Both before, during and after Don Hutson caught all of those passes in 1934, the stars fell regularly on Alabama. Ahead of Hutson were, for example, Johnny Mack Brown, Hoyt Winslett, Fred Sington and Johnny Cain. With him were Dixie Howell, who threw the passes, and Riley Smith and—alas—the other end, Bear Bryant. And then after him came Joe Kilgrow, Jimmy Nelson, Harry Gilmer, Bart Starr, Lee Roy Jordan and Joe Namath. Alabama has produced 28 All-America football players and turned out seven undefeated teams in the last 41 years (six of them posting the best record in the nation). Only Notre Dame has enjoyed a more illustrious football history. Despite all this fast company, however, Alabama today derives most of its sustaining spirit from Hutson, the Pine Bluff, Ark. youth who brought speed, moves and hands to the delicate art of catching passes.
It is quite possible that Hutson was the finest receiver football, has ever known. The Green Bay Packers, for whom he made so many spectacular plays in his professional career after leaving Alabama, would not disagree, nor would any of the National Football League's defensive backs who tried to cover him. Hutson caught passes while speeding into the clear, in "traffic," as the saying goes, with one hand—either one. He caught them diving, falling, lying down, jumping, bending, swinging around a goalpost, and stealing them out of others' hands. He not only made the catches, he ran like a thief thereafter, for this was a superb athlete who could have excelled at baseball, basketball or track if he had not chosen football.
Foremost among the Hutson stories that are still told on the campus at Tuscaloosa is the one concerning his love for other games. Once during an Alabama baseball game Hutson wore his track suit underneath his flannels—it's really true—because a dual meet was scheduled simultaneously on the track adjacent to the diamond. Between innings, he stripped off the baseball uniform, got into the starting blocks and ran a 9.8 100-yard dash!
September 19, 1965
That is the big thing some people forget about Hutson—the speed that propelled him beyond his defenders and enabled him to catch 488 passes for the Packers, scoring 101 touchdowns in the NFL in 11 seasons, setting so many records that only now, 21 years since he retired, are today's stars catching up with him.
"The thing you remember best about him is how calm and relaxed he always was," says Bear Bryant. "He could go to sleep on the bench before the Rose Bowl game." And then, as he did, catch five of six passes from Howell for 123 yards, another for a 54-yard touchdown from substitute Quarterback Joe Riley, helping to destroy Stanford 29 to 13 and giving the 1934 Alabama team a perfect 10-0 record for the season.
Recruiting is as old as football itself, and Hutson, after being spotted catching five touchdown passes in a single game for Pine Bluff, was one of eight Arkansas athletes shepherded to Tuscaloosa in 1931 and 1932—some of the others being Bryant and J.B. (Ears) Whitworth, Charlie Marr and Rip Hewes. It was not until his senior year, however, that Hutson became the incomparable receiver who fascinated the whole collegiate world. As Coach Frank Thomas' team steadily defeated its opponents, Hutson got better and more sensational, not only catching but running blazing end-around plays.
Yet even as he looks back on his career today, Hutson—now the owner of a well-established automobile business in Racine, Wis.—is modest. "Dixie Howell was a great college passer," says he. "I always knew if I ran like the devil, the ball would be there. The same went for Cecil Isbell with the Packers."
There are no Hutsons at Alabama in 1965, but there is a player who has come through so often for Bryant in moments of stress that he has earned the nickname of Mr. Clutch—a name that would have fit Don Hutson perfectly—from his teammates. Mr. Clutch is Quarterback Steve Sloan.
For two seasons Sloan, a quick, savvy operator (6 feet 2, 185 pounds) from Cleveland, Tenn., has pinch-hit, or better, pinch-thrown, for Joe Namath. In so doing, he has helped take the Tide to the Sugar Bowl and a 9-2 record in 1963 and to the Orange Bowl and a 10-1 record last year. He first earned prominence as a sophomore when Bryant disciplined Namath with an enforced vacation two games before the end of the season. Sloan stepped into the vacuum and guided Alabama to a 12-7 upset over Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl. Last year when Namath was benched by injuries for much of the season, it was Sloan who stepped in to pace the Tide to a 10-0 regular season's record and the AP's and UPI's versions of a national championship.
