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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

KU installs Cozart as backup, change-up QB

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart takes a snap against Oklahoma during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart takes a snap against Oklahoma during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

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Last week, Montell Cozart’s name appeared on the depth chart for the first time, penciled in next to sophomore quarterback Michael Cummings as the co-backups to junior starter Jake Heaps.

This week, as the Jayhawks prepare to host No. 6 Baylor at 6 p.m. Saturday, the true freshman from Bishop Miege High is listed as Heaps’ sole backup.

To say the 6-foot-2, 189-pound athlete who quarterbacked the Jayhawks for two drives during last week’s loss to Oklahoma is making progress would be an understatement. And it’s entirely possible that, instead of being limited to just a handful of plays as he was a week ago, Cozart will have every look in KU’s offense at his fingertips this week against the Bears.

“The first thing you have to do is get him involved with the whole game plan — that includes all the passes, all the runs, all everything,” KU coach Charlie Weis said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “If every time we put in Montell it’s just to run the ball, it’s not going to take very long for the defensive coordinators to figure that out.”

That’s what Cozart did a week ago against the Sooners, rushing three times for eight yards and handing off on the other six plays, and the OU defense was quick to figure it out. But Weis said there was a reason that the freshman playing his first college snaps was limited.

“Last week, he wasn’t quite ready for everything,” Weis said. “But he’ll know everything this week. I met with him (Monday) night a little bit and said, ‘Now, you can’t just know these 10 plays, you need to know everything.’ We’ll see how he handles it, but he’ll be involved in everything this week.”

Although last week’s plan to use Cozart only against the wind and solely on the ground was designed to ease the quarterback into the college game, Weis said he would not be married to any kind of schedule this week against Baylor.

“If we get the ball and Jake’s in there and we go on three touchdown drives in a row, you want to take him out?” Weis asked, rhetorically. “Neither would I. Let’s say we go three-and-out, three-and-out, you might say, ‘OK, let’s go (with Cozart).’ In other words, there’s not a definite game plan on when you’re gonna do it at this point. But when you expose quarterbacks to the whole game plan and you know you intend to play ‘em both, then you just see how it goes. ... He could be in a lot earlier this week.”

New system working

Last week, Weis announced that quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus and tight ends coach Jeff Blasko would take the lead on planning the Jayhawks’ passing and running attacks for the rest of the season. While that meant those two began preparing KU’s game plan on Monday and took input from others, including Weis, throughout the week to fine-tune it, it also meant that Weis no longer was calling plays on Saturday.

“I’m advising,” Weis said when asked if he had given up the role. “That’s what I did (against Oklahoma). My work is done all through the week. By Saturday, we know what the plays are gonna be, and then it’s just, ‘OK, they’re doing this, let’s do that.’”

As for how well Blasko and Powlus wear their new coordinator hats, Weis was pleased.

“I think they did a nice job, as well as the whole staff, and it definitely was the most freedom I’ve had as a head coach ever.”

With that freedom, Weis said he had more time to yell at the refs and talk to players between offensive series.

Defensive changes

In addition to linebackers coach Clint Bowen shifting more into the role of defensive coordinator throughout the offseason, the Jayhawks now have changed their base look from 4-3 personnel to an odd front, which puts more speed on the field and is better suited to match up with the crazy Big 12 offenses.

“The personnel of our team dictated it more than anything,” Bowen said. “The odd front has some benefits against tempo teams. It’s a little bit quicker to get things aligned and it settles down the defensive front. Those guys get to lock in, and, really, it turns you into more of a right-and-left defense and your alignment is not dictated by the offensive formation as much.”

That could come in incredibly handy this week, when KU takes on a Baylor team that is known for spreading defenses from sideline to sideline and then using its speed to create match-up problems all over the field.

Injury update

Five Jayhawks who missed last week’s game against OU — running back/wide receiver Tony Pierson, linebacker Ben Heeney, wide receiver Andrew Turzilli, defensive tackle Tedarian Johnson and tight end Trent Smiley — were listed on this week’s depth chart as “day-to-day.”

