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Like Barry Goldwater, ILLINOIS has recently been regarded as a rising power and is just beginning to entertain highest national aspirations. Illinois tactics, however, are anything but conservative. Quarterback Mike Taliaferro, for whom Coach Pete Elliott has installed a wide-open offense, threw 212 passes and completed 80 last year. He will be challenged strongly by sophomore Ron Acks. Center Dick Butkus, a genuine front-runner for All-America honors who made 97 tackles in seven games, returns this year with lots more help from a line that is two deep in lettered reserves. In the backfield talented sophomores abound, and Halfback Sam Price, a 210-pounder with power and speed, is expected to be one of the school's finest ever. Senior Jim Warren has the quickness to hold the flanking halfback position, but sophomores Jim Grabowski and Don Hansen threaten to wrest fullback from seniors Dave Pike and Al Wheatland. The one question about Illinois is whether its greenish hue may become more noticeable in the harsh light of the Big Ten big time.
Purdue is tired of waiting. "We've been well up in the Big Ten for several years because of a great defense. This year we'll try to open up a little and not lose much defensively," says Coach Jack Mollenkopf. Last year Purdue lost four games by a grand total of 13 points. It was last defeated by as much as a touchdown in mid-1960. On the theory that consistently scoring more than one touchdown per game might help, Mollenkopf is installing the I formation. Despite loss of 28 lettermen, he may have the manpower to make it work. Quarterback Ron DiGravio has proven talent, and alternate Quarterback Gary Hogan completed 35 of 77 last year. Gene Donaldson and ironman Halfback Charles King are solid performers, and Purdue has a more than adequate line. It all adds up to sufficient equipment to harass the contenders, but not to surpass them.
Football, which has been heavenly at MISSOURI under Coach Dan Devine the past eight seasons, may be a little less so this year. Halfback Johnny Roland, fifth nationally in rushing and leading scorer in the Big Eight, is on probation for "malicious mischief," and most of the line, considered one of the country's best last year, is gone. "Our spring practice," says Devine, "showed us what we needed rather than what we have."
What Devine does have are fast sophomore runner Monroe Phelps, a 9.6 man; two talented quarterbacks; Ken Hinkley at halfback; and excellent fullbacking, led by Paul Underhill. If there is a breach in MU defenses, it will be in the secondary, where only one of the five men who constituted the nation's fourth best pass defense returns. Woe to Missouri. Its first opponent is Northwestern.
Michigan State's Coach Duffy Daugherty is as cheerful as ever. "We'll go into this season," he says, "with maybe six to eight men of demonstrated Big Ten quality. Almost all of our regular linemen will be gone. We'll have to settle on a quarterback, build passing and kicking games and find power runners to spell our little backs. Our defensive backfield is a big, nebulous uncertainty." If that does not sound encouraging, maybe the backfield does. While quarterback, with Dick Proebstle and Charlie Migyanka, is a bit shaky, the rest is solid with Ron Rubick and Sherm Lewis at halfback and Dewey Lincoln and Roger Lopes at fullback. Not quite the lineup Daugherty would like, but better than most in the giant Midwest.
Minnesota's Gophers are, so to speak, in a hole, and with some very little men. Among seven returnees who made any yardage at all last year (only 285 yards in sum), Halfbacks Bill Crockett, Bill McMillan and Jerry Pelletier weigh 152, 161 and 152 pounds. The quarterback will be John Hankinson, who played exactly 30 seconds last year. The Minnesota line, first nationally in rushing defense last season, now has only Carl Eller, the 6-foot-5 241-pound right tackle who is a preseason All-America. He will get awfully lonely with only Left Tackle Milt Sunde for company. There is little hope for Minnesota, which was probably due for a fall after several good years.
Each and every spring Woody Hayes tilts back his straw hat, consults the Farmer's Almanac about spring plowing and begins cultivation of still another football surplus for OHIO STATE. Perhaps this spring he should have checked the phase of the moon too, for the first cut of the plow turned up, not the usual cloud of dust, but rocks. In a spring game so dull it appalled even Woody, the regulars dragged through a fruitless 6-0 win over the reserves. Hayes's stoniest problem is at tackle, the cutting edge of the OSU attack. He does have Paul Warfield, the fine halfback, but Hayes prefers fullbacks to halfbacks. His preferences are going to cost him dearly this year.
At IOWA Coach Jerry Burns announced a new "winning edge" football program. He then excused all 1963 seniors from spring practice. Apparently Iowa's seniors are either too good to need much practice or too hopeless to waste coaching time on. Since the juniors are singularly unproven, sophomores like Quarterback Gary Snook, Halfback Gary Simpson and End Cliff Wilder must be brought along fast. If Iowa does not get the winning edge soon, Burns might get the ax edge sooner.
Notre Dame's interim appointee Hugh Devore is the kind of coach who says, when his quarterback has graduated, his leading ground-gainer is racked up in an automobile accident and the schedule opens with Wisconsin, Purdue and USC, "I think we will have a better team." Lest Devore be thought softheaded, he does have an able line and bull-size backs in Paul Costa and Jim Snowden. Still, sophomores must carry much of the burden. Devore is developing a nice team for his successor.