The defending Southern Conference champions may repeat despite some crushing losses by graduation in the interior line. While the Keydets are likely to get pushed around on defense, they can break away with long gainers to balance that deficit, and their horde of fast, hard backs are adept on defense, coming up quickly to make tackles. Coach John McKenna's plum is Halfback Stinson Jones, a superior defender who also caught 26 passes in 1960 and is an excellent broken-field runner. Quarterback Bob Mitchell has other sure-handed receivers in Halfbacks John Traynham and Ken Reeder and End Dick Willard. Tackle John Candler is the only starter returning to the interior line, where Fred Shirley and Bill Hoehl, injured last year, add vital depth. The team, however, could use an effective kicker.
CONCLUSION: VMI lacks the strength needed for sustained drives or steady defense, but it has enough passing to trade TDs all day.
The Gobblers are in serious trouble. Only 13 lettermen return, the starting line averages a measly 196 pounds and team speed is mediocre. New Coach Jerry Claiborne pins his hopes for a .500 season on the defense, which will have to hold the gates while Terry Strock adjusts to the move from halfback to quarterback. Fullback Art Pruett and sophomore Halfback Tom Walker provide some offensive �lan, but more is so urgently needed that defensive Halfback Ray Massie may start carrying the ball, too. The defensive line looks to End Leon Tomblin and sophomore Tackle Gene Breen to see it through the early season but the only adequately manned position is at center, where Charlie Hines is backed by two promising sophomores. Unless sophomore Pete Cartwright proves a late blossomer, there is no promise of a passing threat.
CONCLUSION: Shy of good replacements, light, slow and without a good passer, Tech will look, but not hopefully, to its defenses.
The graduation of Norman Snead, who led the nation in total passing yardage, has caused Coach Billy Hildebrand to change his offense. The Deacons will abandon their spread formation with its Lonely Ends and will emphasize the rushing of speedy Halfbacks Donnie Frederick, and Winston Futch (who was ineligible last year but averaged 5.9 yards in 1959). End Bill Hull caught 21 passes last year and did a fine defensive job, but the line as a whole is thin and untried. Paul Martineau and Kent Martin have moved from guard and center to tackle to help Jim Williams, while two ends have shifted to center, where Larry Coker was alone. Quarterback Chuck Reiley will get help from sophomore passer Ron Smith, whose classmates, Gerald Rudelitsch and Dennis Revell, add untested but promising depth at fullback and end.
CONCLUSION: A more diversified attack may confuse some opponents, but over-all lack of reserves means an underdog role in 1961.
Even the governor is doing his best to boost Mountaineer recruiting these days. The state wants a powerhouse to help it celebrate its centennial in 1963. Looking ahead, Coach Gene Corum substituted by the numbers last fall and managed 1) not to win any games but 2) to train 24 men, the highest total of returning lettermen in a decade. This wealth of experienced hands includes a fine offensive line built around Tackle Bill Winter and two pass-catching ends, Bob Timmerman and Gene Heeter. The backfield retains speedy Halfback Roger Holdinsky and, best of all, acquires two exceptional sophomores—Quarterback Fred Colvard and Fullback Glenn Holton. Another first-year player, Center Pete Goimarac, solves the line's most serious problem, leaving guard the one remaining weakness.