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The big football news for the 1960 season is that the game is still a game. This fact is not admitted everywhere. To hear some experts, one might think football has become a super- Cape Canaveral, requiring preseason preparations a little bit more complicated than those needed to put a satellite in orbit. And to hear some coaches describe him, the modern football player might well be considered an automaton, like the helmeted fellow above, with a gearbox for a brain and a mind fed by ticker tape.
Fortunately, things aren't that bad. The game is a bit more technical, perhaps, than it was five years ago. The players are more specialized, they seem to be less individualistic, and they are, particularly if they play quarterback, packed full of data, formulas and mystic nomenclature.
But in essence football is what it always has been—11 men pushing against 11 other men to get across the goal line with the ball. The one big difference in 1960 is that this will be a year in which the pushers will have it all over the pushers-back. The offenses will open up more in college football, scores will run higher, and the wide-open style of play may bring back some of those spectators who had deserted to the professional game.
There are several good reasons for the changes, all of them interrelated and each of about equal importance. Worried that the professionals might cut into their gate, the coaches last winter adopted a liberal substitution rule that will permit players to enter and leave games almost at will. For most coaches this means either or both of two things: they can use one of their players as a messenger to take in signals before each play, and/or they can rapidly alternate passing quarterbacks with defensive or running quarterbacks.
It is not just an accident that the coaches are thinking in terms of quarterbacks. For the first time ever, good quarterbacks are coming out of high schools in quantity. Where passers were once rare, almost every team today has at least one, and some have two and three. In most cases the players have been at quarterback through four years of high school, where the coaching often has been patterned after the pros, and at least one or two of college. They know what to do with the ball, and they know how to direct a team. To get the most out of their quarterbacks and to open up the game, a surprising number of coaches are turning to the wing T. To defend against the wing T they are turning to something called the three-deep defense. Eight men, rather than nine, will be placed fairly close to the line. Three players will be stationed deep in order to pick up the three receivers who can go down for the long passes from the wing T.
What coaches like most about the wing T is its versatility. It permits a team to use a power offense from a tight wing T, and it also allows the team to split a back or end wide. Either variation can be employed without having to change basic blocking patterns and assignments. Some coaches are going in for the slot-wing T, which splits one end wide and puts a halfback in the slot between that end and tackle. Others are adopting a multiple offense. Each coach who uses that system has a different idea of what it involves. Basically, the multiple offense combines fragments of the T, wing T, split-T, or whatever a coach feels will move the ball and simultaneously prevent him from being moved out of his job. Regardless of what you call the offenses, 1960 will see a lot of splits, flankers, lonely ends and spreads.
College quarterbacks will differ from the pros in one important respect. They will run, something the pass-crazed pros don't do too often.
"It is the quarterback who can throw and run who has been leading his team to victory," Earle Edwards of North Carolina State says. "Look at Bob Schloredt [ Washington), or Charley Britt and Francis Tarkenton [ Georgia], Warren Rabb [LSU] and Richie Lucas [ Penn State]—they could all pass and run, and their teams were all winners last year. Don Meredith [SMU] and Dick Norman [ Stanford] were magnificent passers but poor runners, and their teams weren't consistent winners. Why, Norman passed for 401 yards in one game and Stanford still lost."
The pass-option play will make for exciting fall afternoons. The nice thing about the play is that no one need know anything about a multiple offense or an 8-2-1 defense to enjoy the drama of a man faking the opposition, then scooting past it.
No sensible spectator need pay any attention either to the gadgets and paraphernalia that have become so much a part of the coaches' lives. In a sense, the coaches have become thinking men who filter details on strategy, players, opponents, etc., through channels that seem to number in the thousands. Nothing is overlooked. Coaches hire assistants, and when they can no longer afford aides, they invest in mechanical aids. Telephones, cameras—motion pictures and self-developing still cameras-tape recorders and closed-circuit television have become standard.