Wednesday, May 21, 2014

1961 Buffalo Bills Outlook

"The fight to finish behind Houston in the East is expected to be a close-to-the wire thing. Buffalo's Bills are good-field no-hit; the Titans of New York are good-hit no-field and the Boston Patriots are a little of this and that, needing size, speed and a complete collapse by the other three clubs in their division to escape a cellar berth.
Too much defense and a promising group of yearlings suggest that the Bills have the best shot at the runner-up slot. Coach Buster Ramsey's group had the best defensive figures in last year's AFL taffy pull and there's no reason to doubt that this stubbornness will continue. The need, however, is for a tip-top quarterback and an offensive line that will create some daylight.
Johnny Green, Richie Lucas and Northwestern's John Talley, a rookie, are the scramblers for quarterback, each with specific recommendations, particularly Talley, who can throw as deep as anyone now on the pro rolls. Halfback and fullback candidates are plentiful and powerful, particularly Syracuse's Art Baker and Fred Brown of Georgia. Both should give a bit more foot to a sluggish running attack. They will battle holdovers Wray Carlton and William Fowler, and Ramsey may be placed in the happy position of alternating pairs of runners. There's no question of the flanker-back position; it belongs to Elbert Dubenion.
The pass-catching ends come in size, speed and ability, and the development of a bull's-eye thrower will determine the offensive success of the Bills. In addition to Dubenion, other top-rate receivers are ends Tom Rychlec, Monte Crockett, Dan Chamberlain and Al Hoisington. First-year challengers are Wake Forest's Bob Allen, Tommy Causey of Louisiana Tech and Villanova's Tony Varrecchione.
Up front is where the Bills took a beating in '60, and it is where they must produce the juice that makes for a respectable attack. Rookies to get some careful priming for offensive line jobs are tackles Ken Rice, Auburn, and Stu Barber, Penn State. At center may be Al Bemiller of Syracuse. Bill Shaw of Georgia Tech and Barber will be tested at guard.
There's little wrong with the defense, from line to deep safetymen, and a freshman will have a difficult time getting his name in the starting lineup. Most likely to catch on, however, are tackle Harry Rakowski, The Citadel; halfbacks Billy Majors, Tennessee, and Ken Webb, Houston; and linebackers Jerry Frye, South Carolina, and Lou Reale, U. of Buffalo.
Those rib-rocking defensive ends, LaVerne Torczon and Mack Yoho, middle linebacker Archie Matsos and halfbacks Billy Atkins, Jim Wagstaff, Richie McCabe and Jack Johnson are seven rather obvious reasons why a defensive rookie candidate will find himself steeped in worry and overtime. The Bills are bold and obstinate defensively, an overwhelming reason for selecting them to finish no worse than second."

-1961 Pro Football Handbook


OFFENSE
"Ends: Tom Rychlec, an old Lion, is the steadiest of the bunch as the tight end. Monte Crockett is coming on to challenge Dan Chamberlain for the spread-end position.
Rating: Good
Tackles: This could be the most improved spot on the team if those rookie tackles like Shaw and Barber pan out. Harold Olson will be with the club from the start and he'll help.
Rating: Fair
Guards: Don Chelf and Phil Blazer are incumbents but face a stiff fight to hold off new talent, which includes the rookie tackles. More speed is badly needed to do the job.
Rating: Fair
Centers: Dan McGrew is experienced but don't be surprised if Al Bemiller beats him.
Rating: Fair
Quarterbacks: The big question mark. Buffalo still predicts greatness for Richie Lucas.
Rating: Poor
Halfbacks: Wilmer Fowler has the inside track, but Fred Brown will probably alternate.
Rating: Fair
Flankers: Elbert Dubenion could prove one of the truly exciting players.
Rating: Very Good
Fullbacks: Wray Carlton gets plenty of support from the hard-blocking, plunging Art Baker.
Rating: Good
Strength: The running has perked up with the addition of Brown and Baker to spell Carlton and Fowler. Dubenion is always a breakaway threat. Weakness: The Bills put too much reliance on rookies to bolster the interior line blocking. And the quarterbacks have to prove themselves.
Rating: Fair"