Not flashy but productive, Sloan might best be described as "Bear's kind of player"—which is the way one Deep South newspaperman puts it. He was the second-leading runner for Alabama a year ago with 351 yards and completed his passes at a 62.5 clip for 574 yards. With the job solely his, Sloan can be expected to improve these figures. Although it is a good year in the Southeastern Conference for quarterbacks with Steve Spurrier at Florida, Rick Norton at Kentucky and Pat Screen at LSU, Sloan may well be the most effective of them all. No one around Alabama is ever surprised when one of the Tide's own turns out to be tops at something.
Except Bear, of course. Bear Bryant is constantly amazed that his poor little old boys at ALABAMA can stay on the same field with folks like Florida and LSU and Ole Miss and Auburn and Georgia. Bear would not con anybody. Every week last year he said he thought the Tide would lose, yet every week they won—surprise, surprise—and his explanations ranged from, "I didn't know Joe would be able to play and blow in a couple for us," to, "This bunch doesn't have much ability, but they sure like to butt people."
It was an unusual Bryant team in that the running game was not sound. It struck mostly through the air and had trouble controlling the ball, but the same old, tough defense was there. This time—with Namath gone—Bryant has rebuilt the ground game. Sloan is an even better runner than he is a thrower. Fullback Steve Bowman returns and, though he does not have exceptional speed, he hits hard. Alabama coaches like to think of him as perhaps the league's best. Les Kelley, 210 pounds, has moved to left half and adds even more power.
At halfbacks Alabama has the two best runners and receivers that Bear has known. They are Wayne Trimble, 6 feet 3, 195 pounds, and David Ray, 190 pounds, the faster of the two and also the placement kicker. Trimble has everything—good speed, power, hands and moves. He can even play quarterback if Sloan proves at times ineffective. Together, Sloan, Bowman, Trimble and Kelley constitute the best running attack, potentially, that Bryant has had since his Texas A&M days when he had John David Crow and Jack Pardee.
The first-rate talent holds up at the ends, with Tommy Tolleson and Ray Perkins, at center, where Paul Crane is back, and at linebacker, where Alabama has Tim Bates and Jackie Sherrill—and Crane. After this comes youth.
Defensively, Alabama will have the youngest unit, as far as its playing experience is concerned, that Bryant has been forced to employ in several years. There are, in fact, 51 sophomores on the squad, but Alabama sophomores are always good and eager, and 14 of these are red shirts—not sophomores at all. Which is to say they played a lot of football in practice last year, grew up to junior size and have two more years to play after this one. The only consolation Bryant's future opponents can get out of this news is that he may accept the governorship of the state. If he does, and gives up coaching, too—he has not said he would—they may just possibly beat Alabama next year.
The Alabama schedule is not as tough as it seems at first glance. Old Miss has been added, yes. And LSU in Baton Rouge on November 6 may be the biggest game of the year. But Alabama does not play Florida or Kentucky, the other members of the Southeastern Conference's power structure for 1965. Overall it should be another good year in Tuscaloosa—a cinch 8-2, a probable 9-1 and a highly possible 10-0, then off to whatever bowl Bear chooses.
LSU has to play all of the conference toughies—not only Alabama, but mortal enemy Ole Miss, Florida and Kentucky as well. The saving factor is that Coach Charley McClendon's Tigers get the Tide and Kentucky and five other foes—seven out of their 10 games—at home in that nightmarish den called Tiger Stadium. Another saver is that LSU is brimming over with muscles. Just about everybody is back from last year's 8-2-1 season, at the end of which LSU defeated Syracuse in the Sugar Bowl.
McClendon, entering his fourth season as the man who followed Paul Dietzel, has been a success by almost anybody's standards, but not by a Louisianian's. He has had three bowl teams in three tries and no record worse than 7-4. That is not considered good enough in Baton Rouge. McClendon's critics, perhaps a bit spoiled by Dietzel, point out that the Tigers have failed to win a national championship; also they have not moved the ball. For example, LSU scored just 11 touchdowns in 10 games in 1964, always falling back on the good old reliable defense. This is the year it is supposed to explode.
And well it might. Back, and apparently with a strong knee at last, is Quarterback Pat Screen, of whom grand things long have been predicted. Billy Ezell is back, too, so McClendon has two capable quarterbacks. Doug Moreau at flanker is All-America caliber, so is Joe Labruzzo at tailback, and so is Don Schwab at fullback. Not only that but Danny LeBlanc has returned after a year's absence for disciplinary reasons. He was once considered the next Billy Cannon or Jerry Stovall.
