in Ohio—and that includes Ohio State." Tom Clements, the leading rusher, is still around, but three sophomore backs, Don Fitzgerald, Bill Blunt and Doug Landis, may start with senior Quarterback Ron Mollric. The tackles are mammoth-size—sophomore Steve Tarlo is 250 pounds, Waldo Frlich and Howie Tennebar are each 240—and Jon Brooks, the short-side guard and the team's best lineman, is 250 pounds. You just have to believe Strang when he says, "We won't be helpless."
Nor will MARSHALL. The Thundering Herd trampled seven foes last year to finish second in the conference, and Coach Charley Snyder's club is still hungry. Quarterback Howie Miller is a topflight passer, and Tom Good, already drafted by the pros, is a prize linebacker. If they are not enough, consider the size of Snyder's first four tackles. Bill Bobbit weighs 310 pounds, Fred Anderson 260, Don Dixon 248 and sophomore Tom Wilkinson 246.
Miami is less affluent than it has been in a long time. Quarterback Ernie Kellermann, who was most of the Redskins' offense for three years, is gone, and Coach Bo Schembechler will change his team's style. He will pull in his wide flanker, split an end and play ball control with Halfback Don Peddie and Fullback Joe Kozar slashing away on the ground. OHIO, mediocre in 1964, will not improve much. Except for Fullback Wash Lyons, who led the league in rushing with 835 yards, Coach Bill Hess's backs are just ordinary but, like almost everybody else in the MAC, he has huge tackles. Willard Parr goes 270 pounds, sophomore Bernie Hull 245 and Bob Blaine 240.
Western Michigan and Toledo are still far behind the pack. At Western Michigan, Coach Bill Doolittle also has tremendous tackles—one of them, Torre Ossmo, is 260 pounds—and Jim Reid, a good linebacker, to restrain the opposition, but the Broncos' offense is too tender to penetrate past its rivals' tackles. Toledo, down for so long, could begin to show the results of Coach Frank Lauterbur's intensive rebuilding program. He has 21 lettermen and 34 sophomores from the Rockets' best freshman team in years. Halfback Pete Kramer and Tackle Larry Foels will start, and holdovers Lurley Archambeaut, who moves from tackle to center. End Henry Burch and Fullback Jim Berkey are capable. But, says Lauterbur, "we'll be so green the cows may eat us."
Tulsa got all the glory last year, but CINCINNATI won the Missouri Valley title. Although the Bearcats lost Brig Owens and Al Nelson, the big guns of their 8-2 team, enough fine players are left for another good season. The line is experienced, and Halfbacks Bill Bailey, Dolph Banks and John Smedley, a 9.8 sprinter, will keep the ball moving. All Coach Chuck Studley needs is a quarterback to lead them. He may have two: Mike Flaherty, a Detroit transfer, and sophomore Tony Jackson, a lefty passer.
Wichita state has a new coach, George Karras, and a desire to improve its football. As starters for the antipoverty program, the Shockers have players like Fullback Pete DiDonato, who can pound out yardage, Center Jim Waskiewicz and 235-pound Guard Cecil Cordell, who, Karras says, "is the meanest football player I have ever seen." Cordell injured six players in spring drills and even cracked one skull.
Independent XAVIER will be better. Last year's sophomores are experienced, and Coach Ed Biles hopes to stir up a volatile running game with Walt Mainer, who had knee surgery last fall, and Jim Davis. DAYTON, without enough players of quality, will have to scratch for any victories. Roosevelt Mell, who pounded out 691 yards in 1964, is the only Flyer who flies. The line, particularly, is earth-bound.
WHEN HE 'SACRIFICES', WATCH OUT!
Wilmer Cooks is not another Jimmy Brown or a Whizzer White or even a Hugh McElhenny. He is not exceptionally fast nor is he particularly vicious. But because Wilmer Cooks happens to be extremely difficult to tackle with a football under his arm he could become the best sophomore fullback in the Midwest since Jim Grabowski started for Illinois two seasons ago. "The key to just how good Wilmer will be remains within him," says Colorado Coach Eddie Crowder. "He's strong and agile and has a fine mind and an outstanding attitude. Now, if he just wants to sacrifice enough."
People around the University of Colorado will be surprised if Cooks does not "sacrifice enough" this fall, simply because that is what he always has done. An honor student at James Madison (Dallas) High, Cooks won letters in basketball and track, as well as football. In his senior year he gained 1,345 yards in 12 games for an 8.3 rushing average and made All-State as both a fullback and a linebacker. During the summers while in high school Cooks worked for an airline company, loading and unloading planes, to help support his mother and sister. During the Christmas holidays last winter he earned $85 so he could buy them presents. "And he didn't spend a dime on himself," says Freshman Coach Dan Stavely, who knows Cooks better than anyone at Colorado. "Like a lot of other southern Negro kids Wilmer isn't really sure of himself yet," Stavely continues, "but give him just one good afternoon with the varsity this fall and he'll be a fullback the pros will love to have."
There are numerous good afternoons awaiting Wilmer Cooks during the next three years if he runs with the football the way he did for Colorado's freshman team in 1964. In the Baby Buffs' two games, Cooks, 6 feet 2 inches, 216 pounds, carried 42 times for 301 yards and was never tackled for a loss. Recently Freshman Coach Jim Bowman of the Air Force Academy said: "Our team played against two future All-Americas in 1964—Warren McVea of Houston and Wilmer Cooks of Colorado." Stavely sums up the Buffaloes' new fullback this way: "He's an outstanding prospect. I'm sure he has the motivation Eddie talks about to make a great player. He's certainly one of the best I've had in 25 years of coaching freshman football players."
Wilmer Cooks, however, is not the only outstanding sophomore to be found in the Midwest this year. Missouri may have one of the nation's finest ends in 6-foot 6-inch, 274-pound Russell Washington, who played single-wing tailback, wingback, blocking back and end on offense and tackle on defense at Southeast High in Kansas City, Mo.
And over at Champaign, Ill., they are already comparing 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound Halfback Cyril Calvine (Callie) Pinder with J.C. Caroline. What does Pinder do best? Says Illinois Backfield Coach Buck McPhail: "He only runs for touchdowns."