One NOTRE DAME follower, watching new Coach Ara Parseghian hustle his players through a workout during spring practice, was heard to murmur, "Thank God, it's like the old days again." His enthusiasm is premature. Parseghian, an impatient man, is determined to return Notre Dame to its position of dominance in college football, and he undoubtedly will one day—but not in 1964.
The Irish, who have suffered wretchedly through five straight losing or .500 seasons, will be better, but they are not quite up to a schedule that includes Wisconsin, Purdue, Stanford, Navy, Pitt, Michigan State and USC. As a starter, Parseghian will have to make do with what he inherited from former Coach Hughie Devore. It is not much, by old-time Notre Dame standards, but players like Jim Carroll, a 225-pound linebacker. Dick Arrington, a stocky 227-pounder who has been moved from tackle to guard, and Tackle John Meyer are big league. They can give the Irish line a respectable look this year.
What Notre Dame lacks most is back-field speed. Halfbacks Bill Wolski and Nick Rassas and Fullback Joe Farrell run hard but too slowly, and Quarterback John Huarte, just a fair passer, is hardly what Parseghian, who had Tom Myers at Northwestern, is used to. Nevertheless, he will put them in a racy flanker T and hope for the best, which could be a break-even season. Coming from Parseghian, a Presbyterian, that would satisfy the good fathers at Catholic Notre Dame immensely. Indeed, one win-starved clergyman says, "It would be a great thing for the Ecumenical Movement."
Everybody in the Big Ten worries about WISCONSIN. And so does Coach Milt Bruhn, but for different reasons. Bruhn is still in shock after watching his highly regarded 1963 Badgers go down the drain in a wave of lethargy. To add to his troubles, he no longer has Lou Holland, his best runner, nor does he have Rick Reichardt, his best pass catcher, who succumbed to a Bunyanesque baseball bonus. So why is the rest of the Big Ten suspicious? Quarterback Harold Brandt, who threw for 1,018 yards in 1963, is one answer, and Charlie Burt, a free-flinging sophomore, is another. He may be even better than Brandt. The defense will be surer, too, with 230-pound Bob Pickens at middle guard and Ray Marcin and sophomore Bob Richter backing up the line.
Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty had better have a fresh supply of quips ready for his East Lansing critics. What he will not have are Sherman Lewis, Dewey Lincoln and Roger Lopes, the backs who made life so unexpectedly pleasant for the Spartans a year ago. His new runners are not nearly as good. What Duffy Daugherty will have is his usual testy defense, best in the Big Ten and fourth best in the nation last season. Players like Rahn Bentley and 240-pound Jerry Rush, the two-way tackles, sturdy Linebackers Ron Goovert and Steve Mellinger, and Defensive Backs Charlie Migyanka and Lou Bobich, the soccer-style field-goal kicker, will see to that.
Purdue, where the attack has always been mostly airborne and the defense usually big and rough, has a lot of problems. Bob Hadrick, a rangy 195-pound junior end with grabby hands (he caught 29 passes as a sophomore), is back again, but Coach Jack Mollenkopf has no one like Ron DiGravio to throw the ball to him unless sophomore Bob Griese lives up to his notices. The Boilermakers will have to stay on the ground most of the time and hope that Fullback John Kuzniewski, a husky fellow with good breakaway speed who has been shifted from halfback, and Gordon Teter, a swirly runner, can move the ball. But a vulnerable defense will make Purdue scratch for its victories.
At INDIANA, Coach Phil Dickens will have his own scratching to do. He has more good players than he has seen all together in a long time, though, and his scratching could be more successful than Purdue's. Fullback Tom Nowatzke is a for instance. A hard-running 222-pounder, he ran for 756 yards and six touchdowns last year, caught seven passes, kicked seven points after touchdown and five field goals and, just to keep busy, played middle linebacker on defense. He also is a tremendous blocker. Then there are Quarterback Rich Badar, who completed 55 of 94 passes, and End Bill Malinchak, who caught 25. The offense will do just fine, and the line is mean enough to be bothersome. But the Hoosiers' pass defense, which leaked profusely last year, permitting 19 touchdowns, does not seem improved.
About all that Ara Parseghian left behind at NORTHWESTERN was Quarterback Myers, a superb passer who completed 93 for 1,398 yards. New Coach Alex Agase has done away with the flanker, split an end instead, and now Myers, who has never displayed much talent for running, will do some rolling out. Hopefully, the change will give the Wildcats more versatility. But the same old problems plague Northwestern. If anything, the always-thin Wildcats are skinnier than ever, particularly in the line. It will be a hard year in Evanston.
Down at the bottom of the Big Ten heap are MINNESOTA and IOWA. Minnesota's offense, rarely exciting, needs a quarterback desperately, and Coach Murray Warmath, for the first time in memory, has run out of big, booming All-America tackles. Iowa's Jerry Burns, reportedly on his way out, does not miss tackles. He never had any. He does have a quarterback—Gary Snook, who is an excellent long passer. Burns's runners, though, are hardly the kind who will scare anyone.