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Nine members of last year's first team have graduated. Looking at the list of replacements, Coach Jim Miller must feel a sharp sense of irritation. He has proud quarterbacking, lively running and skillful receiving, but he can't protect any of them. His blocking and tackling are abysmal and offer little support to the high-spirited backs. But first to the fun. Vying for quarterback are Bob Lusky, the total-offense leader in 1959 (621 yards), Tony Hanley, the leading passer (46% completions) and, maybe the best of all, Sophomore Gerry Gross, who is certain to get a chance to prove himself. Taking the hand-offs will be Halfbacks Ted Karpowicz, Jim Post, last season's most successful ball carrier (4.4 yards a carry), and two box-shaped sophomores, Fullbacks Bob De Luca and Vic Battani, both 5 feet 9, 205 pounds. The ends, Larry Vargo and John Perreto, are good too. But the interior line is shadowy and ill-formed. No lettermen return and nobody worth singling out is coming up.
The winter future book had new Coach Pete Elliott winning the Big Ten Conference title in his first year. This was before Halfback John Counts, the team's second-leading scorer (30 points, 19 pass receptions and 5.2 average per carry last year), was declared scholastically ineligible, and his replacement, Gary Kolb, signed a baseball bonus contract. Even so, the Illini will be the team te beat in the Big Ten. The backfield is led by All-Big-Ten Fullback Bill Brown, whose 504 rushing yards in 1959 amounted to almost a third of his team's total. Brown will carry more of the running responsibility despite defenses ganged to meet the sole Illini running threat. The passing will be shared by Quarterback Mel Meyers (51% completions) and John Easterbrook (44%). The line, averaging 220 pounds, is smart, sizable and snappy. Right Tackle Joe Rutgens, a 245-pounder who is sometimes called an All-America, blocks and tackles with disdainful �lan. As does 256-pound Left Tackle Cliff Roberts.
This is the year the Hoosiers, with a glistening new $4.5 million stadium and a team that at last looked respectable, hoped to go first class. But Indiana, impaled on its own ambitions, was sentenced by the NCAA to four years' probation for sinful recruiting. Coach Phil Dickens' problems now are to maintain squad morale and find a passer. Among 94 men on his roster there is not one who has ever completed a pass in college competition. Consequently, Dickens will rely heavily on running. Willie Hunter, 202 pounds of nonthrowing tailback, leads a single-wing ground attack jammed with power. Two 200-pounders—Wil Scott, blocking back, and Fullback Don Cromer—complete the hard-running backfield. The loss of 19 letter-men is overcome in part by an encouraging blend of juniors and seniors, including All-America hope, End Earl Faison, 6 feet 5 and 235 pounds, and two gristly sophomores—Tackle Jim Haas, 24 years old and 235 pounds, and 23-year-old Tailback Woody Moore.
The Hawkeyes went to the Rose Bowl in 1957, skipped a year and returned in 1959. Last season they stayed home. This, then, should be an Iowa year, and there are good signs that it will be—a hard-hewn line averaging 225 pounds; a bevy of racy halfbacks, and a fullback who runs like a bee-stung grizzly. Speed and quickness up front and in the backfield will plague, harass and bewilder the opposition. Among the best and fastest are the 235-pound tackles Charlie Lee and AI Hinton, 200-pound Sophomore Fullback Joe Williams and 200-pound Quarterback Wilburn Hollis. Coach Forest Evashevski has geared the wing T to cut out yardage on the ground, with Hollis occasionally testing the defense with a pass or two on rollouts. One potential weakness, however, is Hollis' arm, which can be distressingly inaccurate at times. A sophomore-packed defensive roster is directed by Linebacker-Guard Sherwyn Thorson, Iowa's liveliest All-America possibility.
Everybody, but everybody, is looking for those 230-pound tackles and those 200-pound backs—everybody but Coach Clay Stapleton. He sacrifices girth for quickness and power for alertness. The heaviest lineman, 206-pound Tackle Ron Walter, casts a slim shadow on the football field. But the small, snappy linemen uncoil the Tennessee single wing by belting out fast blocks for the quick-stepping backs, and then play errorless defense. Smallish End Don Webb, 5 feet 10, 169 pounds, buzzes around, settling on passes (he led last year's team with 24 catches) and making enough tackles to gain all-conference honors. Two other linemen are expected to join Webb as all-conference selections: Larry Van Der Heyden and linebacker Arden Esslinger. In the backfield the Cyclones have Fullback Tom Watkins, the nation's No. 2 rusher in 1959 (843 yards), along with Wing-back Mick Fitzgerald (7.1 rushing average). For passes there is Sophomore Hooomann; for blocking there is Wingback Cliff Rick.