While Gabriel may influence other ACC teams to diversify their offenses, the rest of the South is likely to remain conservative. His opposite number at Alabama, for example, is a 6-foot 2-inch, 193-pound pre-medical senior named Pat Trammell, whose supreme self-confidence is understandable in one who has played but a single losing game in eight years. Trammell also can rely on help from the finest defense in the land. Given such ingredients, plus the softest schedule of any of the Southeastern Conference's seven (yes, seven) title contenders, Alabama is not likely to start toying with any far-out offensive ideas this year, especially when even middle-of-the-pile clubs like Georgia Tech have 227-pound guards like Rufus Guthrie.
Big enough to play tackle, fast enough to play end, Guthrie typifies the ingredients necessary for a lineman in the SEC. He has the size and the speed, plus the wits and the muscle, to survive among equally well-equipped players. A native of Smyrna, Ga., a little village 15 miles from the Tech campus in Atlanta, Guthrie has an important motive for playing the game. "I thought it might help me in my future law practice if I made a name for myself now." It makes no difference to Guthrie that Tech is an engineering school. "I've wanted to play football for Tech ever since I was a little kid," he explains. "I'll play my football here, then get my law degree across town at Emory."
Another who always knew where he wanted to play is Miami End Bill Miller, a husky senior who has already caught 59 passes for 808 yards. Miller came all the way from McKeesport, Pa. simply because "Boys from McKeesport always did well at Miami." A diplomat, Miller insists on rooming with the reigning quarterback. "If you want 'em to throw to you, you gotta get to know 'em. That's when they start picking you out for passes."
Miller attributes his quick, sensitive hands to summers back home when he hired out as a cement worker. "You had to be quick," he says. "Those guys get kind of playful, always throwing bricks and hammers and things." A lot of other players in the South this year might wish they had been cement workers. The training is ideal for the erosive game they play there.
It took only three years for Paul Bryant, already one of the game's best-known itinerant capitalists, to rescue the football program at his alma mater. Last year was the Crimson Tide's best since 1945, and now The Bear and his 11 assistants have 19 lettermen, a big and fierce interior line, some strong runners and a fine passing combination. Bill Neighbors, one of the best linemen in the SEC, has moved permanently from guard to tackle, while Lee Roy Jordan remains at center. They will clear holes for Ray Abruzzese and Mike Fracchia, both of whom averaged four yards per carry last fall, as did Quarterback Pat Trammell, who will also make use of an accurate passing arm and receiver, Halfback Butch Wilson. The defense, which allowed opponents an average of only five points a game, is still strong but not as deep.
CONCLUSION: A juicy conference schedule includes neither LSU nor Ole Miss, the offense is better, the defense healthy—the title awaits.
Although five years of NCAA penalties (no TV boodle, no Bowl games) had little visible effect on Coach Shug Jordan's men, there is no telling what the Tigers may do once they taste that good, clean, probation-free air. They won 41 of 50 games while the ban was on. Plans are to loosen up the attack that spent 80% of last year on the ground by using more slot backs, flankers and passers. An all-senior line with Wayne Frazier at center will make a selfish defense even stingier now, but the offensive backfield must count on junior Jimmy Burson to steady three speedy sophomores, including Quarterback Mailon Kent, a fine passer. Dave Edwards leads an impressive group of ends, and Billy Wilson has lots of help at tackle. Punting is a serious problem—but a favorable conference schedule is ample compensation.
CONCLUSION: With its tough, experienced line, good pass defense and fast backfield, Auburn is front and center in the title picture.