Miami opens with FLORIDA STATE this weekend. This should decide right off who is the best independent in the South. A girls' school until 1947, FSU has risen fast and wants badly to get into the SEC, whose teams it annually scares silly. Coach Bill Peterson held out 21 men last year. He now has depth as he never had before. He has, too, the nation's biggest quarterback in 6-foot-5, 200-pound Steve Tensi and a powerful tackle known as Li'l Abner—Avery Sumner, 6 feet 2, 212, a lad who used to stack peanuts on his father's truck farm. The Seminoles tied Georgia Tech and Auburn last year, and with that kind of audacity they may never make the SEC.
Of CLEMSON, DUKE and MARYLAND, one befuddled Atlantic Coast Conference coach says, "Any of us could win—and probably will." Clemson's Frank Howard sees it more clearly than that: "Clemson's going to win," he says. "I don't see how the others can ever beat us." We are willing to accept Howard's prognosis, not because his gift for mountain gab can be convincing but also because he has two teams of almost equal strength, and because Quarterback Jim Parker can do practically anything when he is not feeling poorly. "We looked better in the spring than any time since I've been here," says Howard, starting his 24th season at Clemson. "We've got the best backs we've had in years, and more speed. What changes will we make on offense? We'll block better." Now if Howard can figure a way to get by Oklahoma and Georgia Tech in his first two games, the rest of the schedule will seem downhill.
Duke, winner of three straight ACC titles, has lost both quarterbacks and 10 of last year's first 14 linemen. "We're green as grass," says Coach Bill Murray, thinking mostly of his line, but in the next breath he admits he just might have the best fullback in college football in Mike Curtis, a 209-pound junior who can, according to one starry-eyed report, "hit like a steamroller, spin like a top, block, tackle, intercept, catch, place-kick, great!" Duke also has an outstanding sophomore quarterback in Scotty Glacken, who will probably take the job from junior Dave Uible by midseason, and capable runners in Halfbacks Billy Futrell and Jay Wilkinson, son of Oklahoma Coach Bud Wilkinson. Unfortunately for Duke, these pluses will not be sufficient to stave off Clemson when the teams meet Oct. 19.
Maryland Coach Tom Nugent, the most inventive mind and fastest mouth in football and a man totally unappreciated by Clemson's Howard, will have a team good enough to knock off either Clemson or Duke and interesting enough to watch if it never wins a game. Nugent now has a "shifty I offense" (Howard says that sounds like Nugent) in which the wingback will occasionally shift into the line to become a split end and the split end will drop off to become a wingback, the good of which only time and Tom Nugent will tell.
Maryland also has Darryl Hill, the first Negro ever to play in the ACC, ready to start at wingback. He is a 165-pound transfer from Navy, and he "moves," says Nugent. Even better are Dick Shiner at quarterback and Tailback Len Chiaverini, who led the ACC in rushing last year with 602 yards. Maryland's line will be smaller and faster than last year's and could be pushed around quite a bit. But Shiner's arm and Nugent's guile will take the Terrapins a long way.
West Virginia is making plans for its centennial, and Governor W.W. Barron, one of the more active recruiters for the home team, is making plans to be thrilled when Coach Gene Corum provides an undefeated West Virginia University football team for the occasion. It will not happen because the Mountaineers must play Navy, Pittsburgh, Penn State and Syracuse outside of the Southern Conference. Inside they are safe and secure. Corum's mountainous Mountaineers have a starting line that averages 228 pounds and backs who average 203. Quarterback Jerry Yost passed for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaged 4.6 yards rushing last season; and a tackle, Bernie Carney, 225 pounds, has been compared with Sam Huff. It is enough to make a governor proud, if not prophetic.
Auburn, always respected in the South, has had two years of humiliation in its own state (34-0 and 38-0 losses to Alabama), and Coach Ralph (Shug) Jordan must grin and bear it one more year at least. The Plainsmen are improved, yes. Jordan has 22 lettermen, the "fastest line in 10 years," a good all-round quarterback in Jimmy Sidle, and sophomore Halfback Gerald Gross, who made a specialty of spectacular scoring plays as a freshman. But beat Bear Bryant?
New Coach Jim McDonald approaches his TENNESSEE job with fresh ideas about making the old single wing work: "I'll use split ends, flankers and men in motion," says McDonald, "and even a few T formation plays." Two who will do much to help are Tailback Mallon Faircloth and a typically tough Volunteer guard, 6-foot-3, 215-pound Steve DeLong. Tennessee has won more games in the past 35 years than any other major team, but a carryover of the worst pass defense in the SEC and too few experienced hands make a better than break-even season remote.
As fall practice began, KENTUCKY'S roster numbered 47 men, 30 of them sophomores. Six players have left since (40 quit on him last fall), and tough Charlie Bradshaw, the Kentucky coach, says, "So what. I can't even remember their names." About the only names Kentucky fans will remember this year belong to Tackle Herschel Turner, the team's best lineman, and Halfback Darrel Cox, a versatile athlete who runs, passes, kicks and plays safety.