- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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One of the intriguing things about the current style of play will be to see what coaches do about it defensively. So far, every trend of offense has been met and eventually stymied. But never has so much heat been concentrated against defense. Never has there been so much offense with so many rules on its side as well. The first thing coaches undoubtedly will do is shift some of their better athletes to the defensive team, as Woody Hayes did last year with his great sophomore, Jack Tatum. This will help some, but it will not be the total cure.
A retreat back to the days of one-platoon football might be the one way coaches could be rescued from what can be called the modern disease of scoring.
But, alas, it is only those suffering coaches who yearn for a retreat. Nearly 30 million fans will see the college game in 1969. Such a multitude, plus all of those touchdowns, does not seem like a bad way to begin a new century.
1 OHIO STATE
There is only one thing Mr. Wayne Woodrow Hayes of Ohio State has more of than All-America football players—and that is superstitions. Silly things. Like the hot chocolate, sugar cookie, apple snack each player gets Friday nights before games. And the orange juice and dry toast appetizer at the Saturday morning pregame meals. And the team movie on Friday nights—action, nothing else. Once a brave soul suggested Belle de Jour; they saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Last year the team was also shown Coogan's Bluff, The Dirty Dozen and Bullitt, which ends with Steve McQueen blowing his adversary through pane glass doors in the San Francisco International Airport. Says one player with a smile: "Woody thinks movies like that get us psyched up."
Whether the diet or the movies or a combination of the two had anything to do with transforming last year's Bucks from a group of unknown sophomores into the best team in the country is debatable. There is no debate, however, on the contribution Hayes made. "He put it all together," says Fullback Jim Otis. "All we did was carry it out." And there is even less debate on who will keep this year's edition from becoming a No. 1 bunch of prima donnas. "Woody's the guy," says Split End Bruce Jankowski. "If he sees you getting a big head, he won't ask questions. He'll just kick you in the tail and sit you down."
Still, it would take an epidemic of swelled heads to keep Ohio State from repeating as the year's top team. The Buckeyes have 18 of 22 starters back from last year's undefeated national champions. Statistically they are just as frightening: returning are 273 of 323 points, 2,982 of 3,022 rushing yards, 1,359 of 1,384 passing yards and 100 of 104 pass completions. And behind it all is Hayes. "Football is like a battle," he explains. "And that's where General Patton was so great. He'd look at what he had and say, 'Here's what we can do and here's what we can't do. Let's not even try what we can't do. And let's not worry about what they can't do. Let's just concentrate on our strengths.' "
Woody can concentrate wherever he pleases—his Buckeyes are one conglomerate, incorporated strength. The chairman of the board is Quarterback Rex Kern (King Rex or King Kern—your choice), the baby-faced redhead who as a sophomore last year walked in and look over. Those close to Ohio State say Hayes' respect for Kern is so great he has already given Kern more freedom than any quarterback since Dave Leggett in 1954. And there is no doubt Kern is the first Buckeye quarterback since Tom Matte with the temerity to scramble on a busted play—risking, of course, even greater loss. Kern's only weakness is his health. Last year he was hurt in eight of 10 games, and this winter he had an operation on his left shoulder, after popping it out during an intramural basketball game. But even this causes Hayes less than normal worry, for backing up Kern are supersub Ron Maciejowski and sophomore Don Lamka, who guided the first team to a 68-0 win in the spring game.
It is, literally, behind Kern where the competition becomes a bit fierce. At fullback there is a battle between two-year veteran Jim Otis, who could make a first down against the Chicago Police Department, and John Brockington, who is a little faster and who, in spring practice, played a little ahead of Otis. Yet, when someone asked Otis about the prospect of not starting, he snapped back, "They'll have to kill me to keep me out of the starting lineup." At running back there is Leo Hayden, a speedster who is getting fierce competition from Dave Brungard, the No. 1 sub who wants to be just plain old No. 1. Wingback belongs to Larry Zelina, the most versatile performer on the team (he was No. 3 rusher, No. 2 pass receiver, he can punt and placekick and he returns kicks), as long as he is healthy. Always threatening him is Ray Gillian, who replaced the injured Zelina in the Rose Bowl and gained 83 yards total offense and caught four passes, one for a touchdown.
With both the split end, Bruce Jankowski, and the tight end, Jan White, returning, the prospects excite even the normally plaintive Hayes. "We scored 30 touchdowns last year with our power offense, the old button-shoe offense," he says. "But we'll change. If you have the backs, you use them to put the pressure on." Then he becomes Hayes the general. "You know the most effective kind of warfare is siege. You have to attack on broad fronts. And that's all the option is—attacking on a broad front. You know General Sherman ran an option right through the South."