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Drill Master

Morris' Disciplinary Approach Paying Off at Ventura College

October 10, 1998|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It is unseasonably warm on the Ventura College practice field--79 degrees, a bright autumn sun negating the cooling effect of the sea breeze.

Players perspiring under heavy pads probably long for high tide. Instead, they see Terry Morris, the Pirates' second-year coach, walking toward them, barking instructions.

"I'm the kind of person you want to play for," Morris says sincerely in a thick Southern drawl. "They know that, or they wouldn't be here working like this. 'If you want to be successful, this is the road to take,' I keep telling them."

Drilling them is more accurate. But then, what are coaches for?

Morris, 35, the son of a retired Army major, knows no other way.

"I was raised around discipline and cadence and all that stuff," Morris said. "That's just the way I do things."

All of which might help to explain the Pirates, who this season have defied preseason forecasts. Ventura, 1-9 last season and a program mired in futility this decade, is 4-0 and the region's only undefeated junior college team.

The Pirates, ranked No. 12 in the state, play Glendale (1-3) in a Western State Conference Northern Division opener at 7 tonight at Ventura High.

Ventura stunned Moorpark, 17-0, two weeks ago, posting its first victory over its Ventura County rival since 1988. Barring a collapse--unlikely on Morris' watch--Ventura is headed for its first winning season since 1989.

Eyebrows continue to raise each week, but Morris simply shrugs. The once-competitive program, fumbled between four coaches since 1989, simply needed a stern guiding hand and a heavy dose of discipline.

Morris, defensive coordinator at Lambeth University in Jackson, Tenn., before taking his first head-coaching position at Ventura, installed an offseason training program with military overtones.

"I told them when I came in here I was going to run a Division I offseason, and everyone was here at 7:30 a.m.," Morris said. "Everyone was going to be accountable."

From locker room to practice field, Ventura players attribute the team's success this fall to the rigors of the Spartan life last spring.

"The offseason program was awesome," said quarterback Brian Shubin, a 1995 Westlake High graduate who transferred from Texas Christian.

"It was very similar to what we were doing at TCU, waking up real early in the morning and having circuit [weight] training."

Defensive back Marcus Hill, who graduated from Oxnard in 1995, missed last season because of an ankle injury but has returned to lead the top-ranked defense in the WSC.

"Basically, it's just all been hard work," Hill said. "Really, there's nothing else to it."

There is more, to be sure.

Morris shuffled his coaching staff during the offseason, reassigning duties while continuing to oversee the defense. A key addition was Norm Andersen, a longtime UCLA assistant, who signed on this season as offensive coordinator after coaching at Fillmore High.

As for talent, a significant amount stems from Morris' ties to Tennessee and the South.

Travis Rogers, a freshman from Morristown, Tenn., and among about two dozen players from outside California, is the state's leading rusher with 740 yards.

Morris said he plans to recruit more Ventura County players, and the Pirates' victory over Moorpark should help attract local talent, which has favored the Raiders in recent years. But he won't turn his back on anyone willing to work.

"I am a firm believer that kids go to a school because of the recruiting coach," Morris said. "Recruiting is what I do well. But I tell them, 'If you don't like my system, go to Moorpark or somewhere else. Otherwise, I'm going to make your life miserable.'

"I might have scared some of them away. But I scared away the ones who don't want to work."

Shubin said he spoke with friends before returning from Texas and enrolling at Ventura.

"I like young coaches and I like Coach Morris," Shubin said. "To be honest, out of high school, I was looking at junior colleges and I would never have come here."

Linebacker Ryan Cuthbert, a 1995 Nordhoff High graduate, grew tired after three years of working as a journeyman painter. A husband and father, Cuthbert, 23, decided in January to return to school and pursue a scholarship to a university.

Cuthbert considered Moorpark, but chose Ventura.

"I was hearing good things about Coach Morris from some of the guys who had just graduated from Nordhoff and played for him last year," Cuthbert said. "That he was a good guy, really a player's coach. And that he was really intense."

He hasn't been disappointed.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

A DECADE TO FORGET

Ventura College has started the football season 4-0. With one more victory, the Pirates will have won more games than any Ventura team since 1989.

*--*

Year Coach Rec. Conf. '97 Terry Morris 1-9 1-4 '96 George Rosales 4-6 1-4 '95 George Rosales 2-8 1-4 '94 George Rosales 4-6 0-5 '93 George Rosales 0-10 0-5 '92 Dick James 2-8 2-3 '91 Dick James 3-7 3-6 '90 Dick James 3-7 3-6 '89 Phil Passno 7-4 2-3

*--*

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