The famous Chinese Bandits, plus an enlivened offense and a big, experienced and mobile line, led by Tackle George Rice, 255 pounds, give LSU almost everything.
Unhappily for the Tigers, they may need everything to get past FLORIDA the first Saturday in October. Coach Ray Graves' Gators have talent, too, and the winner of this game will emerge as the favorite to upset Alabama in the SEC. A popular pastime among professional scouts last spring was swooning at Florida practices. There are at least five Gators any pro team would take right now—Quarterback Steve Spurrier, Tailback Jack Harper, End Charlie Casey, Middle Guard Larry Gagner and Defensive Back Bruce Bennett.
Spurrier is one of those multiple-talented quarterbacks coaches dream of but seldom find. Harper is capable of breaking for long gains, Casey catches anything near him (47 last year for 673 yards), and Gagner, 240 pounds and the fastest lineman on the team, is considered the best middle guard in the nation.
But there is a lot more, so many lettermen they are difficult to count. And the Gators are hungry, having never won the SEC title. Finally, Graves has a break in the schedule, which does not include Alabama and Kentucky. He does have LSU and Ole Miss on successive weekends and ornery Auburn in the middle and finishes up against natural rivals Miami and Florida State. Florida always figures out a way to lose one or two but this is a better squad than the one that finished 7-3 a year ago. "If Florida is as good as it can be, Graves could have the national championship," says one scout.
Based on talent alone, so could KENTUCKY. The Wildcats, after a blazing start and a mysterious collapse last year, are back again with everybody; Rick Norton, the SEC's best quarterback and passer, Rodger Bird, its best runner, Rick Kestner, its best receiver.
Three things stand in the way. First, Kentucky's schedule is murderous. The firs, six games are against Missouri, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida State, LSU and Georgia. Staying up emotionally for such a grind is almost impossible. Second, Coach Charlie Bradshaw's penchant for tough drills could again wear out the Wildcats by midseason. Third, Kentucky in football has a losing complex. Only in 1950, when Bryant was there with Babe Parilli, have the Wildcats won the SEC. The Wildcats have not been over .500 in four seasons. In any normal year, with not quite so many potent teams to contend with around the league and a decent schedule break, Kentucky would be favored. The talent would demand it. But this is not a normal year, and Kentucky will have to be the best team in the land to get through its conference schedule. Still and all, as one of Bradshaw's opponents puts it, "For a problem like theirs, it's nice to have Norton, Bird and Kestner going for you."
The team that most likely will settle the SEC issue is OLE MISS, which plays all four favorites—Alabama, LSU, Florida and Kentucky. No one can imagine the Rebels losing to all four, and were it not for last season—worst in Coach Johnny Vaught's 14 years—Ole Miss would be picked over at least three of them simply because it is Ole Miss. In 1964 the Rebels appeared to be loaded. They opened with a 30-0 smash over Memphis State, but then they dropped four games, including one to Mississippi State, and finally suffered the embarrassment of losing to Tulsa in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Had Mississippi been overrated? That seemed unlikely—the material was the same as ever, which is to say the pros drooled over it. Had the coaching staff finally and suddenly grown old and soft? Maybe, some said.
This will be the year to tell if the maybes have it. Vaught has another batch of broad-shouldered, thin-waisted, tall, fast athletes, paced by Guard Stan Hindman, Halfback Mike Dennis and End Rocky Fleming, plenty of veterans in the line and speed afoot. The big question is feisty Jimmy Heidel. Can he do what is expected of him at quarterback with a lot less experience than any of his illustrious predecessors, namely Glynn Griffing, Jake Gibbs, Bobby Franklin, Ray Brown, Eagle Day and Chuck Conerly? Probably not.
At the risk of laboring the point of scheduling, it must be clearly stated that MARYLAND in the Atlantic Coast Conference has a definite edge for not having to play Duke this year. The Terps are well stocked with lettermen (29) and ability and would be favored to handle the Blue Devils, but having to play one less tough game is so much gravy. Coach Tom Nugent's team could be on the verge of challenging for something bigger than the ACC trophy despite the fact that Tailback Tom Hickey, his best runner, has been declared ineligible. There are plenty more seasoned Terps around, including Quarterback Phil Petry, Bernardo Bramson, the Chilean-born, soccer-style placement kicker (nine field goals and 17 of 18 extra points last year), End Dick Absher, Wing-back Kenny Ambrusko, if he recovers from a knee injury, plus the Melcher twins—Dick, an offensive guard, and Mick, a defensive end.
