WHEN the search for a new Harvard football coach began in earnest last Fall, one member of the selection committee paused to consider the candidates before the committee and dead-panned, "I can tell you one thing, we're going to break the John Yovicsin mold."
What he referred to was not so much the type of man being sought for the position Yovicsin vacated in November after 14 years at Harvard; the desired change more concerned the type of football mind, the type of football strategist who would succeed Yovicsin.
If indeed the aim of the selection committee was to get away from the conservative, almost static, meticulously controlled game of football Yovicsin developed during his tenure here, its efforts can be safely prejudged as successful.
Joe Restic, 40, head coach of the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League until last January 5, is a daring strategist who plays wide open offense and makes calculated gambles on defense, a coach who depends on confusing his opponents both to score points and to control the ball. He is also Harvard's new head football coach.
In appearance, Joe Restic is very much akin to Yovicsin. He is tall and lean, his black hair is close-cropped and carefully placed. One veteran player-who found the Yovicsin style repugnant-shuddered when he first met Restic, viewed his conservative dress and eyed his thin tie settled on a white shirt.
It didn't take him long to discern important differences in the low-key, but joyfully enthusiastic Restic manner;-it is impossible to talk to Joe Restic without being infected by the sheer force of his football imagination.
This imagination, coupled with a willingness to try just about anything, is Restic's forte. One of his former bosses, Alva Kelly at Brown, even went so far as to tell Harvard officials that Restic "has the best football mind in North America."
Be that as it may, Restic realizes the necessity of tempering daring with equal doses of moderation and caution. His cautiousness is founded primarily in planning: like Yovicsin, and perhaps even more so because of his professional background, Restic charts and evaluates every aspect of his personnel. This way, each gamble he takes is calculated well in advance.
TILL, Restic vows that once the game begins, it will be the quarter back on offense and a single man on defense who will call the shots. This, he says, extends to a multitude of variations of the basic sets he will install when the team arrives for fall practice in August.
The end result will startle more than a few opponents next season. Restic sets up his offense in the tight "T," the spread, the single wing, and the "I"; he splits both ends, uses double slots, and there are times when the fullback is the only man in the backfield. Yes, the quarterback goes in motion too.
This plethora of formations works off of relatively orthodox blocking patterns, though, and indeed, the entire offense is mapped out on 56 pages, not an unusually long playbook by college standards.
On defense, Restic uses both odd and even man fronts, and he' rolls his defense to adjust to pre-determined weak spots. "We know in advance where the weak spot is on any given defensive formation," Restic said last week. "So when the other team begins to go to that spot, we can adjust immediately and they have to begin probing for the new weak point.
"You see, our success will depend on making it impossible for the opposition to know what we are going to do from week to week, and even from one series to the next. Both on offense and defense, our game is styled to confuse the other defense or the other quarterback; that way we have the advantage because we hopefully will know what we are doing."
Restic maintains that his system is simple at its core. but he gleefully admits that each basic formation, both on offense and defense, has five or six variations. This necessarily makes for complication.
One of Restic's first tasks is to find the one man on defense and the quarterback on offense who can "assimilate" the system. The quarterback has to be the man calling the signals in Restic's view, but the man on defense, even perhaps a down lineman, who best understands the defensive strategy will call the defensive sets.
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