The Super Sophomores vs the Worster Bunch

The similarities of the 1960’s Ohio State Buckeyes and Woody Hayes with the Texas Longhorns and Darrell Royal were uncanny.

Oh, Royal never punched anybody like Hayes did, but neither of them particularly enjoyed throwing the football. Both have been credited with the saying ‘3 things can happen when you pass and 2 of

them are bad’. Both, had been also known to have loved ‘3 yards and a cloud of dust’.

Woody Hayes and Ohio State won a national title in 1961. Darrell Royal and Texas won the national title in 1963 and they came within a one point loss against Arkansas from winning one in 1964. That was before they went into the Orange Bowl and beat Alabama, Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant and Joe Willie Namath.

But, both programs somewhat tanked after that and Ohio State more so than Texas. The Buckeyes fell to 6-3 in 1962 and 5-3 in 1963. They weren’t bad in 1964 and 1965 with a 7-2 record, but the bottom fell out in 1966 with a 4-5 disaster.

That motivated Woody Hayes to make some changes and it began with recruiting.

Down in Texas the losses weren’t quite so severe or for so long, but try telling that to Longhorn fans.

After finishing 10-1 in 1964, the Horns slipped to 6-4 in 1965. In 1966, the Longhorns struggled along to a 6-4 regular season and then they beat Ole Miss 19-0 in the Bluebonnet Bowl.

Royal was every bit as upset as Texas fans were and recruited harder than ever to produce one of his all time best classes.

This was the same recruiting class, different parts of the country. The similarities had continued.

Woody Hayes called the 1967 Ohio State recruiting class his best class ever. Supposedly, there were 11 high school All Americans in this class. 13 members of this class played significant roles in 1968 for the national champion Buckeyes, and 12 out of the 13 were starters.

Or, Rex Kern, Jack Tatum, Jim Stillwagon, John Brockington, Mike Sensibaugh, Jan White, Bruce Jankowski, Tim Anderson, Larry Zelina, Mike Vladich, Doug Adams, and Mark Debevc were all 3 year starters.

This class, which became known as the Super Sophomores won 22 straight games through all of 1968 into the Michigan game of 1969. Ironically, it was the loss at Michigan that made a storybook season for Texas and made the Texas vs Arkansas game the Game of the Century that it turned out being.

The Buckeyes Big 10 opener in 1968 was against #1 ranked Purdue and the Buckeyes with all of their sophomores upset the Boilermakers 13-0.

In 1969, the Buckeyes were hyped like the USC team of 2005. They were called the Greatest of all time, and nobody could touch them. They were 17 point favorites over Michigan, but were upset, 24-12.

They could not have gone to the Rose Bowl again after the 1969 season because of the Big 10’s super strange ‘no repeat’ rule. The Pac 8, while not allowing second place teams to go to bowl games did not have the same no repeat rule in place as the Big 10 did.

Assistant coach Larry Catuzzi was their ace recruiter in 1967 and helped bring in a lot of the Super Sophomores. But, Woody Hayes went in and finished up the deal.

The Super Sophomores went 27-2 over 3 seasons and 1 national championship. Both of those losses were considered huge upsets.

Rex Kern– Kern was considered the leader of the so called Super Sophomores because he was a

quarterback. But, he was a tremendous athlete. He was recruited by UCLA and North Carolina as well as home state Ohio State for basketball. UCLA had John Wooden as coach back then and they won 10 out of 12 national championships. To be recruited by an icon such as Wooden, said a lot about the physical talents and athletic ability of Kern.

He was drafted by the Major League’s Kansas City Athletics, so he could have played possibly any sport. He chose to play college football at Ohio State and for Woody Hayes. Younger people don’t realize just how great those UCLA teams were under John Wooden but they were the best dynasty of all time in college basketball. Anybody that played 3 sports and was recruited by Wooden for his basketball program was elite. He committed to Ohio State to play football and basketball at halftime of the Ohio State  – Illinois basketball game. I don’t know Kern and was a kid when Kern was at Ohio State, but he is not listed in the all time Letterman’s list for the Buckeyes basketball, so I assume that Woody didn’t allow him to play both, after all.

Jack Tatum – Tatum was recruited as a Running Back but was moved to Safety. He was an outstanding sprinter in track in Passaic, New Jersey.

At Ohio State, he was a consensus All American in 1969 and 1970 and placed in the Heisman race.

Tatum was great at Oakland in the NFL as well.

John Brockington was from Brooklyn, New York. He was in the same backfield with Jim Otis in 1968 and 1969 before taking over at Fullback in 1970. After running for 187 yards as a sophomore and then 334 yards as a junior, he exploded with 1,142 rushing yards as a senior. Brockington was taken by the Green Bay Packers with the 9th pick of the NFL Draft. Brockington ran for over 1,000 yards his first 3 seasons before tapering off.

