Though the Mountaineers should go undefeated in the Southern Conference, Art Lewis, their coach, has his eye on bigger game. "I don't know anything about the Southern Conference," he says impatiently, pointing to a schedule that includes Oklahoma, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Penn State. In recent years West Virginia has outgrown its conference neighbors and turned its attention toward more prominent rivals and the added football prestige that such opponents bring. As a result, West Virginia failed last year, for the first time in four years, to win the Southern Conference title. VMI with six conference victories and no defeats won it, while the Mountaineers with only three wins, came in second. VMI and West Virginia were not scheduled then, nor are they this year. So the same thing could happen again.
Georgia Tech, long a leading power, had a bad year in 1957. Immediately rumors of de-emphasis were bandied about, but nothing could be further from the truth. The team just had one of those seasons that even the most successful colleges are bound to run across once every 10 years or so. One factor in Tech's. 4-4-2 record in 1957 might be that Coach Bobby Dodd's famous offense, the belly series, has finally lost its effectiveness. The defenses have caught up with it, as they will with any basic offense in due course, so Tech will pass the ball a great deal more this season, lining up in spreads and splits and other open formations. If the throwing is successful, Tech should be among the top five teams in the South.
The South, too, will have its share of superstars in 1958, and one of the most exciting of these may turn out to be 148-pound Fran Curci of Miami. Curci is the biggest conversation piece on the Miami campus, and, they say, the best quarterback in the school's 30 years of football. Oddly enough, Curci was not sought by Miami. The pocketsize back was considered too small to be a college prospect, and Miami wasn't aware of its luck until Curci, unsolicited, turned up at practice. He is a genius at ball handling and times his pitchouts and handoffs with magical deception. If Miami cracks back into the top 10 teams in the nation this year little Fran will be the big reason.
Miami, incidentally, is one of the few major southern teams that is not included in one of the three conferences that blanket this 12-state area. It may not be an orphan for long, since rumors are still active that Miami will eventually join with major independents from coast to coast—teams like Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and the leading remnants of the now defunct Pacific Coast Conference—in a league stretching from coast to coast. If and when that happens, it will add one more, slightly superfluous, feather to the already gaudy cap of southern football.
COLORS: Crimson and white
BASIC OFFENSE: Split-T
1957 RECORD: Won 2, lost 7, tied 1
LETTERMEN RETURNING: 25 of 30
WATCH FOR: One of the Southeast's better linemen, Dave Sington
THE DOPE: Paul (Bear) Bryant, the "great rehabilitates" at Maryland, Kentucky and most recently Texas A&M, now faces his stiff est challenge in 14 years as a head coach. He inherits from Coach J. B. Whitworth a squad that won only four of 30 games in the past three years. The Tide is loaaed with lettermen, 25 in all, but few of them appear outstanding. And his 64-man roster lists only 12 seniors. The team definitely lacks speed and adequate linebacking. Bryant also is hurting for a "take charge" quarterback. Bob (Bullet) Skelton may have the inside track here for his smart running of the option. He'll be challenged by two-year veteran Bobby Smith, an excellent long-range passer and punter, and Sophomore James Patton. Bryanv's halfbacks include Duff Morrison, a good runner and receiver who was ineligible last season because of poor grades, and Mack Wise. Red Stickney and Danny Wilbanks are leading fullbacks. Tackle Dave Sington, son of former 'Bama All-America Fred Sington, and Guard Don Cochron anchor the line. Look for improvement but no miracles.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
COLORS: Orange and blue
BASIC OFFENSE: T with variations
1957 RECORD: Won 10, lost none
LETTERMEN RETURNING: 23 of 37
WATCH FOR: A lightning-fast attack featuring the running of Tommy Lorino