Maryland, which closed fast last year with three straight victories, has for its sternest opponents Syracuse and Penn State, the eastern giants. In between them come the ACC foes. "I was thinking that we had a chance to be very good when we had Hickey," says talkative Tom Nugent. "Now, although we still have potential, I don't know. We may flounder to 7-3 or something like that." With typical modesty, Nugent says the rest of the ACC will have to reckon with Maryland.
The nearest match in the ACC for Maryland's potential is, of all schools, VIRGINIA. Slyly and slowly, Virginia has been coming back from the doldrums, and this year the Cavaliers find themselves with 24 letter-men and the best quarterback in the conference—Bob Davis of Neptune, N.J. Last year Davis, who is 6 feet 2, 195 pounds, averaged five yards per carry and completed 81 passes for 1,054 yards. He even caught seven passes, two for touchdowns. And he became the most exciting runner-passer at Virginia since the days of Bullet Bill Dudley. Davis smashed Dudley's single-game total-offense mark by frolicking for 334 yards against Wake Forest. And he peeled off an 88-yard scoring dash against North Carolina State.
No less than 12 lettered veterans appear in Virginia's line, the most obvious being End Don Parker, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound, run-wrecking defender. It is hard to imagine a coach leaving all this voluntarily, but that is what Bill Elias did when he went to Navy, bequeathing all to George Blackburn.
Barring earlier upsets, the payoff game in the ACC will come at the very end, November 20, when Virginia meets Maryland.
One intersectional opponent Virginia must escape is WEST VIRGINIA, a growling, muscle-bound menace in the Southern Conference. West Virginia scrambled to seven victories last year and a Liberty Bowl bid, and everybody has returned. Coach Gene Corum is so swarmed over with proven players that last year's best tackles, Joe Taffoni and Don Vail, have moved to other positions. Quarterback Allen McCune and Fullback Dick Leftridge are back—so are, altogether, 28 lettermen. McCune-to-Split End Bob Dunlevy is a fine passing combination, one that broke up the Syracuse game for West Virginia (28-27) last fall. This will be a fine team in a less highly regarded conference—and it will have to be, for the Mountaineers confront Virginia, Penn State and Kentucky on successive Saturdays, and Syracuse later on in the season.
Georgia Tech will be the best of the independents because Coach Bobby Dodd has performed the perfect trick: he has lightened the schedule (replacing Alabama and LSU with Virginia and Texas A&M) while adding weight to the team. Either Jerry Priestly or Bruce Fischer may prove to be the No. 1 quarterback, but with either Tech is bowl-bound. Giles Smith, a crashing runner, has moved to tailback, and he will share the job with Lenny Snow (see box page 66). Jeff Davis or Tom Carlisle will be at fullback to throw the blocks, and Terry Haddock's speed should prove fruitful at wingback. Moreover, Tech is big and experienced all along the line, particularly at middle guard where John Battle, 242 pounds, will be a demon. Tech likes to brag about its pony backfields—160 and 170 pounders—but it always has those rippling-muscled horses in the line to make the ponies go. Finally, Dodd has what he has been griping for ever since 1952 when the Engineers were among the nation's best: platoons.
This will also be the season in which FLORIDA STATE, the next best independent, proves that last season's rise to prominence was no phony. Coach Bill Peterson says an alumnus handed him a $1,000 check after FSU's 36-19 rout of Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl and said, "Now, Coach, you do all right next season and maybe I'll sign it." Peterson will do all right because he has everyone back except Steve Tensi to throw and Fred Biletnikoff to catch. Major losses, of course. But Ed Pritchett is an operator who can do a little of everything. Runner Phil Spooner returns, and so does the defense, spiked with the likes of Middle Guard Jack Shinholser and Linebacker Bill McDowell, both All-America contenders. Shinholser is tremendously strong—though only 210 pounds, he can bench-press 310 pounds, and his coaches like to say he is the hardest hitter in the country.
