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WFL 1974 Preview

In 1974, the Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly offered these preview articles on the World Football League and their predictions for the league's first champion.

WFL Champions? A Shaky Vote to the N.Y. Stars

In 1974, the Sporting News published a WFL preview article written by Detroit sports reporter Charlie Vincent.

WFL Eastern Division

New York Stars

Coach Babe Parilli, a former Jet himself, has loaded up with enough of his former teammates to make a legitimate bid for the WFL championship. John Elliott and Gerry Philbin give the Stars a lot of experience in the defensive line. Rookie Gary Danielson from Purdue and former Cleveland and Edmonton quarterback Don Gault give them probably the league's best depth at that position. Another ex-Jet, George Sauer, and former Steeler Al Young are the top wide receivers. Prediction: First in the WFL East and first in the World Bowl.

Jacksonville Sharks

John Stofa, who labored in Bob Griese's shadow for years, has moved up the coast and will quarterback the Sharks. There are veterans like running back Ron Lamb, formerly with Cincinnati, Denver and Atlanta, wide receiver Drew Buie (Oakland and Cincinnati), defensive back Alvin Wyatt (Oakland and Buffalo) and defensive end Ike Lassiter, who played with New England and has nine years of pro experience. Then there are youngsters like rookie linebacker Glen Gaspard from Texas, defensive back Mike Townsend from Notre Dame Dan offensive guard Doug Faust from Alabama. Prediction: Second best in their division, but the only way they'll be in the Gator Bowl for the WFL championship game November 29th is if they pay their way.

Florida Blazers

NFL veterans Larry Ely and Billy Hobbs give the Blazers experience at linebacker and Miller Farr and W.K. Hicks know their way around the defensive backfield. Quarterbacks Bob Davis, wide receiver Gary Collins and running back Jim Strong will supply the offensive punch, but the lack of experience in both lines will hurt. Prediction: A solid third.

Philadelphia Bell

W.C. Fields would have preferred to be most any other place than in Philadelphia, and apparently so would football players. The Bell loaded up with Philadelphia-area collegians. Their biggest "name" player is quarterback Jim (King) Corcoran. Prediction: The Bell will be rung and wrung. Fourth!

WFL Central Division

Birmingham Americans

This is the club that should meet New York in the championship game. Running backs Charley Harraway and Paul Robinson quarterback George Mira and wide receiver Dennis Homan give the Americans probably the most solid offense in the league. Defensively, there are NFL veterans Ross Brupbacher and Larry Willingham leading the way. Prediction: The best of the rest. Then losers of the World Bowl.

Memphis Southmen

If quarterbacking was all it took, the Southmen would have to be taken very seriously. They have veteran John Huarte and Arizona State rookie Danny White battling for the starting job. Lucious Selmon of Oklahoma is the big name in their defense, but the Southmen are a year-and Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield- away from making a solid bid for the title. Prediction: Second in their division and a darkhorse as the wild card entry into the playoffs.

Detroit Wheels

There are few big names: former Jet linebacker Mike Taylor and ex-Chief Warren McVea (who was more than two weeks late reporting to camp) and wide receiver Hubie Bryant are just about it. But they have a large group of Canadian league veterans who have experience, though they are unknown south of the border. Tops among them are quarterback Bubba Wyche, fullback Sam Scarber and defensive end Mike Walker. Prediction: Third.

Chicago Fire

Owner Tom Origer shoveled a lot of cash into his team, but may have to wait a while to see the dividends. The Fire probably will be the least experienced team in the Central Division in spite of seven-year veteran Virgil Carter at quarterback. Only 17 veterans were left on the roster late in June. Prediction: Fourth.

WFL Western Division

Houston Texans

Probably the Texans have more former NFL "names" than any other team... quarterbacks Don Trull and Mike Taliaferro, running backs Paul Gipson, Jim Nance, Sid Blanks, Hoyle Granger, receivers Warren Wells and Willie Frazier. The defensive front four: Jim Kanicki, Joe Robb, John Dotson and Don Brumm have 43 years of experience in the NFL. Prediction: This is really experience and not just age, they'll win the West.

Southern California Sun

The youngest team in the entire league with only three players over 30. Rookie running backs Kermit Johnson and James McAlister, both from UCLA, will give them an exciting running attack, but they lack a top-notch quarterback. Prediction: Second or could slip to third if Hawaii jells.

The Hawaiians

Defense and the schedule are the two things they have going against them. Ron East and Greg Wojcik, both NFL vets, anchor the defensive line and the fact that sic teams play in Hawaii with only four days' rest while the Hawaiians have a full week could give them enough of an edge to creep past the Sun. The top rookie is Norris Weese of Mississippi, who missed a big part of training camp to play in the Coaches All-American Game. Prediction: Could finish second, but more likely third.