-Murray Olderman, All-Pro 1961 Football

DEFENSE
"Ends: LaVerne Torczon was All-Pro and the leader of the line, with Mack Yoho running him a close second. They can do it all by themselves, but Harry Rakowski will help."
Rating: Very Good
Tackles: If Gene Grabosky's knee is okay after surgery, that's some pile of beef the enemy must buck when he's paired with Chuck McMurtry. And Jim Sorey's just as big.
Rating: Very Good
Linebackers: Archie Matsos was the class of the league's linebackers last season, an inspirational performer. The Bills plan to try out some kids at the corners, which means that Jack Laraway (his shoulder mended) and Joe Schaffer will have to step lively.
Rating: Good
Halfbacks: Richie McCabe and Billy Kinard are pro-tested vets who make few mistakes and have the spryness to keep up with fast ends. A swing man would help here.
Rating: Good
Safeties: Billy Atkins' retirement would hurt if prize prospect Billy Majors hadn't happened along. Jim Wagstaff at the other safety is going to be one of the best.
Rating: Good
Strength: The forward wall is stingy against the run. Matsos is all anyone could ask for in a middle linebacker, and the secondary is airtight against passes. Weakness: Coach Buster Ramsey hopes to shore up the corner linebackers and wants another top defensive back.
Rating: Very Good"

-Murray Olderman, All-Pro 1961 Football

"If the Bills find their quarterback in Richie Lucas or Johnny Green, they'll make a pack of trouble. As expected, Buster Ramsey organized a fine defense in '60 but didn't do so well with the offense. He's on the spot and the Bills think he's learned his lesson.
The front office did the best job of collaring talent where it was needed- Art Baker of Syracuse to help Wray Carlton at fullback, and three superb tackle prospects (Ken Rice, Billy Shaw, Stew Barber) to strengthen the line. Elbert Dubenion should be an exciting receiver; Arch Matsos is the class of the linebackers."