The best tribute of all to Peterson and the Seminoles comes from Al Davis, coach of the Oakland Raiders. "Florida State is two years ahead of everybody in college, the way they do things," says Davis. Even so, Florida State may be two years ahead of itself in scheduling. This time the Seminoles take on Baylor, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Houston and Florida, heady company for a recent arrival to big-time college football.
Miami is another independent that likes to take on the names: this trip, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Florida, LSU, among others. Fortunately, Coach Charlie Tate has enough ammunition to protect him from embarrassment. If Halfback Russell Smith can avoid injuries, he can be one of the country's best. Fullback Pete Banaszak is first-rate. So is Defensive Back Andy Sixkiller, an Indian already exciting the pros, who will play ahead of an interesting sophomore, Joe Mira, the younger brother of George. Tate has labored hard to stiffen the defense, lacing it up with 10 seniors, one of whom is Ed Weisacosky, who set a school tackling record at end last year and was moved to linebacker in the spring. Tate says Weisacosky is just about the greatest defensive player he has ever seen. Now, if Quarterback Bob Biletnikoff (he passed for 920 yards to break George Mira's sophomore record at Miami) can find the receivers as well as his older brother, Fred, caught passes last season at Florida State, this will make the running go, and Miami will be one of the surprise teams.
The biggest surprise in the SEC last year was GEORGIA, and new Coach Vince Dooley was nearly knighted. He was, in fact, named SEC Coach of the Year and the school tacked on five years to his contract. The Bulldogs rode a tough, big line and Quarterback Preston Ridlehuber—the best-running operator in the league at the season's end—all the way to a 7-3-1 record, including a victory over Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl. But the line is weaker, and Ridlehuber will have to throw more often than he prefers if Dooley is going to continue the upswing. Georgia had one of the smallest defensive teams in the country last fall—average: under 190 pounds—but it also had red-headed, freckle-faced George Patton, a 207-pound tackle who was once described as "great and getting greater." Morale at Georgia is high, platooning will help, and the Bulldogs will not be an easy touch for anyone.
Auburn, whose 6-4 record in 1964 was (for it) a flop, has lost three valuable hands—Jim Sidle, Tucker Frederickson and Jon Kilgore. Frederickson is the biggest loss, for Sidle was hurt all season, and Tom Bryan did a good job of filling in. Coach Shug Jordan has finally gone to platoons. He is an outspoken believer in the two-way football player, but the absence of platoons probably hurt the Plainsmen in 1964. There is still a pool of talent. If Bryan keeps improving, if runner Gerald Gross, Fredrickson's replacement, at last gets well and stays well, Auburn could be troublesome. It had the best defensive record in the nation last year, and Tackles Jack Thorton and Bob Walton are returning, along with End Scotty Long and Linebacker Bill Cody. Jordan will need deep backs, but he usually finds them. He is not happy with the return to two-platoon football—"from being teachers of the game," he says, "we have moved into the entertainment business"—but he will field a team fully capable of playing among the elite.
Another sleeper is MISSISSIPPI STATE, which did not fare well last year until the big game against Ole Miss, which Paul Davis' team won 20-17. Individual stars are numerous. Marcus Rhoden, though only 165 pounds, is the most frightening breakaway runner in the SEC (seven touchdowns, four on runs of 40 yards or more), and Hoyle Granger may well be the best fullback. Granger not only has been the team's leading rusher since he was a sophomore but is also an exemplary blocker. Center is solid with Bootsie Larsen in charge. The rest is up to a young defense and Quarterback Ashby Cook. State also gets a schedule break, facing only one of its SEC rivals in its first five games.
Tennessee will have to content itself for at least another year with defensive football. New Coach Doug Dickey, entering his second year, has built from defense (just as Frank Broyles taught him). The idea was good enough for a couple of upsets last year, it should be again this season, but whether the Vols can move the ball depends pretty much on Quarterback Charlie Fulton. Fulton is not very big (5 feet 10, 180 pounds) and not very old (18), but Dickey is more patient than most, since he was quarterbacking Florida just a few years ago, and as a bright young (33) coach he has quickly given a fresh face to Tennessee football—including abandonment of the single wing in favor of the T formation. Fulton, with Dickey's confidence in him, proved able in the spring. Stan Mitchell is a potentially strong fullback and a good receiver if Fulton can get the ball to him.
