Morriss ready to see Baylor players in a game

Updated: August 29, 2003, 2:52 PM ET

WACO, Texas -- Guy Morriss hasn't made any outlandish predictions or created any unrealistic expectations.

The new Baylor coach knows it will take some time to restore winning ways to a team that has won just 17 games -- only four of them in the Big 12 -- the past seven seasons.

Morriss' first step was to try to build team unity.

Preseason workouts included an intensive 12-day period when the players lived in a dormitory together after turning in their car keys and cell phones. Roommates were assigned by mixing up positions, geographic backgrounds and race so they would get to know each other better.

Morriss said it's time to see them play in a game.

"I want to see what's going to happen with these kids," he said. "Are they going to pull together or are they going to scatter like a covey of quail at the first sign of adversity?"

The Bears are considered the underdog for their season opener Saturday night against Alabama-Birmingham, a Conference USA team that was 5-7 last season.

Last season, the tone was set for nine losses when the Bears lost their opener 70-22 at California, which scored 35 first-quarter points after a trick double-pass play to start the game for a 71-yard TD. Baylor's losses were by an average margin of 45-7.

Morriss won't predict how many games Baylor will win. He's not worried, for now, in judging the season by wins and losses. He's more interested in laying a foundation for the future with hopes that his team can stay close enough to have a chance to win games late.

Football should be a welcome diversion on the Baylor campus after a summer of tragedy and scandal surrounding the men's basketball program. The opener comes two days after a campus memorial service for basketball player Patrick Dennehy.

A former teammate has been indicted for murder in Dennehy's shooting death. A school inquiry found major NCAA violations that led to the resignations of coach Dave Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton and a self-imposed two-year probation against the basketball team.

"I said earlier this spring that there is a certain degree of wholesomeness here. That may be little tarnished," Morriss said. "But it's a good environment for college kids to come and learn and get a degree worth something."

Baylor and UAB have young quarterbacks looking to build on solid performances from a year ago.

Aaron Karas had to learn a new multiple-formation system at Baylor after throwing for 1,792 yards last season with a school-record 59.8 completion percentage. Morriss said Karas, a junior, has progressed nicely since last spring and is comfortable with the game plan.

Darrell Hackney became the Blazers' starter in the fifth game last year and threw for 1,977 yards and 14 touchdowns -- all while battling injuries -- as a redshirt freshman.

"I did not think he would statistically be as good as he was," said UAB coach WatsonBrown.

Now those kind of numbers are expected.

Hackney said he likes the UAB offense, and predicts the Blazers will throw 60 percent of the time. He had a 424-yard passing game against East Carolina.

While Baylor has four non-conference games to open the season, the Blazers play their C-USA opener five days later against Southern Mississippi.

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