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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Keegan

Column: Watch KU football go as Cozart grows

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart pushes aside West Virginia safety Darwin Cook on a run during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart pushes aside West Virginia safety Darwin Cook on a run during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

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Charlie Weis hinted Tuesday that the goal for his third Kansas University football team equals the win total of the last three seasons combined (six).

That might sound unrealistic, but if one player with exciting raw talent develops at a far faster pace than anyone has a right to expect, six is not only a reasonable goal, but as good a place as any to set the over-under bar.

Another way of putting it: If Montell Cozart pulls a Joel Embiid and improves way ahead of schedule, KU could attain bowl-eligibility for the first time since the 2008 regular season.

That’s not to say Cozart ever becomes the first pick in the NFL Draft, as Embiid almost certainly will be in this summer’s NBA Draft. It just means if Cozart can become the most improved passer in the Big 12, he can completely change the stress level for defenses facing KU.

Cozart moves his long legs so swiftly and changes directions in such seamless fashion that, at the very least, the threat of him running can paralyze a defense. Once he takes off, he can send the defense into all-out panic mode.

In the college game, a serious running threat at QB equates to a point guard who consistently gets to the paint, keeping the defense in retreat-and-scramble mode.

Rare is the true freshman quarterback who can compete efficiently in the Big 12, so drawing definitive conclusions from Cozart’s unusually poor 2013 passing numbers (23-for-63, 227 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions) makes little sense.

Think of all the factors that conspired against him: reading sophisticated Big 12 defenses loaded with faster, bigger players than he faced in high school; trying to grasp Weis’ complicated offense; burdened by receivers who had trouble getting and catching the ball.

True, many of Cozart’s passes were overthrown by such a great distance a cheetah could not have caught up to them, much less a Jayhawk. In part, that seemed a result of him trying too hard to avoid interceptions. Too often on runs, particularly late in the season, he seemed more eager to reach the sideline than the first-down marker. He might have been too mindful of trying to avoid injury.

Those game experiences make Cozart more prepared for college football, a game at which it’s difficult to succeed without showing a willingness to take risks to earn rewards. There is a time to throw it away, a time to step out of bounds. Now Cozart has a better feel for when that is and isn’t.

Weis said his five quarterbacks compete at three tiers and called the competition between Heaps and Cozart for the starting job, “too close to call.”

Weis grouped junior Michael Cummings and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard in Tier II and red-shirt freshman Jordan Darling by himself in Tier III.

Weis is no hurry to name a starter.

“The good part about that is you’re going to get ready to play us, the longer we go without saying who the quarterback is, the better it is,” Weis said, meaning the opponent has to prepare for both Heaps and Cozart. Smart move.

For the first time in his college coaching career, Weis won’t put red jerseys on the quarterbacks in the spring game, meaning they are fair game to get rocked. Love that. The only way to judge a quarterback is to see how he performs when the script goes up in flames and it’s up to him to make a play and/or keep the defense from making one.

Making the quarterbacks live makes Saturday’s spring game, scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m., worth attending.

“He’s throwing the ball pretty well in the spring,” Weis said of Cozart. “He’s completing about 75 percent of his passes in the spring. He can make all the throws. He’s done a better job of reading coverages. One thing he brings to the table is his feet. You have to be worrying about his feet on every play, not only his arm. He has a chance to be a really, really good player.”

He didn’t say when. He doesn’t need to yet. All he needs to do is dangle the starting carrot in front of Cozart and see how high the Bishop Miege graduate can jump to reach it. Embiid wasn’t a very good player at Late Night. Now look at him, plastered all over ESPN this afternoon.

Comments

Marc Frey 4 months, 3 weeks ago

IDK. I am still going to be cautious about getting too hyped up. I have a sense of deja vu all over again.

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Andy Tweedy 4 months, 3 weeks ago

As Crash Davis once said, "You couldn't hit water if you fell out of a boat!" I hope you're right about his passing, but it was SO bad last year, I'm going to have to see it before I get too excited. But he's still a Jayhawk, and I'm pulling for him.

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Jonathan Allison 4 months, 3 weeks ago

"if Cozart can become the most improved passer in the Big 12, he can completely change the stress level for defenses facing KU"

If he completes 50% of his passes this season he'll be the most improved passer in the league by far. However, if he does complete it at 50% then he'll at least have to be considered a threat to pass the ball.

I know that a lot of people are hoping for Weis to pick a QB and stick with him. But I hope that if Weis picks Heaps, that he still gives Cozart enough snaps to develop his passing game.