This will be TULANE's last season as a member of the SEC, the Green Wave having chosen, rather mysteriously, to go independent in New Orleans, just as Georgia Tech did a year earlier in Atlanta. And for a closer, Coach Tommy O'Boyle has a nifty schedule: Texas, Alabama, LSU, Florida, Ole Miss and Georgia Tech—or six teams that should wind up in bowls. Tulane is stronger than last year, particularly because of Guard Leon Verriere and End Lanis O'Steen, but not that strong. So far as anyone can figure, the big advantage to going independent will be getting rid of that schedule.
Like Tulane, VANDERBILT is becoming more respectable, building slowly under the ex-Army star, Jack Green. The Commodores even tied Ole Miss last year although they lost to Tulane. Everything hinges on a bevy of top sophomores this time. Fullback Jim Whiteside and Tailback Chuck Boyd (9.8) offer great promise, as do Guards Scott Hall and Frank Curtin. Nearly everyone returns in 1966, and that may be the season Vanderbilt's rooters have been waiting for since the halcyon days of Billy Wade. Vanderbilt's last winning team was in 1959.
From top to bottom the Atlantic Coast is weaker than the SEC, just as the Southern is a shade below the ACC. DUKE, however, is one of those constants that is never very bad. The Blue Devils have the ingredients to sway the ACC race, if not win it, provided something happens to Maryland or Virginia. Scotty Glacken, the reckless quarterback who has completed 205 passes in two years (for 2,443 yards and 19 touchdowns), is back for his last year. He has good company in the backfield in the form of Halfback Sonny Odom and sophomore Fullback Jay Calabrese, the spring star. Chuck Drulis is a swing end who attracts pro scouts, as does Guard Earl Yates, good playing both ways. One big question will be how well Coach Bill Murray makes the personal adjustment to free substitution. He hates it, but he had to admit that the competition for more jobs made for better team morale in the spring. Duke opens with Virginia, and if the Blue Devils get off with an upset, some reappraising will have to be made of the ACC for—remember—Duke does not meet Maryland. And the only real tough ones that lie ahead—Illinois and Georgia Tech—will be outside the league. Duke could well be a bowl team.
Clemson will not be. Even though Coach Frank Howard has 27 lettermen, he is favoring youth. Eleven sophomores are on the offensive and defensive units. Moreover, Howard has installed the I formation. This would seem to be a desperate measure for Howard, because he never missed the chance to twit archrival Tom Nugent with threats of dotting Maryland's I. Howard's problem, however, is that he has not found someone to dot his own. Quarterback will wind up in the hands of any of five players, three of them rookies. Clemson will be rugged in the line, as it always is, and the most rugged of all should be Tackle Johnny Boyette, 238 pounds, a senior.
Still, Howard does not face the chore that NORTH CAROLINA's Jim Hickey does. At Chapel Hill it sounds like the evacuation of Dunkirk when the locals tell it, so many proved players have gone. Hickey is not that depressed and is hoping that more deception and passing can yet pull out a winning season. The throwers, Danny Talbott and Jeff Beaver, are good ones but there is no runner like Ken Willard around now to relieve the pressure on the quarterbacks. Beaver may possibly be the best passer North Carolina has ever had. Someone must turn up to catch him, however, and it would be nice if Hickey uncovered some running. He is not exactly brimming with confidence. "We do some things quite well," Hickey says. "Some other things we do extremely bad."
Earle Edwards at NORTH CAROLINA STATE has enough holdover backfield material to loan Hickey a few recruits. State's trouble is that unlike last year, when the defending ACC champions had plenty of linemen and a green backfield, they now find their situation reversed. Ten of 16 lettermen are backs, including Quarterbacks Charlie Noggle and Page Ashby. Top running will come from Shelby Mansfield and Gary Rowe. Elsewhere, there are young faces, mostly in the line.
It is doubtful if anyone performed more of a coaching miracle in 1964 than Bill Tate at WAKE FOREST. Tate took a squad which had won once in 20 games and twisted the season into a 5-5 record. The Deacons beat Duke for the first time in 13 years, upset Maryland and even defeated the champions, N.C. State. Along the way Fullback Brian Piccolo led the nation in rushing, Quarterback John Mackovic led the conference in total offense and End Richard Cameron was All-ACC. It was beautiful. It is now only memorable. It is not to be repeated. Everyone is gone except Tate, and Wake Forest appears to be headed back to where it came from before Tate left Pete Elliott's Illinois staff. But the coach is far from despair. Piccolo's replacement is Andy Heck, who was a junior-college All-America last year at McCook (Neb.). Mackovic's is Ken Hauswald, a reserve last season. Tate, after all, can afford to be hopeful. Whoever heard of Piccolo or Mackovic before he got there?