Portland Storm

Handicapped because they did not scrimmage with any other WFL team, the Storm seems destined to the same fate as Philadelphia. Their defensive secondary is suspect, one of their top recruits, Gail Coghill, injured his Achilles' tendon early in camp and their number one quarterback is Greg Barton, who has yet to really prove himself on either side of the border. Prediction: Fourth.

The World Football League Makes Its Bow

Pro Football Weekly, 1974

WFL Eastern Division

New York Stars - Coach Babe Parilli will use a hipper dipper type of offense attack built around quarterbacks Don Gault and Tom Sherman, both former NFL quarterbacks. Personnel director Tom Beer signed over 100 players and will sort them out in training camp. Big names include George Sauer, ex-New York Jets Super Bowl hero as a wide receiver and, defensive lineman John Elliott, another former Jet who had differences with Ewbank. Ex-New York Giant Homer Jones, the catch part of Fran Tarkenton to Homer Jones will try a comeback. He played two years ago with Cleveland after being traded by the Giants for Ron Johnson. Matt Herkenhoff is also in the Stars 1974 plans. Other signees include wide receivers Al Young, Kent Pederson, Erwin Williams and Phil Meltzer; running backs Frank Smith of Bucknell and Bob Nagle of Penn State, guard Jan Nelson of Minnesota and defensive end Riley Moore of Tennessee State. The team is spending $600,000 to refurbish Randalls Island Stadium and increase seating to 27,000. The Stars hope to play in Yankee Stadium in 1976 when that arena has been rebuilt.

Jacksonville Sharks - Playing in the famous Gator Bowl with 70,000 seats, coach Bud Asher had John Stofa as his 1974 quarterback with Notre Dame hero defensive back Mike Townsend, also signed. Mike was a 1973 All-American. Chip Glass, the former Cleveland Browns tight end is set and so is linebacker Fred Abbott. Owner Fran Monaco has also signed running backs Harmon Wages and Larry Smith of Atlanta and Los Angeles in the NFL and guard Guy Dennis of the Detroit Lions. These men are futures for 1975, but Wages may get his release this season. On the face of it, Jacksonville will be one of the more successful WFL franchises.

Florida Blazers - The Virginia Ambassadors franchise has been moved to Orlando, Florida., where a successful minor league team, the Orlando Panthers, has operated in the past. Coach Jack Pardee, the former Ram and Redskin linebacker, is still organizing but he's signed for 1974 wide receiver Gary Collins, ex-Cleveland Brown, and All-American guard Bill Yoest of North Carolina. Bob Davis will be on hand this year as well as Maryland's Paul Vellano. Bill Bergey, the Cincinnati Bengals star linebacker is set for a future meaning two year hence in 1976.

Philadelphia Bell - The Bell will play in Municipal Stadium, the huge 100,000 seat arena that houses the annual Army-Navy game. Coach Ron Waller, who worked in the NFL with San Diego, is not as far ahead as most WFL teams. He has Rudy Sims signed to a 1974 pact and ex-CFL linebacker Wally Dempsey. Cincinnati Bengals star defensive tackle Steve Chomyszak is a future 1975 member of the Bell.

WFL Central Division

Birmingham Americans - The Americans are coached by Jack Gotta, who won the Grey Cup last year with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL. He has twice been CFL coach of the year. His assistant is Wayne Grubb. Legion Field holds 72,000 fans. George Mira, ex-Miami Dolphin, San Francisco 49er and Montreal Alouette quarterback is the signal caller for this season with Ken Stabler due to arrive in 1976 as he returns home. Ron Jessie is on hand for 1975 play. So is super Redskin blocking back Charley Harraway who opened some of those big holes for Larry Brown in the past couple of NFL seasons. Paul Robinson, who once got over 1,000 yards for Paul Brown in his rookie season in Cincinnati, is the other half of the running game. Alabama guard Buddy Brown, 6 foot 2 and 243 will continue his career near home also after helping the Crimson Tide to a 11-1 record last year. Another leader may be linebacking rookie Mike Truax, Tulane, who is a cousin of Billy Truax, the tight end of NFL fame. Like Jacksonville, Birmingham should be a WFL standard bearer.