Jim Stillwagon was from nearby Mount Vernon, Ohio. He was determined to go elsewhere to play college football, but Woody lured him in. Stillwagon was a quick undersized guy at 6-0, 240 but much like Rich Glover of Nebraska, he just had that motor that never stopped running. He was a  consensus All American in 1969 and 1970. In 1970, he won the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award which was the first time this award was handed out.

He was drafted by the NFL, but went to the Canadian Football League and played a few years and was a 3 time all star.

Mike Sensibaugh, from Lackland, Ohio was a tremendous athlete that still holds the Ohio State Interception record with 22. Sensibaugh played 8 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and the St

Louis Cardinals. He came to Ohio State as a Running Back, or a Quarterback but moved to defense. Was also the team’s punter.

Larry Zelina was an extremely heralded recruit out of Cleveland St Benedictine where he scored 20 Touchdowns as a junior and he had 26 Touchdowns in 8 games as a senior. Zelina was a Parade All American. He played Wingback at Ohio State and ran for 603 yards and 2 Touchdowns while catching 46 passes another 810 yards and 2 more Touchdowns. Zelina passed away in 2005.

Dick Kuhn came to Ohio State from Louisville, Kentucky. He was a back up Tight End to Jan White as a sophomore and moved to Left Guard where he started in the 1970 season.

Jan White was from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There was not much recruiting info floating around out there back then, but White was supposedly going to Penn State until Woody Hayes won the family over. White was a 3 year starter at Tight End for the Buckeyes. White was not a huge guy and at 6-2, 215-220 he would have to find another position today. White played for Woody Hayes who was just not a huge fan of the forward pass.  In spite of that, Jan White caught 61 total passes in 3 seasons for 8 Touchdowns. Taken in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills, he played there 2 seasons and caught 25 total passes and scored 2 Touchdowns.

Joe Sinkowski – Brooklyn Matt Snell’s old high school. might have been the best player in this class but got hit on the head with a liquor bottle and he had health issues after that. He never played a down for the Buckeyes.

Bruce Jankowski was yet another tailback in this class from Fairlawn, New Jersey. Like so many others in this class, he was a great athlete, therefore he was a 3rd round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies. A multi sport star, his high school basketball coach was Hubie Brown of NBA fame. He scored 26 Touchdowns as a senior in high school and he wanted to go to a school that ran the ball. But, when he got to Columbus they made a Wide Receiver out of him where he was a 3 year starter.

Tim Anderson grew up on a ranch in Follansbee, West Virginia. As a senior, he had more than a

hundred scholarship offers. But, he was mixed race and when Southern schools found that out, many of them backed off. The recruiters had been right and he started 3 season for the Buckeyes at Cornerback.

Doug Adams was a Linebacker from Xenia, Ohio. He wanted to be a dentist when he graduated, but he started 3 years at Linebacker for the Buckeyes.

Leo Hayden was a native of Dayton, Ohio and attended Roosevelt high school. Hayden was the state of Ohio’s player of the year and a Parade All American. He started at Running Back for 3 seasons for the Buckeyes.

Dave Cheney was an All Ohio lineman from Lima, Ohio. He was a starter at Left Tackle for 2 seasons after Dave Foley graduated.

Jim Oppermann, Phil Strickland, Jack Marsh and Jim Coburn were also in this class but didn’t play much.

Mark Debevec was from Geneva, Ohio and he started for 2 seasons at Defensive End.

Ron Maciejowski was from Bedford, Ohio and a highly recruited QB. His grandparents got off the boat from Poland and Croatia. Like so many others on this list, he was another good basketball player. He was a 6-2 guard in basketball and was mostly a back up to Rex Kern at Ohio State, but he played a great deal.

5 players from this recruiting class were taken in the 1st round in the 1971 NFL Draft. Rex Kern, Mike Sensibaugh, Doug Adams, and Ron Maciejowski  were picked later and 13 total. This was the largest class of black kids in Ohio State history up to that time with 9. That was kind of a big deal back in the 1960s.

Signing day was May 17 and there was nothing formal back then. no press conferences, no media services, no rankings.

Down in the South, the Texas Longhorns had their own spectacular recruiting class in 1967. They became known as the Worster Bunch.

The Worster Bunch went 30 – 2 – 1 won 30 straight games and either 1 national championship and another if you count the one that was awarded at the end of the season instead of bowl game.

 

The highest rated and the guy always considered the leader of this class was Steve Worster of Bridge City, Texas. Worster was a phenom in high school rushing for a record 100 yards in 38 games. He had 2,200 rushing yards as a senior in 1966 in leading Bridge City to the 3A state championship. He was

recruited by practically everybody but chose to attend Texas.