The main things SOUTH CAROLINA has to boast about are five new assistant coaches, all brought in by Marvin Bass to add zest and eagerness to the program. He should also have brought some backs. Of the 28 lettermen, 21 are linemen, and the whole season may depend on Quarterback Jimmy Rogers, who replaces Dan Reeves. Rogers is good, but is he that good? Bass is proceeding under the assumption that nothing could be worse than 1964, when he had his third straight losing season. He could be right.
One of the most exciting teams in the Southern Conference will be GEORGE WASHINGTON and all because of Garry Lyle, 6 feet 2, 198 pounds. He is the first Negro ever to make the All-Southern team, and he did it last season as a sophomore in only five games, the five in which he moved from tailback to quarterback. Lyle is from Verona, Pa., and Coach Jim Camp unhesitatingly calls him "the best runner in the area." All in all, George Washington has eight holdovers from the first defensive team and six from the offensive unit. Lyle is the key. He runs, passes (for seven touchdowns in those five games last fall) and returns punts and kickoffs.
Entering the conference this year is EAST CAROLINA with a single-wing attack and an 8-1 record from last year plus a victory over Massachusetts in the Tangerine Bowl. Eighteen lettermen return, and the system will be geared to Fullback Dale Alexander and George Richardson, who moves from fullback to tailback.
The Citadel must decide whether Jete Rhodes, who was No. 3 last year, or Safety Bill Ogburn will be the quarterback to lead a powerful backfield, featuring Paul Farren, 195 pounds and fast, from Sausalito, Calif. Although just eight starters are back, the Bulldogs expect improvement over last year's 4-6 record.
Virginia Military Institute expects nothing quite that dramatic. VMI was 1-9 and then lost several veterans. Everything depends on how well Hill Ellett, a junior, does at quarterback.
Furman could lend VMI some back-field material. It has 10 lettermen among the top three lineups, including Quarterback Sammy Wyche and three fullbacks, Billy Turner, Bob Buzzell and John Burrell. Coach Bob King will play his all-letterman starting unit both ways.
William and Mary will again be watched with interest because of the face-lifting job Coach Marv Levy did a year ago. Levy left California and went 2,500 miles to win four games. He came close in two others, against Virginia and Virginia Tech. Last spring he had 35 sophomores out for practice, a total which outnumbered the veterans. Foremost among them were Fullbacks Adin Brown, 198 pounds, from El Paso, and Bob Gadkowski, 195 pounds, of Chatham, N.J. The accent will be on youth, but Levy can call on 11 lettermen to lend experience in the line.
Another coach who has moved from West to East is Homer Smith, the backfield coach at the Air Force for four years, now the head man at DAVIDSON. He is without a seasoned quarterback. He does have Jake Jacobsen, who led the upset over Furman, but Jacobsen did not wind up playing enough to get a letter. Steve Smith, who rushed for over 150 yards in each of the last three games, breaking a school record, returns, however, to add his 190 pounds and speed to the attack.
Richmond also has quarterback troubles, and the chore falls to Jan Linn, a junior who played less than five minutes in a 1964. He is accompanied by good runners, among them Ronnie Grubbs, Don Matthews and Larry Zunich. Jim McKenna is the best of the sophomores.
Virginia tech is a team the Southern Conference no longer has to worry about. Coach Jerry Claiborne's school pulled out of the league, going independent and laying plans to increase its stadium capacity to 35,000. Claiborne is one of the best of the young coaches tutored by Bear Bryant. His name keeps popping up when jobs at better-known schools become available, and once he nearly left but stayed on after discussing the move with Bryant, who reportedly told him, "As much as I've moved, I never left any place where I hadn't finished the job I started out to do."
Claiborne's job seems to be starting over now that Quarterback Bob Schweickert is gone. Sixteen other lettermen have also left, depriving Tech of much offensive punch. Bobby Owens and Tommy Stafford, who sat around last year, are the two who must take up where Schweickert left off. Good running should come from Tommy Francisco and Sal Garcia. But there are just six lettermen seniors on the whole squad, and Virginia Tech will be a while climbing back to where it was.
