"Handling the football team has been probably the easiest part," said Morriss. "The hardest part for me is that there are a lot of people at Baylor who don't have the same sense of urgency that we do. We've made some changes and that's always hard for some people. We've got to make people at Baylor understand that football is a priority, and I'm not sure everyone on campus understands that right now. I think things are going in the right direction, but it's not been as fast as we've thought. It's not just about changing players' mindsets, but it's a campus wide effort. It takes time."
But on the other hand, Morriss would be feeling a lot more pressure to win right away if he were coaching some other programs. In Waco he appears to have time on his side.
The Bears will enter the 2004 season with a favorable non-conference slate, traveling to UAB before hosting Texas State and North Texas. But with a conference slate that includes Texas, Missouri, and Nebraska in the opening three weeks, Morriss knows the margin for error is small.
"The key for us to having a good second year is a good start," he said. "We have to win our first three non-conference games. Another key for us is to stay healthy. We don't have a lot of depth at some positions, and if we get some guys hurt at those positions it could be a long season."
Baylor enters training camp with a quarterback controversy of sorts. Sophomore Shawn Bell has the experience edge over junior Dane King after completing 60-of-98 passes for 576 yards and one score as a backup last fall. But Morriss has yet to name a starter for his team's opener, and will give King another look in camp.
"Going into spring it was wide open," Morriss said. "Every position was up for grabs. We had good competition. The question of who is going to start did not get settled. We feel good about our competition at quarterback and that's carried into the summer.
"Hopefully sometime during the course of two-a-days, one of those guys is going to step forward and claim that job. We just don't know who it's going to be yet. I'm as curious as anybody to see who the starter is going to be. I want somebody to step forward. We need to have one guy take charge. I'm not big on rotating quarterbacks. Usually that can blow up on you and sends a mixed message to the players when you're not set on one guy."
Defensively, the Bears will hope to sustain some sort of pass rush to take advantage of an improved secondary. Free safety Maurice Lane, who led the team with 129 tackles in 2003, spearheads a talented group of youngsters. Fellow safety Willie Andrews and cornerback James Todd also have experience in the back end of Morriss' defense.
"Our secondary is going to be real strong this season," said senior linebacker Justin Crooks. "They're going to look young and are young, but they're good. They'll come up there and knock you stiff. I think it's the most talented secondary in the Big 12. We're going to be a lot better than last season. Teams are going to have trouble throwing on us."
A Bullitt's impact
Former Garland (Texas) Naaman Forest linebacker Bradley Bullitt, an incoming freshman for the Bears, was one of a few players mentioned by Morriss as potential contributors. Bullitt, who was offered a scholarship from Iowa State and took a visit to Ames, signed instead with the Bears.