SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Baylor Bears

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Guy Morriss (1st year)
2002 record: 3-9
Big 12 finish: 6th (South)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 103.4 ypg
(11th in Big 12, 105th in nation)
Pass: 231.5 ypg (6th, 47th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 163.6 ypg (7th, 69th)
Pass: 241.7 ypg (10th, 93rd)
Projected Starters
Offense (6 returning starters in bold)
WR   82   Robert Quiroga   Sr.  
WR   3   Marques Roberts   Jr.  
WR  87  John Martin  Jr. 
LT   74   Quintin Outland   Jr.  
LG  71  Akeem Rettig  Fr. 
C   76   Cedric Fields   Sr.  
RG  77  Lequalan McDonald  So. 
RT  79  Glen Oskin  So. 
TE  44  Shane Williams  Sr. 
QB   2   Aaron Karas   Jr.  
TB   32   Rashad Amrstrong   Sr.  
FB  45  Jonathan Evans  Jr. 
Defense (5)
DE   96   Dominick Cravens   Sr.  
DT  92  Michael Gary  Fr. 
DT  84  Luke Groth  Jr. 
DE  91  Khari Long  Jr. 
OS   33   Derrick Cash   Sr.  
LB   5   John Garrett   Sr.  
LB  58  Michael Tolbert  Jr. 
OS  18  Willie Andrews  So. 
CB  Tyson Hampton  Jr. 
CB   23   Matt Johnson   Sr.  
FS   21   Maurice Lane   So.  
Special Teams
15  Adam Tomlinson  So. 
19  Jeremy Parker  So. 
KR   82   Robert Quiroga   Sr.  
PR  J.T. Thompson  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  UAB 
Sept. 6  at North Texas 
Sept. 13  SMU 
Sept. 20  Sam Houston 
Oct. 4  Colorado 
Oct. 11  at Texas A&M 
Oct. 18  at Kansas 
Oct. 25  Texas 
Nov. 1  at Kansas State 
Nov. 8  Texas Tech 
Nov. 15  at Oklahoma 
Nov. 22  Oklahoma State 
Since the formation of the Big 12, Baylor has had as many head coaches (four) as conference victories. During that time, the Bears have modified their uniforms, built new facilities and changed playing surfaces. Despite the changes, Baylor has remained in last place in the Big 12 South for seven consecutive seasons, compiling an all-time league record of 4Ė52. So what makes anyone believe Guy Morriss will turn Baylorís fortunes around?

For one thing, he's done it before in a power conference. In two seasons at Kentucky, he took the Wildcats from 2Ė9 to 7Ė5. Morriss sees similarities between his old employer and his new one, and he believes he can win in Waco.

"[Baylor] didnít get broken overnight; itís not going to get fixed overnight," Morriss said. "We know it will take time, but we want to compete right away. I donít want to look up in the stands and see people leaving at halftime knowing the game is over. We want to be competitive right away."

That would definitely be a step in the right direction.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Morriss begins his attempt to resurrect Baylor with a solid passer in junior Aaron Karas, who set a single-season school record for completion percentage last season (59.8).

Karas has a stable of strong running backs at his disposal, including explosive tailbacks Rashad Armstrong and Jonathan Golden. The Bears also return one proven receiver in Robert Quiroga, who averaged 11.3 yards per catch.

The concern is Baylorís offensive line. The Bears allowed 52 sacks, converted 33.9 percent of third-down chances and rushed for 2.8 yards per carry, all last in the conference. Many of Baylorís offensive woes can be blamed on the poor play up front. And with just two starters returning -- left tackle Quintin Outland and center Cedric Fields -- the line again is a serious area of concern.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

The middle of the Baylor defensive front is a potential problem area. Fortunately for the Bears, the ends appear to be more promising. Senior Dominick Cravens is beginning to assert himself on one side, while junior Khari Long may be Baylorís best playmaker up front. The line also should receive a lift from Montez Murphy, the only junior college transfer in Morrissí first Baylor recruiting class.

Baylor's more aggressive eight-man front will be headlined by some potentially strong linebackers. John Garrett, when healthy, is an athletic headhunter in the middle who has the speed and instincts to make plays from sideline to sideline. Emphasizing speed and playmaking ability, the Bears will use former strong safety Derrick Cash at one "outside safety," while Willie Andrews will see duties on the other side. Andrews may be the best athlete on the defense.

In the secondary, junior cornerback Tyson Hampton has all the tools to be one of the better defensive backs in the Big 12, and fellow corner Matt Johnson also has plenty of experience and explosiveness on the other side. Free safety Maurice Lane is an adequate defensive back, and the Bears have solid depth in the secondary with Anthony Arline and Danielle McLean.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Sophomore punter Jeremy Parker is back after averaging just 35.6 yards per punt. The Bears have several possibilities at placekicker, but true freshman Ryan Havens may earn the position this summer. During his high school career, Havens hit 20-of-29 field goals and 43-of-47 extra points.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Morriss isnít making any outlandish promises, and he acknowledges the Bears are a long way away from being a factor in the Big 12. But with a nonconference schedule that features UAB, North Texas, SMU and Sam Houston State, Baylor has a chance to start quickly. "It would be huge to get off to a good start," Morriss said. "It would be a confidence boost, and this team needs confidence."

It also needs to stay healthy and protect the ball. The Bears do not possess enough depth to endure many injuries. And to simply be competitive in the league, Baylor must do better in cutting down turnovers. The Bears were a league-worst minus-17 in turnovers. With a fast start and a little luck, the Bears could make a move forward by winning four games.

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