Weis did not give much more of an update than that on any of the five, but, from the sound of it, the Jayhawks could get a couple of them back for this week’s battle with Baylor.

“Tony’s much better,” Weis said. “(Heeney’s) much better, as well, by the way. (Turzilli’s) not as much better.”

Asked if the injured Jayhawks would be game-time decisions, Weis hinted that he knew their status already but was not about to give it up.

A better Baylor

As Weis pointed out Tuesday, even with the current success, it’s not like Baylor has been a juggernaut since the day Art Briles arrived. In fact, Briles owns a 39-30 record at BU since taking over six years ago. During that time, however, win or lose, the Bears have been known as an offensive dynamo, largely because of the presence of former BU quarterback Robert Griffin III. RGIII is gone now, of course, and so is the Bears’ label as a one-dimensional program.

“They’re a more well-rounded team now,” Weis said. “Before they were just an offensive team, but now their defense is ranked seventh in the country. And part of the reason they’re seventh in the country is because they’re up 100-0 after about the first quarter and that changes the way teams play.”

Comments

Keith Hummel 11 months ago

You've made some good points lately but I'm afraid your losing credibility because of your obsession with Weis. People who look for new and more absurd ways to beat a dead horse just end up looking like psychotic horse haters. Weis deserves some blame, but he isn't the root of all our problems.

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Jonathan Allison 11 months ago

Atl... read chuck's name (and screenname) closely and then factor that into the absurdity (think "muck fizzou"). He has no good points. This guy changed his name to be vulgar and disrespectful to our heach football coach. Charlie Weis must have stolen his girlfriend or something.

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Brett McCabe 11 months ago

Just got it. That one went right by me!

To state the obvious, Weis is responsible for the football team. The level to which he can be held accountable grows on a per-season basis. Second-year improvements should be somewhat measurable and, to-date, have clearly been made in special teams and on defense.

To be fair, we still have a lot of difficult games on the schedule and the defense is going to have to continue to stand strong in order to be able to say that they've improved. Jesse's statistical breakdowns will be invaluable in helping to understand how much improvement has been made.

Year three is the critical one for the program. At that time, I'd say that Weis is 75 to 85% responsible for what is on the field based on recruiting, coaching, strength-training, etc.

My only concern is that Weis will be forced into a panic situation. Turning around a football team is probably the hardest coaching job in sports. It takes time, it takes a plan and it takes a lot of perseverance. As frustrating as it was to sit in the stadium on Saturday, there seem to be some glimpses of progress.

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Jonathan Allison 11 months ago

Oops, Chuck's profile no longer exists. Maybe he'll bring back BringBackMark tomorrow.

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David A. Smith 11 months ago

Its been a season and a half. Every adjustment that can be madehas been made. Its not so much that Zenger was wrong or that coach is wrong. The big issue is calling for his head when he hasn't been given ample time to prove himself. I don't mind sticking my neck out- I like what he's doing. Keep up the hard work, coach! It'll pay off!

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David Harrison 11 months ago

I completely agree! The team we play is a perfect example! Art Briles went 4-8 in 2008, 4-8 in 2009, 7-5 in 2010, 10-3 in 2011 and 8-5 last year. It's a process.

How quickly we forget what we were last year. We were one dimensional on offense, defense was... porous, and special teams was awful.

Weis and Campo addressed the defensive issues and they are playing well. Special teams has looked good and I would argue that we did not lose much on offense even with losing 3 OL.

Weis keeps saying that we will be better by the end of the year and I truly believe that. I will be the first to say that these next 3 weeks are going to be rough. Baylor, at UT, and at OSU is not going to be pretty. If we can keep healthy this will be a battle tested team. West Virginia, Iowa State, and KSU are all possible wins. If we pick up 2 of those 3, I'm calling this year a success.

