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Morriss not playing to top quarterback's strengths

Nov. 1, 2005

by JOSH FLANAGAN, columnist

I know what you're up to, Guy Morriss. You have a plan and I know what it is. But be careful how you accomplish it because you're hindering a decent quarterback.

Lately, Shawn Bell has been receiving less playing time and a shorter leash. That's a mistake, the coach's mistake.

I'm going to be the guy, maybe the only one in Waco, to defend Shawn Bell, who might not even start this week, as Morriss said in "Sunday with Guy."

Bell might not have the strongest arm, but he's the best quarterback on the team. He's a game manager who can dink and dunk for first downs.

Morriss can't change Bell, but he can change the offense to fit Bell's strengths.

Don't get me wrong. I trust Guy Morriss. He's rejuvenated a football program others couldn't. He did it his way. I like every move he's made for Baylor ... except one.

He has never put Shawn Bell in a position to succeed.

Before I get to that, let's discuss Morriss' plan.

To rebuild a football program, a coach needs an improved defense and offense.

Defensive coordinator Bill Bradley established one of the consistently better defenses in the nation.

Texas Tech, a prolific offense, scored only six points in three quarters against the Bears, but then the defense got tired because the offense didn't produce enough. That's why Morriss has a plan.

He recruited players to run an offense that's based on running the ball until opposing defenses put eight men up front. When they do, he beats them deep.

It requires certain players: dynamic running backs, speedy receivers, pass-catching tight ends and a capable offensive line.

Morriss has already recruited pieces for the puzzle.

Junior Paul Mosley and sophomore Brandon Whitaker give Baylor a productive running attack, while redshirt freshman Jacoby Jones waits in the wings.

With junior Dominique Zeigler, who spends his offseason running track, as a prototype, Morriss created an influx of speed at the receiver position. Zeigler teams with freshmen Queito Teasley, Mikail Baker, Carl Sims and redshirt freshman Trey Payne to provide speed at the receiver position.

Baylor carries a healthy stable of tight ends, and Morriss has improved the offensive line so all the pieces are in place to run his offense.

All except one. To make it work, he needs a big-armed quarterback.

Bell isn't that quarterback. He doesn't have the arm to throw deep.

This season, Morriss started Bell because he's the most talented Baylor quarterback.

When he started him, he should have tailored the offense for Bell.

When Bell underthrows the deep ball Morriss wants, it gives the coach reason to substitute strong-armed sophomore Terrance Parks.

Instead of asking Bell to throw deep, he should engineer the offense for short passes so Bell can methodically move the offense.

Substituting Parks wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that the wrong team catches nearly 25 percent of his completions (13 completions, 3 interceptions).

At that rate, for Parks to reach Bell's 150 completions, he'd throw at least 31 interceptions on the way.

Bell has thrown only six this season, just 4 percent of his completions.

In fact, Bell (256 passing attempts) has thrown no more interceptions than USC's Heisman winner Matt Leinart (258 passing attempts).

Fans can tell Bell has been the best quarterback on campus.

They saw it his first year when he engineered a 60-yard drive against the University of Oklahoma as a freshman.

He's not the stereotypical quarterback for Morriss' offense. He won't throw a 40-yard touchdown pass. But he'll throw three 15-yarders to get a touchdown ... for the right team.

Since Bell is the best quarterback for Baylor, it's Morriss' responsibility to tailor the offense for him.

Morriss has to put his plan on hold and take care of his best quarterback.

Josh Flanagan is a senior journalism and telecommunication major from Sanger.