-Murray Olderman, Sports All-Stars 1961 Pro Football

"It was no surprise that Buster Ramsey had a strong defense in the opening AFL campaign, but the big question is still: 'Can his offense move the ball?' The popular theory that defense wins pro football championships was given a severe jolt in the seat of the pants last season in upstate New York.
Buster Ramsey, just as everyone suspected, fielded a crack defensive outfit at Buffalo in the first year of the American Football League. Ramsey had an impressive defensive background himself, eight years as a highly respected defensive coach with the Detroit Lions in the senior loop.
The Buffalo Bills were considerably out in front of the other seven teams in defense. For example, they allowed the opposition a passing average of only 75 yards per game, some 30 steps lower than the next ranking team. The Bills' opponents averaged fewer than 100 yards rushing; the Buffalo secondary picked off 33 enemy passes. This was an excellent showing in any league and made beautiful reading in AFL statistics at the season's end.
But there was something else that read rather ominously to Buffalo researchers- the club's 5-8-1 record in league play and its third-place finish in the Eastern Division. Ramsey's bunch just couldn't move the ball. They trailed everyone in pass offense and total offense and rated just a fraction ahead of last-place Denver in rushing.
So Ramsey has got to juice up that offense in '61. First, of course, he must find a real operator for quarterback. That was a trouble spot all last season. The Bills tried three guys there, but none of them panned out. Tommy O'Connell, the most experienced, tried to make a comeback from the college coaching ranks (as did Cotton Davidson in Dallas). It was rather unsuccessful, and now the former Illinois quarterback has returned to coaching, this time on the Buffalo staff. Johnny Green, a Chattanooga product who saw a little action with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Toronto Argonauts, succeeded O'Connell in mid-season and had his hot-and-cold moments.
Richie Lucas, the former Penn State All-American, finished up the season. Richie was bothered by injuries during the first part of the year, so he hasn't had a real good shot at the job. He'll get it this year, along with the strong-armed Green and a touted rookie passer, John Talley, who had a brief tryout with the Dallas Cowboys in the summer of 1960.
The Buffalo quarterbacks certainly weren't entirely to blame for the situation; most of the time large and ferocious linemen from the opposing squad were climbing aboard their protesting frames, ripping off arms and legs. Therefore, most of the fault was placed on the offensive line.
'The speed and the experience just wasn't there,' said Ramsey. 'We didn't block for our runners and we didn't offer our passers protection. We have got to improve in that department if we're going to be a contender in 1961.'
With the problem thus pinpointed, the Bills went about building up the levee. General manager Dick Gallagher signed six of the club's first seven draft choices. And four of them were big, healthy college linemen with garish reputations.
Ken Rice, for example, everybody's All-American from Auburn, is a tremendous prospect at 250 pounds- and he's still growing. Then there are Bill Shaw, a 240-pounder from Georgia Tech; Al Bemiller, a king-size center from Syracuse; and Stewart Barber, 235, a whopper from Penn State.
The Bills weren't exactly deficient in runners, but they lacked teammates who could knock enemies out of the way. Fullback Wray Carlton, the Duke product, was the workhorse, along with speed merchant Wilmer Fowler. Thanks to the draft department, they will have aid this season. Art Baker, a Syracuse powerhouse, has been added to the fullback stall, and Fred Brown, a star Georgia halfback, will join Fowler's circle.
The most exciting prospect on the roster is flankerback Elbert Dubenion, already carrying the future tag of 'superstar.' Dubenion scored six touchdowns on runs of 40 yards or more last year and snagged 42 passes to earn Ramsey's description of having 'the potential to be one of football's all-time greats.' The Buffalo publicity department calls Dubenion 'the fastest man in pro football.'
Other proven receivers are Tom Rychlec, a gluey individual who ranked ninth among the league's receivers last year despite Buffalo's poor record; spread-end Monte Crockett; and Dan Chamberlain.
So, there you have Buffalo's two most acute weaknesses, offensive linemen and quarterback, and the candidates for the cure.
To turn to brighter things, take a look at these Alps who fill up the middle of the Bills' defensive line. Chuck McMurtry goes a mere 310 pounds when he can find a pair of scales equal to the task. Jim Sorey, in his third year of pro ball, weighs in at 270 and is called 'Bull' for obvious reasons.
As if that weren't a vulgar display of beef, remember there's a heralded gent from Syracuse, 275-pound Gene Grabosky, who is ship shape again after a knee operation in January.
The front line of defense is captained by All-AFL end LaVerne Torczon, the 235-pound Nebraska roughhouser, and balanced by Mack Yoho, a 240-pounder who also got votes on the all-league team.
Archie Matsos was an All-AFL linebacker and Richie McCabe received similar honors at defensive halfback. Ramsey, a hard man to please in this area, would like to find another linebacker and defensive back among the draftees. The top halfback prospect would seem to be Billy Majors, member of the illustrious Tennessee football clan, who may fill in for the retired Bill Atkins.
Buffalo is being picked by most AFL observers to contend with Houston for the Eastern Division title. But to do that, defensive specialist Ramsey must come up with a considerable tougher offense. The 1960 Bills proved defense can't do it all."

-Murray Olderman, All-Pro 1961 Football

BUFFALO ROOKIES
"The Bills corralled Fred Brown, a speedster from Georgia. Brown, a nephew of former Alabama great Johnny Jack Brown, fills Buffalo's need for a breakaway threat and auxiliary receiver. Fullback Art Baker of Syracuse is a powerful runner, a fierce tackler as a linebacker and a strong, solid blocker. The Bills outbid the Eagles for him, and he'll play plenty.
Defense was also a prime consideration- Buffalo has Billy Majors of the Tennessee Majors clan (all three brothers played varsity ball and Johnny was All-America)."

