Week ago Harvard football coach John Yovicsin was worrying about whether or not his inexperienced cornerbacks and offensive line could shape up quickly enough to be ready for Ivy League competition.
This week Yovicsin may still be worried, but prospects are considerably brighter at the weak positions. One reason is the long-predicted but only recent switch of sophomore quarterback Ric Zimmerman to cornerback.
Zimmerman, at 6-2 198 pounds, is a hard runner and poised passer, but he was also the top cornerback on last year's freshman team. With Jerry Beasley out for at least half the season with a shoulder injury from the Holy Cross game and Buzz Baker just recovering from a bad knee problem, Harvard was hurting for depth at cornerback.
Bill Cobb and Bob Norton, first-year cornerbacks on the varsity, performed well against Holy Cross and have been developing promisingly, but the Crimson has no one after them. Neither Holy Cross nor Tufts has a strong passing attack, so Harvard's secondary will go into Ivy competition without ever being really tested.
John Shevlin's performance at quarterback against Holy Cross eased the pain of having to switch Zimmerman to the defensive squad. Veteran John McCluskey is still Harvard's number one quarterback, but now Yovicsin knows that he has someone to step in if Mac falters or is injured.
If the cornerback situation stabilizes, Harvard's defense should be the equal of any in the league. Linebackers Bob Barrett and Jim Driscoll, both outstanding against Holy Cross are clearly among the league's best. Safeties Dave Poe and John Dockery, middle guard Dick Berdik, and ends Ken Boyda and Justin Hughes, all strong experienced players, performed outstandingly last Saturday. Hughes, injured fairly early in the game, should be back within a week.
A mild surprise has been Skip Sviokia, who accompanies Dave Davis at the tackle spots. Sviokia, a converted fullback, put on a fine show against Holy Cross, recovering a fumble and making several key tackles.
The biggest surprises, however, have been in the offensive line. During the final period against Holy Cross, Harvard drove for two touchdowns in 18 plays without a single pass or yard lost. Such a feat requires solid blocking on the line, as well as nifty running from Bobby Leo and efficient blocking from Tom Choquette and Wally Grant.
The right side of Harvard's line opened up holes for Leo and Choquette right over Holy Cross tackle Joe Lilly, a top defensive player in the East. Guard Roger Noback, tackle Steve Diamond, and end Dan Calderwood did the job.
Diamond, a doubtful starter because of a shoulder injury, played the whole way for the offense except for the last three plays, as did the rest of the line. Noback looked All-Ivy.
If the center and left side of the offensive line can continue to develop, a big weakness may turn into a plus factor for the Crimson, especially now that Harvard is limited to a running game.