Cotton Speyrer was a burner at Wide Receiver from Port Arthur, Texas. Speyrer missed part of his senior season with a dislocated shoulder, but returned in time for the district games. He was still chosen as an All State player in 1966. Spreyrer was a 3 year starter at Wide Receiver at Texas and he was a big star in the 1969 Cotton Bowl against Tennessee and again in 1970 against Notre Dame. He had good speed and great hands, but he never put on much weight and he became somewhat injury prone in the NFL. But, he did have some great NFL plays including a 101 yard Kickoff return for a Touchdown and another Touchdown on a pass he threw to Glenn Doughty. He played for the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins.

Bobby Wuensch was the starting Offensive Tackle on the right opposite of Bob McKay and Wuensch was a consensus All American in 1970.  He played his high school football in Houston, Texas.

Bill Atessis was a three year starter at Defensive End for the Horns and was also a consensus All American. He was also from Houston, Texas and he played a few years in the NFL, but was injured much of the time.

Eddie Phillips was a Quarterback from Mesquite, Texas. Like Ron Maciejowski of Ohio State, Phillips was a back up for most of his college days. James Street was the starting Quarterback in 1968 and 1969 and he never lost a game as a starter at Texas. Phillips took over the starting role in 1970.

Jim Achilles was the starting Center and he was from Spring Branch High School in Houston, Texas. Achilles was extremely undersized even for those years, but Darrell Royal liked smaller and quicker

players.

Jay Cormier was a Tight End from Freeport, Texas that played at Brazosport High School. Cormier was a guy that came up with some big plays at some big times for the Longhorns.

Billy Dale was a smaller Running Back from Odessa, Texas. Dale scored the winning Touchdown in the Cotton Bowl win over Notre Dame in the 1970 Cotton Bowl. But, he was mostly a back up at Halfback.

Mike Dean was an Offensive Guard from Sherman,Texas. He was also very undersized, but handled Notre Dame All American Mike McCoy pretty well in the Cotton Bowl.

Happy Feller was the star Kicker from Fredericksburg, Texas and was super reliable his entire college career. He was a 4th round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles and was in the NFL for 3 seasons.

Scott Henderson was a Linebacker from Dallas, Texas. He grew up a Notre Dame fan, but they never offered, so he wound up at Texas where he was a big time player for the Horns.

Danny Lester was a Cornerback from Amarillo, Texas and Amarillo Tascosa High School. The Texas Panhandle is not a hotbed for talent, generally, but Lester was pretty highly recruited. His high school team went 31-4-1 in his three seasons on the varsity. He picked off a late pass from Arkansas’ Bill Montgomery to Wide Receiver Chuck Dicus to preserve the win over the Razorbacks in the great shootout of 1969. Lester was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles in his first training camp.

Bobby Mitchell was a hard running All State Fullback from Wheatridge, Colorado and one of only 2 out of state players for the Longhorns in this recruiting class. Mitchell was discouraged as a freshman because he didn’t play on the freshman team at all. As a sophomore, Royal and his coaching staff moved Mitchell to Offensive Guard where he would become a 2 year starter in 1969 and 1970.

Freddie Steinmark the world famous Safety from Wheatridge, Colorado, was the lowest rated recruit in this class. But, he was a starter in 1968 and 1969 before losing his leg and then his life to cancer. I posted a 4 part series on Steinmark starting here: Steinmark

Like his good buddy, Linebacker Scott Henderson, Steinmark grew up a Notre Dame fan but they never gave him the time of day.

Greg Ploetz was a Linebacker out of Sherman, Texas. But, he was converted to Defensive Tackle at

Texas.

Bill Zapalac was a Linebacker out of Austin, Texas and was the son of the Longhorns Offensive Line coach.

Which class was best? The Buckeyes won a national title in 1968 when a good portion of their starters were sophomores. The Longhorns were 9-1-1. They started the season at 0-1-1 before the brand new Wishbone Offense became successful and they won the rest of their games including a very impressive blow out over Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl.

In 1969, the Buckeyes were rolling along at #1 all season until losing to the Michigan Wolverines which opened the door to also undefeated Texas who beat Arkansas and then Notre Dame to win the title.

In 1970, the classes of 1967 were all seniors. Texas was #1 and won 30 straight games before losing to Notre Dame in a rematch. Ohio State was also undefeated and avenged their stunning loss to Michigan in 1969. But, then they were upset by the Stanford Indians in the Rose Bowl with Heisman winner Jim Plunkett at Quarterback.

Ohio State’s Super Sophomores went 27-2 and the Longhorn’s Worster Bunch went 30-2-1.

It’s hard to say which class was best. They were both outstanding and these classes turned their programs around.

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