With a fatherly pat on the head, the Boston sports columnists have welcomed Arthur Valpey to the Harvard scene. Most of them have taken great care to show him that Harvard football is not Michigan football and that he will probably break down and weep when he sees the puny, soft-shell Hahvuds he has inherited. "Good luck, son--you're going to need it!" is the warning.
Valpey is no fool. He won a national scholarship once. He knows the switch to Cambridge means forsaking a land of plenty for a relative land of famine. He knows he won't find the big, corn-fed beeves here he found roaming Midwestern gridirons.
What he will find here though, is material potentially on a par with the teams he will face on next fall's "back-breaking" schedule. Best of all, Valpey will find a team which should adapt itself well to the Crisler system he has said he will employ. The single-wing is the basic Crisler formation (he uses/about 7, with a total of 170 or so plays). But Crisler doesn't use the single-wing exclusively for the power it was designed to produce. By lining up in a T, with an unbalanced line, and the quarterback up over center, Michigan freezes the defense with the threat of quick, hook passes into the flat.
Harlow used that same setup this fall, except that instead of shifting into the single-wing, he would shift into an L formation if he elected not to run from the T. He never used a spinner (one of the Crisler essentials) because he built his attack around the straight-ahead over power of Vinnie Moravec. When Moravec got hurt, it was too late to scrap the system. Here is the biggest single problem facing Valpey: in order to employ the razzic-dazzle, split-second timing offensive he knows so well, he must find a fullback who can spin and who can handle the ball slickly.
The fullback is the key man in the Crisler offensive. He is not the pile-driving, hippe type. He spins and he starts most of the plays. The quarterback is the blocking back. Jack Weisenberger played fullback for the Wolverines last fall. He weighs about 175. He generally got the ball on a direct pass from center, after the switch from T to single-wing, and then the fun began, with as many as five men eventually handling the ball as in the now-famous Rose Bowl end-around.
One of the most devastating fullback plays in the Crisler repertoire is the bucklateral series which he developed at Princeton and which is now being revived with considerable success there by Charlie Caldwell. Clee O'Donnell, 1946 Crimson captain who played first-string wingback against Chappuis, Wistert, & Company in the 35 to 7 rout at Ann Arbor in 1942, says Michigan ruined the Crimson that day on buck-lateral plays.
Granted, Valpey isn't going to find Weisenbergers and Wieses floating around Soldiers Field. As for size, though, last fall's Maize and Blue was actually lighter than the Crimson in some departments. The offensive Wolverine line averaged 185. Chappuis, at 185, was the beefiest man in a pony backfield. Everywhere in the Crisler system the emphasis is on speed and deception rather than crunching power. And that's what the current stable of light Crimson backs are best fitted for.
Actually, most of these backs, and particularly Chip Gannon, are mere familiar with the single-wing than with the T.
A careful examination of the movies of last fall's games may show Valpey when and why the disenchantment started. When spring practice rolls around shortly, he will like Billy Southworth when he switched from the pennant-fat Cards to the Braves smash any inferiority complex the team may have.
Valpey's not used to losing. Since he joined the Michigan staff six years ago, Wolverine elevens have won 48 out of 58 games. It's nice to have coaches like that on your side.