-Murray Olderman, Sports All-Stars 1961 Pro Football


"If there is a dark horse choice for the AFL championship this year, it has to be the Bills. Slowly but surely, coach Buster Ramsey is putting together the sort of team that could tear the league apart if a few more cogs and wheels get fitted into the right places.
A year ago Buffalo was only able to sign one outstanding rookie, tackle Harold Olson of Clemson. Ramsey had to rely on free agents and NFL castoffs, and the Bills had a rough time getting started. They lost eight of their first ten exhibition and official games. Ramsey concentrated on his defense and gambled that the offense would come around. It didn't quite work out that way but the Bills managed to win five games and tie another.
Buffalo placed three men on the all-league team, and all were defensive specialists: end LaVerne Torczon; linebacker Archie Matsos; and halfback Richie McCabe. A pair of huge tackles, 280-pound Jim Sorey and 290-pound Chuck McMurtry, anchored one of the best lines in the AFL.
With 12 of his first 18 picks signed up this season- the best record of any team in the league- Ramsey thinks he has the material to fill in the few remaining gaps. The defense is still being emphasized and the Bills signed up three fine tackles in Ken Rice of Auburn, Bill Shaw of Georgia and Stew Barber of Penn State, along with center Al Bemiller of Syracuse.
'If those four boys come through for us,' says Ramsey, 'we can be awfully tough.'
The backfield isn't being ignored, either. The Buffalo quarterbacking was the poorest in the league last season until former Penn State All-American Richie Lucas took over from Tommy O'Connell and Johnny Green in the final game. Ramsey liked what he saw so much that Lucas is getting first crack at the job this year. With O'Connell now a Bills assistant coach, Richie must beat out the long-throwing Green and newcomer John Talley of Northwestern.
Talley could be a sleeper. He reported to the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL last year but left quickly when he learned that the team had three other quarterbacks with no-cut contracts. One of the Cowboy coaches admits privately that Talley could have won a job otherwise.
Billy Majors of Tennessee, one of the better defensive backs in the country a year ago, should lend youth to a department where Buffalo was good but lacked depth. But Ramsey's big effort will be to bring his offense up to the level of his defense, and that may take some doing.
Elbert Dubenion, a 197-pound sprinter who plays flanker halfback, is a great running and pass-catching threat in the Buffalo backfield, which is otherwise undistinguished. Wilmer Fowler and rookie Fred Brown of Georgia will push Joe Kulbacki for the other halfback job, while fullback Wray Carlton could lose his job to 220-pound Art Baker of Syracuse.
With all those linemen around, it wouldn't take much of an offense to win games for the Bills. Even Ramsey admits that he would be content with average but consistent quarterbacking.
When a coach says that, you know he's got to have quite a team. And the Buffalo Bills like quite a team this year."

-Pro Football Stars, 1961 Edition


1961 BUFFALO BILLS PRESEASON DEPTH CHARTS
OFFENSE
Ends
Dan Chamberlain (Sacramento State)
Monte Crockett (New Mexico Highlands)
Tom Rychlec (American International)
Al Hoisington (Pasadena JC)

Tackles
Harold Olson (Clemson)
Billy Shaw (Georgia Tech)
Jack Scott (Ohio State)
Stew Barber (Penn State)

Guards
Phil Blazer (North Carolina)
Don Chelf (Iowa)
Chuck Muelhaupt (Iowa State)
Jake Bodkin (South Carolina)

Centers
Dan McGrew (Purdue)
Al Bemiller (Syracuse)

Quarterbacks
Richie Lucas (Penn State)
Johnny Green (Tennessee-Chattanooga)

Halfbacks
Joe Kublacki (Purdue)
Wilmer Fowler (Northwestern)

Flankers
Elbert Dubenion (Bluffton)
Fred Brown (Georgia)

Fullbacks
Wray Carlton (Duke)
Art Baker (Syracuse)

DEFENSE
Ends
Mack Yoho (Miami-Ohio)
LaVerne Torczon (Nebraska)
Harry Rakowski (Citadel)
Floyd Powers (Mississippi State)

Tackles
Chuck McMurtry (Whittier)
Jim Sorey (Texas Southern)
Gene Grabosky (Syracuse)
Ken Rice (Auburn)

Linebackers
Archie Matsos (Michigan State)
Lou Reale (Buffalo)
Jack Laraway (Purdue)
Joe Hergert (Florida)
Joe Schaffer (Tennessee)
Bernie Buzyniski (Holy Cross)

Halfbacks
Richie McCabe (Pittsburgh)
Billy Kinard (Mississippi)
Joe Griffith (Miami-Ohio)
Max Webb (Rice)

