The University of Florida campus is generally considered the hippest, in terms of exotic styles of hair and dress, in the Southeastern Conference. That is about like being considered the hippest nation in Eastern Europe, but still. "You are liable," says a member of the more conservative University of Georgia's coaching staff, with a sort of half-entranced shudder, "to see innythang there."
As for what Florida's opponents are liable to see on the football field this fall, it is not going to come as a surprise, but it will still be mind-blowing: anywhere from a mile and a half to two miles' worth of forward passes (2,896 yards in 1969) being completed by strong-armed John Reaves, who led the nation in passing as a sophomore last year, and an astounding percentage of those passes being caught and carried to even more extreme lengths by fleet-footed junior Carlos Alvarez. That is assuming Alvarez will not be rendered gimpy by an extremely non-Aquarian disease—gout.
The Cuban-born Alvarez' father, a successful Havana lawyer at the time, did something rather groovy when Castro took over—he brought his wife and his three soccer-playing sons to Miami and opened a dress shop. The oldest son barely had time to convert to American football, just enough to break his wrist his senior year in high school. The middle son's promising career was ended by a back injury during his first season of high school ball. This spring, after having shown the world in 1969 how blessed it can be to receive (88 catches for 1,329 yards), the third son, Carlos, came up with a bad knee.
The original diagnosis was an inflammation of the knee lining, presumably caused by Alvarez' practicing, of all things, his starts. Starts are not exactly his weak point, unless you figure that anybody who moves from apparently stationary to well under way so abruptly must never actually have come to a complete stop. But, at any rate, Alvarez forsook Florida's sandy-composition football field briefly, just before spring practice, to work out on a harder asphalt track, taking off from starting blocks under the supervision of the Gator track coach. He had not been running on this unaccustomed surface long before his right knee swelled up, and that made him miss all of the team's spring drills.
After Alvarez had visited doctors all over the state, however, his problem was diagnosed not as asphalt poisoning but as an excess of uric acid, or gout, which is what Ben Franklin and a number of crusty and high-powered old men—but heretofore no recorded Cuban pre-law student who runs like the wind—have suffered from down through history, traditionally with one heavily bandaged foot propped up on a hassock. Now Alvarez is supposed to be back in shape, with pills prescribed for the next time one of his young joints gives him trouble.
Also providing the Gators with youth power last year was Tommy Durrance, a running back who will also be a junior, and whose toughness—especially inside the enemy four—must surely have caused some defenders last year to cry out, "Durrance is vile." Where Florida stands to be less imposing is in the traditional solid virtues of defense, line play and depth. Head Coach Doug Dickey, starting his first season in Gainesville after his controversial switch from Tennessee, was quoted as saying in the spring, in fact, that "in this conference you need 30 good players, and we don't have that many."
But who worries about traditional solid virtues in this psychedelic day and age? Especially when there are drugs to take care of things like gout.