Memphis Southmen - Moved from Toronto by owner John Basset because of threatened legislation banning both the WFL and NFL from Canada , the Southmen are coached by John McVay. His big star this year will be Dallas ' draft selection quarterback Danny White of Arizona State. White, the first drafted quarterback in the NFL list, threw for 5,932 yards in college and completed 59 touchdown passes while setting 7 NCAA records. Giving White competition will be former Heisman Winner and NFL backup quarterback John Huarte, who starred at Notre Dame. The Southmen also signed Lucious Selmon, a defensive lineman who was big at Oklahoma last year. For the future they have the biggest names in the NFL, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield signed for delivery in 1975 for a whopping $3.5 million. The Southmen will play in 54,000 seat Memphis Memorial Stadium.

Chicago Fire - The Fire has attracted 12,000 season ticket holders to the 55,000 seat Soldier Field. Ex-Winnipeg Blue Bomber coach Jim Spavital has Virgil Carter, former hero Bear signal caller, to head his squad. Carter is a rollout expert. Jim Seymour is also on hand for 1974, as is fullback Mark Kellar, who gained 1,720 yards last year topping all NCAA schools while playing with Northern Illinois. Other names include offensive guard Chuck Milic, tight end Jim Gessford and defensive tackle Garry Glatz. Wake Forest's All-American linebacker, Tony Christiani, will bulwark the defense while Wake Forest's kicker Chuck Ramsey is also on board. Former Minnesota Viking linebacker Chuck Burgoon has signed as have quarterback Gary Duesenberg, safety Bob Braun and defensive tackle Mike Vrettos all of whom played at North Park College.

Detroit Wheels - With Everett "Sonny" Grandelius as general manager and Dan Boisture as coach the Wheels are playing in 20,000 seat Rynearson Stadium. They have ex-NFL scat back Warren McVea for immediate delivery and also wide receiver Jon Henderson. Gary Yeoman, a defensive back from Texas and highly rated, is also signed but the makeup of the rest of the squad will be determined at camp.

WFL Western Division

Honolulu Hawaiians - Former San Francisco 49er assistant coach Mike Giddings is the head man. The team will use 25,000 seat Honolulu Stadium until a larger arena is completed. As well as the climate, tropics and the beautiful Islands to attract players, the Hawaiians have the money. Ron East, ex-San Diego Charger defensive tackle is signed for 1974, and so is quarterback Norris Weese, of Mississippi, the MVP in last year's Hula Bowl. Don Hurt, a wide receiver from Boise State, is another 1974 signee. The Honolulu future reads like an NFL star squad with running back Calvin Hill, Dallas: tight end Ted Kwalick, San Francisco; quarterback Randy Johnson, N.Y. Giants; linebacker Jim Sniadecki, San Francisco; Edd Hargett, quarterback, Houston; Vince Clements, running back, N.Y. Giants; wide receivers John Isenbarger, San Francisco, and John Gilliam, Minnesota; and offensive linemen John Wilbur, Washington and Ed Flanagan, Detroit, all set for play in 1975. The Hawaiians are drooling over next year already.

Houston Texans - Jim Garrett, who switched from the New York Giants as assistant to the Dallas Cowboys has finally wound up as head coach of the Texans. They will play in the Astrodome with 47,000 seats. Karl Sweetan is the quarterback for this season. He is the former Detroit Lion signal man. Hoyle Granger helped the Houston Oilers win their last AFC divisional title. Richmond Flowers of the Giants secondary is a 1975 Texan while New Orleans's Bob Creech has signed for 1974. The Texans got started a bit late, but Garrett will whip things together. His offense led the Giants to a 9-5 mark two years ago. Last year, he switched to defense, that part of the Giants held up as the offense sagged.

Southern California Sun - General Manager Curly Morrison and coach Tom Fears, the former Rams end and New Orleans Saints coach may have one of the better franchises. They will play in Anaheim Stadium with 47,000 seats and have already signed for current delivery UCLA star running backs, James McAlister and Kermit Johnson. Booker Brown, All-American tackle at Southern Cal is also signed and Daryle Lamonica, the Oakland Raiders benched bomb thrower, is a 1975 future. The Sun's 1974 quarterback, Tony Adams, holds an NCAA single game passing record with 561 yards. Fears summed up his feeling for the Sun with, "This is a much better team than any I had with New Orleans of the NFL."

Portland Storm - General Manager Ron Mix, who was an original AFL draft choice in 1960, hired Dick Coury as coach. The Storm will play in 33,000 seat Civic Stadium. Greg Barton, ex-Philadelphia Eagle and Detroit Lion backup quarterback and CFL player with Toronto will fire his bullets for the Storm. He will have Gail Coghill of Detroit and Carlos Bell as targets. O.J. Simpson's cousin, Dwight Tucker, a wide receiver from San Jose State, is also on hand. Others are Richard Mason of Baylor and offensive tackle and Gary Lucy, a halfback from the same school. Baltimore offensive tackle Tom Drougas is a future for 1976.