SI Vault
Mervin Hyman
September 19, 1960
Although widely divergent in moods, temperament and coaching styles, these dedicated and successful men have at least two things in common. They have made a career of coaching football in what is traditionally the most competitive section of the nation, and their ultimate goal is identical—to make their teams the very best.
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September 19, 1960

Big Men Of The Midwest

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The Big Eight changed its rules so Missouri could, if it were invited, return to the Orange Bowl. In the brighter glare of reality the action appears to have been wishful thinking. Too many important players have gone—Russ Sloan, the ham-handed end; Tackle Mike Magac; Center Tom Swaney; and Quarterback Phil Snowden, who doubled as a punter. Coach Dan Devine is an artful juggler, but his material will limit him severely. He will go from an unbalanced to a balanced line T, and stubby Guard Rockne Calhoun, 5 feet 9, 205 pounds, sidesteps one pace to become a midget tackle, while two former understudies—Gordon Smith at end and Bill McCartney at center—climb into starting spots. Bill Wegener, an outstanding tackle, may not play at all because of a severe foot injury. Back, however, are End Dan La-Rose, a man the pros are watching carefully, and Halfback Mel West, who will throw more passes on the run. Unlettered sophomores must pick up the rest of the offense.

1959 RECORD: WON 4, LOST 6

Early last spring Coach Bill Jennings offered his players self-determination. Name the position you would like to play, he told his minions in a liberal move that must have other coaches gasping. Fullback Don Fricke returned to center, the position he played as a sophomore regular, and Halfback Pat Fischer, who hankered to throw a running pass, moved to quarterback. To accommodate these moves and, incidentally, Fischer's speed and daring passing, Jennings installed the wing T. The results, a Lincoln newspaperman reports, are excellent. The Cornhuskers have their best material in 40 years, and they may have their best team too. The squad, with 20 letter-men, breaks down into 11 seniors, 19 juniors and 61 sophomores, a total of 91, many of them men of quality. George Haney, 225-pound tackle, and Bernie Clay, 100-pound halfback, two of seven transfers, will move onto the first team. A high-powered back named Thunder Thornton could make the offense step out in style.

1959 RECORD: WON 6. LOST 3

Once again, the Northwesterners have all the successful skills: they pass, run and defend with certainty. But can they keep it up through a ruthless schedule? They lost the core of last year's strong team but Coach Ara Parseghian hopes to compensate for the losses by heavy platooning. The line is strongest at end, with Irv Cross, a fast, powerful performer, at the left flank, and Elbert Kimbrough, an All-America candidate and the team's leading pass receiver (16 receptions) at the other. The tackles, Bud Melvin, a muscular 215-pounder, and Fate Echols, a 250-pounder, look sound. But it is the backfield that makes the Wildcats a threat for the conference title. At quarterback is Dick Thornton, total offense leader in the Big Ten as a sophomore in 1958, who has now recovered from a broken leg. The halves are hard-running Ray Purdin (5.2 yards per carry) and limber-legged Al Kimbrough, Northwestern's shiftiest back. Fullback Mike Stock, conference high scorer, provides the power.

1959 RECORD: WON 5, LOST 5

On the pro scout trail and at coaches' Kaffeeklalschen the shop talk is that Coach Joe Kuharich runs a taut scrimmage and that his professional attitude toward the game will produce results in this, his second season. Three awesome tacklers (Myron Pottios, Tom Hecomovich and Nick Buoniconti) give the team perhaps the best linebacking seen anywhere outside of a Colt-Giant game. On offense, Kuharich's blessings are many: Red Mack, a leading ground-gainer and an All-America candidate, returns. Supporting him will be a gaggle of talented sophomore quarterbacks led by versatile Ed Rutkowski; a hard-hitting fullback in Gerry Gray; a shifty halfback in George Sefcik; and a senior halfback Ray Ratkowski, a 190-pound flyer who ran his cleats over some famous faces in the spring-training Old Timers game. But still Notre Dame worries. Pottios, Mack, Sefcik and Gray have had knee operations, and sophomore quarterbacks can, and often do, make game-destroying mistakes.

1959 RECORD: WON 7, LOST 2

Place a "State" before the "University," and the Bobcats could easily be mistaken for their neighbors from Columbus. They certainly look big enough. The line averages 212, and tackles Sophomore Dick Schulz and Junior Mike Kielovicz both weigh close to 240. They are good enough. Center Dick Grecni (233) and Fullback Bob Brooks (200) were both honorable mention All-America. The resemblance to Ohio State is understandable. Coach Bill Hess was an assistant under Woody Hayes, and the Bobcats play the same possession football the Buckeyes dote on. The defense is big and 60-minute strong and capable of blunting most any Mid-American team. The offense hugs the ground, and Brooks, a one-man gang, last year gained 817 yards and scored 44 points. Not far behind him was fast Halfback Bob Harrison, the conference's second-best rusher. Quarterback Otis Wagner is a runner too, but no passer. He may lose out to long-throwing Sophomore Bob Babbitt.

1959 RECORD: WON 3, LOST 5, TIED 1

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