Safeties
Jim Wagstaff (Idaho State)
Jack Johnson (Miami)
Billy Majors (Tennessee)
John Moore (Miami-Ohio)

-Murray Olderman, All-Pro 1961 Football

OFFENSE
QB- Richie Lucas (Penn State) 11, Johnny Green (Tennessee-Chattanooga) 18, John Talley (Northwestern)*
HB- Wilmer Fowler (Northwestern) 23, Fred Brown (Georgia)*, Joe Kublacki (Purdue) 43
FB- Wray Carlton (Duke) 30, Art Baker (Syracuse)*, Carl Smith (Tennessee) 35
SE- Glenn Bass (East Carolina) 88, Dan Chamberlain (Sacramento State) 85, Tom Causey (Louisiana Tech)*
T- Harold Olson (Clemson) 74, Ken Rice (Auburn)*, Jack Scott (Ohio State) 76
G- Billy Shaw (Georgia Tech)*, Phil Blazer (North Carolina) 60, Jake Bodkin (South Carolina)*
C- Dan McGrew (Purdue) 52, Al Bemiller (Syracuse)*
G- Chuck Muelhaupt (Iowa State) 70, Wayne Wolff (Wake Forest)*
T- Stew Barber (Penn State)*, Don Chelf (Iowa) 77
TE- Tom Rychlec (American International) 81, Monte Crockett (New Mexico Highlands) 80, Jerry Frye (South Carolina)*
FL- Elbert Dubenion (Bluffton) 44

DEFENSE
DE- Mack Yoho (Miami-Ohio) 71, Harry Rakowski (Citadel) 86
DT- Chuck McMurtry (Whittier) 73, Jack Scott (Ohio State) 76
DT- Jim Sorey (Texas Southern) 79, Gene Grabosky (Syracuse) 78
DE- LaVerne Torczon (Nebraska) 87, Floyd Powers (Mississippi State)*
LB- Ralph Felton (Maryland) 57, Joe Hergert (Florida) 54
MLB- Archie Matsos (Michigan State) 56, Bernie Buzyniski (Holy Cross) 55
LB- Joe Schaffer (Tennessee) 67, Lou Reale (Buffalo) 53
CB- Richie McCabe (Pittsburgh) 45, John Moore (Miami-Ohio) 32
S- Jim Wagstaff (Idaho State) 22, Joe Griffith (Miami-Ohio) 41
S- Billy Atkins (Auburn) 20, Billy Majors (Tennessee)*
CB- Billy Kinard (Mississippi) 24, Jack Johnson (Miami) 42

SPECIALISTS
K- Billy Atkins (Auburn) 20
P- Billy Atkins (Auburn) 20
KR- Elbert Dubenion (Bluffton) 44
PR- Glenn Bass (East Carolina) 88

* rookie


1961 Buffalo Bills Profile Summary
Head Coach - Buster Ramsey

QB - Richie Lucas (Penn State) 11
QB - Johnny Green (Tennessee-Chattanooga) 18
HB - Dewey Bohling (Hardin-Simmons) 26
HB - Joe Kublacki (Purdue) 43
HB - Bill Shockley (West Chester) 29
FB - Wray Carlton (Duke) 30
FB - Art Baker (Syracuse) 33
FL - Elbert Dubenion (Bluffton) 44
SE - Perry Richards (Detroit) 84
TE - Tom Rychlec (American International) 81
C - Dan McGrew (Purdue) 52
G - Phil Blazer (North Carolina) 60
T - Ken Rice (Auburn) 75

DT - Chuck McMurtry (Whittier) 73
DT - Gene Grabosky (Syracuse) 78
DE - Mack Yoho (Miami-Ohio) 71
DE - LaVerne Torczon (Nebraska) 87
MLB - Archie Matsos (Michigan State) 56
LB - Ralph Felton (Maryland) 57
CB - Richie McCabe (Pittsburgh) 45
S - Jim Wagstaff (Idaho State) 22
S - Billy Atkins (Auburn) 20
S - Billy Majors (Tennessee) 25

K- Billy Atkins (Auburn) 20
K - Bill Shockley (West Chester) 29
P- Billy Atkins (Auburn) 20

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