Sizing up a football team is dangerous business. It is extra dangerous when the team has been wallowing in an aura of consistent over-rating and under-rating, when is performances from day to day have varied with the tides, when members have shuttled back and forth from the injured list with alarming rapidity. Harvard's eleven is, of course, the case in point. That the material is there somewhere has hardly been denied by anyone, but just exactly where it is and in what positions it is going to play is just clearing up about now.
Crimson grid squads have never been noted for a surplus, of first rate backs. Endicott Peabody was more of a here than Franny Lee--even starting with the tremendous handicap which his guard position gave him. Torby MacDonald was doubtless a great back, but injuries forced him to make more headlines than yardage against Yale. You have to go back to Vern Struck and even Barry Wood to hit a really top-notch backfield star in a Crimson uniform, and even then fingers were crossed all the time against possible injuries.
Something has happened in 1946 to change that. The injuries are still there; but for a change, the players are, too. Backfield prospects aren't exactly cluttering up Soldiers Field these afternoons but you see them without straining your eyes. Working from a T means that every back has to be a potential threat, and that is exactly the way it is going to be this fall--as it looks from here.
When pre-season practice started, it looked as though six-foot Ralph "Pete" Petrillo was going to be the squad's climax runner, operating from the tailback spot. But the sick list started out with Pete on top, and Coach Harlow, always afraid of ruining his players for good by playing them too often, has kept him out of all contact work so far to protect his bruised back--making him a very doubtful starter for this Saturday or even next.
With Petrillo sidelined, Harlow has moved former end George Boston into the tailback spot. Boston, who his letter at the wing position on the Freshman team in 1942, was switched into the backfield as practice started this fall. He started in the quarterback slot, but with the continued absence of Petrillo has ended up an probable starter at tailback, Behind him are Bill Jackson 1945 letterman at quarterback, and Jim Noonan, onetime Brookline High triple-threat, so that even with Petrillo out of action the position is moderately deep in reserves.
Miklos has moved into the all-important quarterback post with assurance--and with ability. Besides handing the ball in the straight T. Which Harlow is using this year, Frank runs and passes when the occasion arises. He played for Fordham for a year back in 1943. Behind him are Tommy Tennant, another letterman from last fall, pre-war candidate Bill Henry, and Henry Goethals.
One of the toughest fights on the squad has developed over the wingback slot. Early-bird prognosticators picked 1943 captain-elect Cleo O'Donnell for the job, which he ran from in 1942 before he want into the Marines, but it doesn't look as though Cleo is going to get the starting nod from Harlow. Until a week ago it looked like a battle royal between O'Donnell and newcomer Tommy Gannon, who had never played college football before--with Gannon holding a slight edge. Then Leo Flynn muddied the situation even further by blazing a flashy trail across the practice fields for several days running.
As is stands now it will be either Gannon or Flynn, with Cleo playing plenty during the game but not starting. In either case Harlow will have a strong man at the position. Gannon is a southpaw passer, and Flynn, who won his freshman letter in '42, starred last year until just before the Yale game, when an injury put him out of action.
At fullback powerful Vince Moravec has gotten the nod over last year's regular, Bobby Cowen . . . Moravec played in 1945 for the New London Sub Base eleven, showed his stuff too well in the Stadium for the Crimson comfort as the visitor's triumphed 18-7. Moravec is six feet, three inches tall and weighs a cool 200 pounds in his stocking feet. Cowen, who was elected honorary captain of last year's gridmen at the end of the season, is just on his way back from that omni-present sick list.
When you turn to the line in this 1946 eleven, you don't get quite the same assurance that you do from that well-padded backfield. There are hard-hitting operators here and there, but towards the ends the situation becomes a little confused. In any case, the center of the line--from guard to guard--is set--as one of the toughest, hottest little centers of any line Harlow has ever coached. And that includes Peabody--Page--Pfister.
It starts at right guard with rocky Emil Drvaric. Dvaric is one of those linemen that gives you migraine headaches when he's on the other team. In the scrimmage against B. U. last week, Emil spent an alarming amount of time in the Terrier's backfield. He ended up with a sprained ankle, from which he is expected to recover before Saturday's opener, although he was on crutches last week. Drvaric was an all-scholastic guard for two years running out in Milwaukee; his only collegiate competition was on the freshman team at Wisconsin for a year.
At the center slot Charlie Glynn, six-foot ex-Air Corpsman, is holding a slight edge over Jack Fisher of the ubiquitious Fisher brothers. Both of them have looked good in the early drills, and both will see action in the Connecticut contest--and all others. Left guard is being held down by Nick Rodis, another six-footer. Rodis hails from Nashua, New Hampshire, where he shone in three sports, and he comes to Cambridge with three years of football on service teams behind him. Backing up the leaders in that center of the line are a host of capable replacements, including Coach Al McCoy's son Don at center, and Bob Drennan, Jim Feinberg, Charlie Gudaitis, and Sid Smith at the guards.
It was the loss of big Chester Pierce that threw the tackle situation into high gear at the start of practice. Chester ran into a recurrence of his 1945 leg injury that will keep him on the bench for at least half the season; Harlow lost his other would-be starter, Howie Houston, for least two weeks with another leg injury. In an effort to boister the tackle positions, Harlow has moved in a variety of other linemen to fill the gap, with former guards Eddle Davis and Ned Dewey looming as starters. Both Davis and Dewey are experienced linemen, with the former a regular on the '44 eleven and Dewey a 1945 player. Behind these 200-plus-pounders Harlow has another ex-quard, Mal Allen, and heavyweight Ken Middendorf. As if his other trouble weren't enough, Harlow lost last year's starter John Coan from the tackle squad to the Army.
It the tackles are up in the air...the ends are out of this world. Harlow was served with a crippling blow on Friday when one of the two men he had picked as starters made a decision to quit the game in favor of academic efforts. 1942 letterman Pete Garland decided to concentrate on his chosen field of architecture, leaving the team in a procarious position.
Wally Flynn, 1942 Varsity letter-winner as a Freshman, will hold down one of the wings, with newcomer Johnny Florentino at the other wing. Flynn is one of the smoothest operators on the field, and in particular he helps to continue what has the making of a Harvard football: a kicking end. Wally's boots are one of the joys of practice--and the look to be one of Harvard's gametime joys as well. Florentine has never played any college football, but he was an all-scholastic center at Boston College in 1943 and was on the high-scoring 84th Division team as an Army man in Europe last fall.
Once you get back of those two, you're in a woodpile. After Garland's departure Friday, Harlow jumped six men into the Varsity locker room and invited them to scramble for jobs. With no results of the scramble available as yet, the outlook still seems muddled. Big Tom Fell, veteran of three years of college and naval football, seems to have the inside track at the moment, but he's not more than a step ahead of 200-pound George Hauptfuhrer, Willard McDaniel, Bob Kennedy (son of Ambassador Joe,) 1942 letterman Len Cummings, and Walt Coulson, 1944 star.