CONCLUSION: A rough schedule and a fledgling line will prove too much of a burden for the potential pros in the backfield.
The Titans did not invent the forward pass, but they sure act as if they did—and for good reason. Coach Jim Miller has the perfect passing package, with Quarterback Jerry Gross (he completed 53% of his passes for 886 yards and six TDs in 1960) throwing to Ends Steve Stone-breaker and Larry Vargo (they caught 42 passes for 724 yards and scored the six TDs). It is fortunate Miller has these men, because Backs Vic Battani and Bill Allen run hard but not well. He is fortunate, too, in having a line that, in this era of two-platoon football, can play offense and defense. This is especially important because Miller hasn't many reserves. Vargo and Stonebreaker, strong defensive players as well as sure-handed receivers, already have been drafted by the pros, along with Center Frank Jackunas.
CONCLUSION: An exciting year looms for Detroit fans, but injuries must take a holiday if the Titans are to equal 1960's 7-2 record.
Fall will be full of days that try Illini souls, but few more than Coach Pete Elliott's. As he said recently, "We will probably have the youngest Big Ten squad since the war." That is only part of his problem. At some positions there is a complete absence of proved talent. This is particularly true in the backfield, where Mel Romani, two years a defensive end, has been installed at quarterback, and Norm Willis, defensively weak, is at right half. The one promising back is sophomore Half Jim Warren, whose great speed afoot may make some forget the floppy passes aloft. The line, however, is uncertain, with sophomore Tackle Bob Cravens (235 pounds) and Guard Dick Deller (208), another sophomore, lining up alongside last year's reserve End Ron O'Neal and Guard Tony Parrilli and Center John Kruze, both regulars.
CONCLUSION: If suffering is a requisite of success, Elliott is due for some bang-up years—in 1962 et seq., but not in '61.
Coach Phil Dickens' trials, like Christian's in Pilgrim's Progress, have just begun. Though the suspension by the NCAA has been lifted, there is no good passer around to lift the team into the air, where it could, conceivably, win a few games. The rest of the backfield, which at times becomes disoriented as it adjusts from the single wing to wing-T offense, is more effective, especially when heavy-hitting backs like 190-pound Mike Lopa (a 5.0-yard rushing average in 1960), Nate Ramsey (4.4) and Don Cromer (4.0) have the ball. Passless Indiana will be stronger than last year in the interior line, with the hard-blocking Jim Haas (239 pounds) at one tackle and rangy Jeff Slabaugh (214) at the other. The ends, Tom Trainer and Bill Olsavsky, improve the receiving but fall short of last year's strong defensive ends.
CONCLUSION: It is going to take more than Indiana's single-minded offense to fill that big, new stadium at Bloomington.