Memphis state was brought rudely to earth last year after Coach Billy Murphy's unbeaten season in 1963. Still the result of that fine year when Memphis State tied Ole Miss is a new stadium seating 50,160. Opening this year, it is supposed to lure big-name teams into Memphis (State this year has players from 16 different states), and most likely will if Murphy can get back to winning. To do so this time, he will depend heavily on Quarterback Billy Fletcher, a 5-foot-9 senior with speed and know-how, and sound running is expected from the likes of Dave Brown and sophomores Tom Wallace and Dale Brady. If Fletcher can throw better than he has shown in the past, the fans may consider the investment in the new stadium well justified.
Another school striving to make the big time as an independent is SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI and, if experience counts, 1965 could be the year the school gets closer to the top. Coach Pie Vann, with 23 lettermen, has room for only two sophomores among his top 22 players. Vic Purvis is a quarterback who vows to throw more. At least one of his receivers sounds like he might have speed—Rabbit Brown.
Not so well off is CHATTANOOGA, but Coach Scrappy Moore's team has fewer pretensions to grandeur. There are always a few good football players in residence, but never enough of them. Best this time should be Fullback Tom Schaefer and Quarterbacks Don Shaver and Larry Elmore, younger brother of Doug, who once quarter-backed Ole Miss.
Things couldn't have gone much worse for LOUISVILLE last year. The Cardinals lost nine of 10 games, were last in the Missouri Valley Conference, were shut out three times and finished the season with 70 points to the 217 scored by the opposition. It will be difficult to initiate immediate improvements, because the player the Cardinals depended upon most, Quarterback Tom LaFramboise, is around no more. But Coach Frank Camp is hoping that Benny Russell will perform adequately in place of LaFramboise and that 10 good sophomores can begin to smooth over a portion of the weaknesses in both platoons. To be sure, this will all take time—probably all of 1965.
WHO NEEDS FRANKIE SINKWICH?
To hear bass fisherman and sometimes Coach Bobby Dodd tell it, sophomore Tailback Lenny Snow of Georgia Tech may be the best thing to hit the South since TVA. Snow is so good that the normally loquacious Dodd has had to force himself to keep his mouth shut. He has not always succeeded. One man Snow reminds Dodd of is Frank Sinkwich, Georgia's alltime All-America. "I don't say he's another Sinkwich yet," says Dodd, who plainly thinks Snow could be more. "Let's just say he does some things that remind me of Sinkwich." Other coaches who watched Snow in spring practice games, where he rushed 494 yards in 82 carries for seven touchdowns, usually against Tech's No. 1 and No. 2 defenses, say simply that Snow is the best running back in the South today. A 6-foot-1 183-pounder from Daytona Beach, Fla., Snow played fullback on the Yellow Jackets' freshman team and averaged 5.7 yards a carry in four games. Since Tech switched to a winged-T, flip-flop offense this season, Snow will be the starting tailback and will handle the ball in 75% to 80% of Tech's running plays. Speedy (he ran the 100 in 9.9 in high school), aggressive and spectacular in the open field, Snow is that rare man among runners: he does everything—block, catch passes and play defense (he starred as a corner linebacker in the Florida high school All-Star game his senior year). "Snow's strongest point as a runner," says Tech Assistant Coach John Bell, "is his ability to find a soft spot in the defense. He has such fine reflexes, he can fall into the slightest gap and still manage to keep his balance and drive. If a hole is closed, he can slide to either side."
Floridians bemoaning the fact that Snow was spirited out of state to play college ball will find some solace in watching Dick Trapp, a Bradenton native, catch passes for the University of Florida this season. Trapp, a 6-foot-1 186-pounder with good hands, exceptional speed (he has run the 100 in 9.8) and silky moves, just about earned a spot as the starting split end or flanker back in Coach Ray Graves' pro-type offense with his play in last spring's intrasquad game. He caught five passes, the last a one-hander for a 56-yard touchdown.
The top sophomore lineman in the South could well be North Carolina State's homegrown Dennis Byrd. Six-foot-5, 240 pounds and still growing (he gained an inch and 10 pounds last year), Byrd played linebacker on defense and tackle on offense for his championship Lincolnton (N.C.) High School team but will start at defensive tackle this season at State.