Friday, December 20, 2013


Column: Question of QB lingers for KU football


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Charlie Weis Dec. 19, 2013 press conference

Charlie Weis Dec. 19, 2013 press conference

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Finally, I don’t have to wait until midseason to write about a quarterback controversy at Kansas University.

It’s raging already, more than eight months away from the Sept. 6 season-opener against Southeast Missouri State in Memorial Stadium.

A good, old-fashioned QB controversy, that’s what the last two offseasons lacked.

The name Dayne Crist was chiseled in granite two offseasons ago. He not only had the starting assignment locked up, he stood at the center of the program’s marketing efforts. His high school prowess and Notre Dame pedigree sold tickets.

Crist was such a poor fit he was replaced by Michael Cummings for a few weeks midway through the season. Cummings’ passing deficiencies created another shot for Crist, who didn’t benefit any from the layoff.

Last season, BYU transfer Jake Heaps, was the one chosen by Weis. He threw better than Crist, but needed an offensive line that could mask his mobility deficiencies and receivers who could catch his zinged throws. He had neither and was replaced in midseason by Montell Cozart, who could really run but overthrew everything but the government. That created another shot for Heaps. The receivers still couldn’t catch his passes. Tight end Jimmay Mundine was the best pass-catcher in the middle third of the season. Unfortunately, he dropped everything but his classes in the first and last thirds of the schedule.

It’s QB-hyping season again, but there’s nobody left to hype.

Or is there?

Nobody has seen UCLA transfer TJ Millweard play, which automatically makes him the man to beat in the minds of some not wanting to believe that one or both of the quarterbacks who steered Kansas to a 3-9 record will man the controls again.

Looking for a school where he thought he come become the starter, Millweard contacted Kansas, which had never recruited him.

He doesn’t run as well as Cozart, but based on the spring-game highlights of him playing for UCLA, appears more mobile than Heaps.

KU coach Charlie Weis hyped Crist and then Heaps to the moon, but he had history with those guys. He recruited Crist to Notre Dame and tried to get Heaps to go there as well.

Weis came close to hyping Millweard a little earlier in his hour-long press conference Thursday.

“He’ll be an interesting candidate here now because not a lot of people know a lot about him, but this kid is pretty good,” Weis said. “He is.”

Michael Cummings will be a fourth-year junior, drop-back passer Jordan Darling a second-year freshman, but this shapes up as a three-horse race and they’re battling for fourth.

Last month, when I asked Weis about Millweard’s mobility, the coach must have been wearing his X-ray vision glasses because he saw right through the question.

“I wouldn’t say he’s Montell, but I’d say better than average,” Weis said. “He’s not just a slug drop-back quarterback, if that’s what you’re asking, which that was the implication right there, which I clearly drew an inference from. TJ’s pretty good. It’ll be interesting.”

If Millweard wanted to watch someone else play quarterback he would have stayed with the Bruins and watched All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection Brett Hundley.

“I don’t think TJ is going home expecting just to be satisfied coming back here being third, fourth or fifth here,” Weis said. “I think that’s no different than those other guys, but I think that it’ll be interesting because he had a nice year on the show team, but that’s where he was most of the time after he got through the individuals and everything. It’ll be interesting in the spring to see whether or not one of those other guys can play themselves into the mix with these first two guys (Heaps and Cozart).”

Ideally, Heaps or Millweard would win the job and both stay healthy all year, which would enable Cozart to redshirt. Players who have had a taste of game action first have a better feel for how much better they must become in certain areas. They tend to get more out of their red-shirt seasons.

Whoever wins the job in the spring, he’ll be inheriting Miami (Ohio) University transfer Nick Harwell, which is good news, and many back from a receiving corps that last season dropped 47 passes, not such good news.

It will be decided in the spring, correct?

“Well, I’m going to leave it up to John (Reagan) and the offensive staff, but I’m pretty sure they’ll know who that is,” Weis said. “I don’t think it’s going to go into August. The old phrase, ‘If you don’t know who your quarterback is, then you don’t have one.’”

Kansas had one, two years ago, until it had two. Ditto for last season.

With any luck, KU will open spring football with three and play the entire regular season with one.


Suzi Marshall 7 years, 11 months ago

The QB decision will depend on the quality of the OL and receivers. If we get and OL and Harwell is as advertised, Heaps may finally have a chance to show his stuff. If that happens, we can win 6 games. With no OL, we will be back to 3 or 4 wins.

Lucas Town 7 years, 11 months ago

We will need a jump in point production on offense. The O-line and D-line are the two most needed areas for upgrade. We need to hold opponents to less points as well. I see 4 wins next season, things are slowly getting turned around. RCJHGKU!

Lance Meier 7 years, 11 months ago

47 Drops...

That is terrible!!!

That's the only ones that got counted that the WR, RB, TE's had a chance to catch!!!

That does not show, "HOW MANY" passes that were too high, low and outside...

Every game I got to watch, I can count on one hand how many passes were actually "GOOD THROWS". Something has got to change. Maybe more short passes, throw to the back out of the back field (which is the same thing as a long pitch) and any RB that can not catch the short pass, needs to be moved to the other side of the ball...

Scott Burkhart 7 years, 11 months ago

Good throws mean nothing if the receivers can't catch. Receivers that get open can't catch if the passes aren't there. Both scenarios seem to be problems. It still comes down to one word: Talent.

John Randall 7 years, 11 months ago

I'll buy the idea of one word, but not "Talent." Confidence is higher on my list, and burdening college receivers with too many 'looks' and patterns has left them confused and insecure.

Kevin Randell 7 years, 11 months ago

I'm not letting the QB off the hook, but I am pointing the fingers to the Wide Receivers. 47 dropped passes IS unacceptable. This coming off the year before where NO wide receiver caught a touch down. I think next seasons motivation tee shirt should echo the immortal words of Patches O'houlihan "Would somebody please catch a....damn ball"! May be we should ship our guys in the off season down to Mississippi and catch passes from Brett Favre? He made the Vikings wide receivers look good for one season, just think what he could do for us?

David Williams 7 years, 11 months ago

One drill (which has been suggested by other readers on this site w/KU program knowledge) helpful to build confidence in the receivers' own ability to catch the ball is what Mangino's staff did by making all skill positions, esp WR, to catch tennis balls shot out of a pitching/serving machine. The ability to focus on a smaller ball coming at them at equal or faster speed can help significantly catching the football. We saw those results w/Meier, Briscoe, et al...they had inherent raw talent although those drills likely helped them improve. Meier's fourth-down catch vs Mizzou in the rain at Arrowhead in 08 is a great example of an end result of this type of training....

Jerry Long 7 years, 11 months ago

I just keep coming back to the K-state game. We are driving the ball, making plays, looking like a decent offense. Mundine is not open by a mile, but there is a small window to get a pass in between 2 defenders and Heaps does exactly that. The result? Not only does he not catch a perfectly thrown pass, he knocks it up into the air for an interception. Once again, my wife has to listen to me yell "catch the d..n ball!" Whatever it would take, I would be all for.

Steve Hilker 7 years, 11 months ago

The receivers we've had the last 3 years could make Peyton Manning look like the second coming of, say, Dayne Crist?

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