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Brandon Mahon 11 months ago

The thing that concerns me is what he said at the end. They have a game plan AWESOME and they have the plays they want to run picked out and they know they are going to run them. That concerns me that they already know the exact plays they are going to run, when it comes time when the defense figures out what they are going to do, i feel that Blasko and Powlus are afraid to switch up the plays or run stuff different, IDK I may have read to much into it but idk.

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Jason Keller 11 months ago

I can't believe some people still think that Jake Heaps is the problem. What a joke. Other than a few throws, he has been very accurate and has generally made sound decisions. Some of the throws he makes that make all of you gasp really aren't as bad as they look from the sideline.

Look guys, we have some real chances coming up. We could win the last 3 games of the year. You know how you screw that up? Putting in a brand new quarterback.

The offensive line is finally starting to look like it is making progress. Let's keep doing what we're doing and good things are going to happen.

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Olli Rama 11 months ago

So you’re saying Heaps is just fine? No problem?

That, my friend, is the joke. We may have problems at OL and WR but Heaps is, at the very least, a part of the problem. It doesn’t get much worse than what Heaps is doing. He’s at the bottom of the Big 12.

He’s been okay when he has all day and a wide open receiver, but he needs to get the ball out quicker on most plays. No college quarterback has all day and wide open receivers for an entire game. You have to make a play. So far he hasn’t been able to.

On top of that, he can’t avoid pressure. He’s so slow and doesn’t really have any pocket presence. Cozart at least has the ability to extend a play when the pocket fails.

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Michael Leiker 11 months ago

Running game was working early last week because if the THREAT of the pass. They were keeping the defense honest. I just hope Cozart keeps them honest if he sees significant time.

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Max Merriman 11 months ago

Heaps has been inaccurate, quick to tuck and take sacks, and overall just poor in every aspect of QB play this season. Of course he doesn't have a great line or great receivers, but good quarterbacks can overcome those things with play making ability. Heaps has NO mobility which has become paramount for QB's in modern college football, he is a cement footed "pro-style" QB who is not accurate enough to dream of playing in the pros.

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Steve Corder 11 months ago

Confidence, once lost is hard to recover. The "skill" positions in any sport (shooting the basketball, etc.) are susceptible to a delicate balance that is created between the ears, not on a chalk board. I think the football program has this one problem over any thing else.

So, it is not so much who calls the plays or who draws up the game plan or what defensive alignment is called but how to overcome a kid's fear and self doubt.

I've watched enough of Heaps, and dare it say it: put him on Baylor's team and watch him succeed as advertised.

This is a damnable vortex!

Keep your chins up! Love my Jayhawks, regardless!

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Robert Brock 11 months ago

It will be interesting to see if Cozart can make our offensive linemen block and our receivers get open and catch passes.

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Olli Rama 11 months ago

It will be interesting to see if he can escape a pass rush, or at least slide around enough to buy some time.

It will also be interesting to see if he can run for positive yardage and keep a drive going. Seems like every quarterback in the Big 12 is capable of this except Heaps.

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Terry N Tom Denner 11 months ago

Nothing like throwing fresh meat into a lions cage !! KU needs a better OF line to protect the QB regardless who is playing behind the center. On the other hand, he may just be that spark to win a conference game at home !!! KU upset in the making !!

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Brett McCabe 11 months ago

I agree that Baylor could come in sleepwalking for this one. What is concerning is that they just dropped 66 on ISU. We could hold them for awhile and they could still drop 28 on us in a quarter.

The key, as always, is our offense. We stayed close to OU when we were holding the ball and running the clock. I wouldn't mind seeing a double tight end set, Darrian and James in the backfield and a heavy dose of smash-mouth.

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Waylon Cook 11 months ago

I remember after Mangino beat up on Briles in the bowl and then later Baylor hired him. Thinking that won't last........... Now he could have any job he wanted.

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John Fitzgerald 11 months ago

I'm sure Heaps is a better QB than what we've seen, the problem is he hasnt been able to show us his potential. No more projects for Weis. From here on out we need to recruit QB's that can play and have recently proved it. Looking forward to our offense this week though and praying we can keep it within a few touch downs at least.

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