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Doug Cramer 4 months, 3 weeks ago

For us guys that trade stocks, when sentiment is at all time lows and blood is in the streets, huge stock bounces begin.

The same is true for KU football.

When KU Sports dot com stops telling us how good our football program could be in the off-season, is when we may finally make some progress.

Realistically when it comes to KU football, blood is in the streets. But from a sentiment standpoint, we still have too many folks calling for bowl potential.

We have to go to Duke, and we play a Big 12 conference that will be much improved from last season...including Iowa State.

We win no more than 3 games next season...most likely 2.

Should have brought back Mangino before Iowa St grabbed him.

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Jim Stauffer 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Would like to see the game by game perspective on ISU being better this year than last. And spare me retreads such as MM. Loved him while he was here, but he wore out his welcome and those calling for his return fail to remember how the program plummeted on the heels of an Orange Bowl with instead of taking flight.

3

Lucas Town 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I believe ISU will be better this year than last year, but is will take some time for Mangino's offense to take hold. They had a ton of injuries last year. However, I think KU is making gradual progress as well. 6 wins to me is a nice goal to shoot for. The schedule is still tough though. This KU team still needs to find a road win. I like the goal of trying to grab 6 wins, but we still have a ways to go. I think 2-3 wins is all we will get in 2014.

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Bryce Landon 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Should never have fired Mangino to begin with.

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Robert Brock 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Heaps will do the throwing. Unfortunately, I am still not convinced that we have any players who will catch anything.

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Jay Beakum 4 months, 3 weeks ago

That’s what I’m talking about. I love this kid’s bounce. I do like Heaps’ arm and I think with Reagan’s offense and the new WR coach, he could flourish again, but it’s hard not to like a dual threat in the college game. And even if Cozart doesn’t have the full passing potential of Heaps, he has so much more. He can avoid a pass rush. He can rollout. He can run the read-option. He can just run!

By the way, several (one in particular, that I think warranted the cheetah reference) of the terrible overthrows that keep getting mentioned were during the West Virginia game in which he started. It was about the windiest game I can remember. Both QBs had multiple passes carried far and away in that one.

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Brett McCabe 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Jay, he was flat out awful throwing the ball in every stadium under all weather conditions. How did the WVU passing game go that day? Seems like a good kid, though. I hope that he excels.

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Jason Keller 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Bahahahahahahahaaha!!!! Bahahahahahaahahahahaah!!! Oh god, Keegan I was drinking my coffee when I read this! Good thing I keep an extra shirt in my desk like Don Draper..

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Doug Cramer 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Glad to see Kellerman has finally come around to the dark side. Dark side being reality :)

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Mark Lindrud 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Mmmm, I love the taste of overly sweetened kool-aid in the morning. Time to go back to sleep and dream of our Men's Football National Title.

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Aaron Paisley 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Ideal scenario for KU this year is Heaps wins the starting QB job and Cozart can redshirt and have 3 years left starting in 2015. The improvements in the offense will be the biggest factor in KU's win total for 2014. The defense won't be great, but should be good enough to keep KU in most games this year and give them a chance to pull some upsets if the offense is good enough.

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Brett McCabe 4 months, 3 weeks ago

It doesn't matter how much we've improved, we've scheduled ourselves into a losing season already.

It is painful for me to watch the same mistakes being made over and over and over simply because some guy has a new plan. If we ever play anyone outside of the conference that does not have at least 3 directions and multiple AA's associated with them, then everyone on the football staff should be sent to search out for snipes and not allowed to return until they've hit the limit.

We simply don't know how to build a football program because we make stupid decisions. Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got smart?

Also, fire the Rowing coach, right now.

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Terry N Tom Denner 4 months, 3 weeks ago

What is this WE crap ?? The hiring of the new caoches brings the Jay Hawks back to the Mangino offense. Take your WE crap and go troll on some MU article.

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Bryce Landon 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I'll believe it when I see it, and not a moment before. Until then,

Fire Charlie Weis!

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Terry N Tom Denner 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Brent McCabe, what is up with your WE crap ?? The hiring of all the new coaches this year takes KU back to Mangino way of football. Go and troll on some MU football article.

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Mark Lindrud 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Honestly, I am tired of hearing about Mangino should be coming back. Unless something crazy happens, it isn't going to happen. I wish him well and he had a very good run here, but we need to hope this team does well this year. I do believe if we don't win more than 3 games then we will be looking for a new coach. Until everything plays out I will cheer us on and hope for the best.

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