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HERMAN HICKMAN SAYS: As so many of us have said so often, a league composed of the leading eastern independents could be on a par with any conference in the country. Technically, the eastern teams belong to the rather loose-knit ECAC ( Eastern College Athletic Conference), but there is no championship competition. In fact, all the Ivy League teams are also members of ECAC, but they, of course, fight it out among themselves for their own title. Since most of the major independents are located in the East, let's take a look at them first.
Navy, along with Penn State and Pittsburgh, looks like the cream of the crop this year, although dark horse Army is capable of knocking off any or everybody on its schedule. The Middies are welcoming back a veteran line. Averaging 212 pounds, the forward wall will be the largest in Naval Academy history and quite a comfort to Eddie Erdelatz, who has always bemoaned the rule limiting the size of midshipmen. Captain Dick Oldham, leading ground gainer for the past two years, heads a list of imposing backs—among whom is the stocky Dick Dagampat, sensational soph starter last year. Quarterback Tom Forrestal is an excellent passer and ball handler. Not a sophomore graces the first two teams and with the schedule less gruesome than usual this could be a Navy year.
Penn State's two-unit system paid off for them last year and played no little part in establishing a fine 6-2-1 record. But more important for now, the backfield returned intact from the second outfit, which played better ball at many times last season than the first unit. So, despite the loss of Quarterback Milt Plum, practically the only problem facing the Nittany Lions is at tackle where only one letterman is returning. If they can overcome the Army jinx on October 5, Penn State will go a long way on the national scene.
Pittsburgh, having lost eight starters, lacks experience at ends and in the backfield, but those five middle men from tackle to tackle look just as tough as last year. Over-all, this should be a faster team which will pass more and run well to the outside.
Army will have its biggest line since 1950, but experience is lacking. Conversely, for the first time in three years the quarterback position will be manned by an experienced operator, Dave Bourland. The Cadets are potentially on a par with last season's team, and they should be even stronger by November.
Syracuse suffered immeasurably when it lost All-America Halfback Jim Brown by graduation, but there is still plenty of optimism. If a capable center can be found, the first string line should be good, and the quarterbacking is experienced. This team could easily surprise.
Holy Cross, spurred by its surprising sophomores of 1956, should be even stronger, tougher and faster. Dr. Eddie Anderson, now the dean of college coaches since Lou Little's retirement, should enjoy his stewardship this fall as much as ever.
Only three returning regulars greet new Head Coach Fred Rice at Colgate, but the line is large and the backs are fast. Al Jamison is one of the outstanding pass receivers at end in the country and well worth the price of admission for anyone interested in that exciting art.
Miami ( Fla.), one of my Eleven Elevens in 1956, lost its entire first string, or perhaps I should say its Unit One. However, Unit Two, supplemented with some of the finest sophomores in the country, will make the Hurricanes another strong entry, but I can't see them quite on the same level as a year ago. Halfback John Varone is an All-America candidate who will be a rough customer for every team on the Miami schedule.