Save yourself the trouble of tossing over your shoulder haystack after haystack of negativity surrounding the Kansas University football program in search of that elusive needle pointing upward. You won’t find it on the rest of the schedule, but it will start to show its head during spring football.
Here it is: Kansas has nothing going on the quarterback recruiting front. That’s good news? Yes. The Jayhawks don’t need to find another man under center because next year’s team will have a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior quarterback and the quality is such that reigning first-string QB Jake Heaps could be anywhere from first to third string.
That doesn’t help KU’s chances of snapping a Big 12 losing streak that stands at 22 games, but it at least means there is one competition to which we can all look forward.
KU football coach Charlie Weis has shown he’s not unwilling to make changes in both personnel and game plans. Weis appears to be inching toward what most college coaches believe, which is that having a quarterback who isn’t quick enough to execute designed running plays puts an offensive coordinator at a decided schematic disadvantage.
“We tried to get Michael (Cummings) more involved last week because when the quarterback is a run threat, it forces the defense to do things differently than when the quarterback isn’t a run threat, a la Jake,” Weis said Tuesday. “The problem with that is you also become one-dimensional.”
By that he meant when Heaps is in the game, the defense knows he won’t tuck it and run. And when Cummings (47-percent completion rate, 5.1 yards per attempt) is in the game the issue flips.
“They just load everybody up front and say, ‘Look it, they’re not going to throw it.’ That’s the bind you get in,” Weis said.
It’s the bind Kansas State was in when alternating passer Jake Waters and runner Daniel Sams the first few games of this season. The best solution, of course, is to have someone like the Wildcats’ former Heisman Trophy candidate Collin Klein, a threat to do both.
Enter Montell Cozart and T.J. Millweard. Cozart, a 2013 graduate of Bishop Miege, is red-shirting, at least so far. Millweard must red-shirt because of transfer rules. He will have three years of eligibility remaining, Cozart four.
Teammates will always praise each other, so it pays to place more importance on how they say things than what words they use. During training camp, when players were asked about what Cozart brings, their eyes lit up, and that was when they talked about his throwing ability. He also runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, extremely fast for a QB.
“With the speed you can bring a different tempo to the game and put the defense in a bind,” Cozart said during training camp. “They’re going to be worrying about your feet, and when they do that, you’ve got someone wide open down the field. It’s just a great threat to have against a defense.”
Playing for then Miege head coach and current KU offensive line coach Tim Grunhard, Cozart threw 31 touchdown passes his junior year. He threw 25 TD passes and led Miege to the 5A state title game as a senior. He also stood out on the basketball court.
“I’m still pass-first, but I feel like if I need to I can count on my feet to be able to move me around and still make a throw on the run or run and get out of bounds,” Cozart said.
T.J. Millweard, like Cozart rated as a three-star high school quarterback by Rivals, was labeled a pro-style quarterback. But a look at Millweard’s high school highlight film shows him using pretty good speed to make long runs. Those who watch KU practices have been impressed with his mobility.
Millweard, who signed with UCLA out of Colleyville, Texas, originally committed to Virginia Tech and then Arizona State, before following the assistant coach who recruited him to ASU to Westwood. Beaten out by talented Brett Hundley, Millweard transferred to Kansas in August.
Better play from the offensive line and wide receivers, in that order, could give Heaps a chance to make a significant improvement. If that doesn’t happen, the quarterback competition could be a tight three-way horse race, with Cozart meriting a very long look.