Morriss ready for tough challenges at Baylor

Updated: August 12, 2003, 2:10 PM ET

WACO, Texas -- Guy Morriss knew things weren't going to be easy when he became coach at Baylor.

So in taking over a program that's gone 4-52 in conference play since the Big 12 began, he didn't promise immediate results.

"It's going to take a little time to straighten out the problem," said Morris, returning to his home state on the heels of a two-year turnaround at Kentucky. "It didn't get broke over night and won't get fixed over night."

Morriss, the fourth Baylor coach since the league started in 1996, hopes to be the first to post a winning record -- or even win more than one Big 12 game in a season.

But football failures aren't the only reason Morriss is taking over during one of the most turbulent times in school history.

When players reported in early August, one of the first things he addressed was the shooting death of basketball player Patrick Dennehy earlier this summer.

Carlton Dotson, a former Baylor teammate of Dennehy's, is accused of his murder. Scrutiny of that saga led to an internal investigation of the basketball team, which produced the Aug. 8 resignations of coach Dave Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton.

Morriss is doing his best to keep his players focused on football.

They lived in a dormitory together the first two weeks of preseason workouts, and he took away their cell phones and car keys. He did the same thing at Kentucky in turning a probation-marred program from 2-9 his first season to 7-4 last year.

A former offensive lineman at TCU and in the NFL, Morriss must build more than confidence at Baylor. He also needs to add players to a team that has fewer than 80.

"When we took the job, we knew there were problems," said Morriss, who brought along his entire Kentucky staff. "We haven't seen a problem that we haven't dealt with before or have a good answer to solve them. It's a slow process."

There are six returning starters on both sides of the ball, including the top two running backs, quarterback Aaron Karas and receiver Robert Quiroga (49 catches for 556 yards). The most notable absence is record-setting receiver Reggie Newhouse (75 catches for 1,140 yards and three TDs).

Karas threw for 1,792 yards last season with a school-record 59.8 completion percentage. He spent the spring adapting to the multiple-formation system installed by new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

"Our scheme will be to try to grind the clock with short passing and a running game," Karas said. "We want to be in position in the fourth quarter to win games and keep the score close, not being down 49-3."

Rashad Armstrong led the Bears with 647 yards rushing and scored four touchdowns last season. Jonathan Golden, also a senior, ran for 392 yards and eight TDs, five against Division I-AA Samford.

A big concern is the offensive line, where the Bears begin with just seven scholarship players. Akeem Rettig, a 6-foot-5, 351-pound redshirt freshman projected as the starter at left guard, suffered heat exhaustion during summer conditioning work and is likely out for the year.

Baylor also has a new defense, having scrapped the 4-3 for a 4-2-5 setup designed to get more speed on the field. Junior end Khari Long led the team with 4{ sacks last season, and the defense should be bolstered by the return of senior linebacker John Garrett.

Garrett had 89 tackles as a sophomore, then 33 more last season before tearing ligaments in his left knee in the fifth game.

The lone highlight last season was snapping a 29-game Big 12 losing streak by beating Kansas. Then the Bears lost their last seven conference games -- by an average margin of 39 points, getting shut out three times -- costing coach Kevin Steele his job before the season even ended.

"We don't talk much about what happened last year," Karas said. "We've got to put a foundation down and win some games here."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index