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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Keegan

Column: Second-year QB sure looks like Jayhawks’ starter

Blue Team quarterback Montell Cozart charges up the sideline on a 60-yard run during the second half of the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Memorial Stadium. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Blue Team quarterback Montell Cozart charges up the sideline on a 60-yard run during the second half of the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Memorial Stadium. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Charlie Weis disappointed with first-half play of Blue team in spring game

Kansas football coach Charlie Weis was disappointed with the first-half play of KU's first-string Blue team in the spring game, which Blue rallied to win, 20-10, against the second-string White squad.

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Keon Stowers: Blue team rallied at halftime

Kansas football senior defensive lineman Keon Stowers says his Blue team rallied at halftime after the White team outplayed the first-stringers in the first two quarters.

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The play that killed any suspense for me as to the identity of the Kansas University football team’s quarterback this coming fall came long before Montell Cozart busted a 60-yard run, long before he found the end zone on two short runs.

It came in the first half of Saturday’s annual spring game, a half in which the first string, with Cozart and Jake Heaps rotating at quarterback, didn’t score a point against the second-string defense.

Third-and-9, nobody open, the heat on its way, time for the athlete to make something out of nothing. He started up the middle, cut back and forth and made the first down with a yard to spare.

You have a quarterback with that much smooth speed and ability to change directions, you have a chance to compete against teams with bigger, quicker, more experienced linemen than the guys playing on your side.

Cozart gives Charlie Weis’ third KU football team that chance. Jake Heaps, working for his fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons of college football, doesn’t possess the same gifts. When conditions around him are predictable, he can zip a football better than he did Saturday, but he’s not going to deflate a defense that did everything right to get into third-and-long and created the sort of chaos that down and distance should, only to be burned by a guy too quick to catch before it’s too late.

Weis didn’t name Cozart his starting quarterback after Saturday’s spring football game, but the projected depth chart sure felt that way to everybody who watched the first string defeat the second string, 20-10, and to the participants.

Let’s see, new offensive coordinator John Reagan has installed an offense that includes a healthy dose of quarterback runs. Cozart is an exciting runner, Heaps a pocket passer.

Cozart has the arm to make all the throws Heaps can make.

The offensive line looms as a giant question mark, which means whoever is standing in the shotgun must be ready to extend plays with his feet. Cozart is a threat to pop a big play every time he’s in that situation. Heaps has difficulty evading one defender, much less a swarm.

In name, the competition remains ongoing, but the defensive MVP of the spring game put a strong feeling shared by many into words after his eight-tackle performance.

“I’m not an offensive guru or anything like that, but I feel like he’s playing with a lot more confidence,” Stowers said of Cozart. “I feel he’s matured. He’s been mature, but I feel like he’s matured a lot more.”

Cozart is raw by Big 12 starting quarterback standards, but his talent slaps you in the face, wakes you up from a four-year slumber induced from watching KU quarterbacks. He’s showing more now than he did a year ago and it’s easy to peer into the future and see more in summer camp than now.

Just because teammates play and don’t pay to watch, doesn’t mean they don’t get a charge out of watching a developing young talent grow.

“Oh yeah, we need our Johnny Football around here,” Stowers said. “Jeesh, we need to get some kind of young talent around here, and I feel like that’s him over there.”

He nodded to the table where Cozart, voted the offensive MVP, gripped reporters with unscripted, youthful charm.

Then Stowers looked around and lowered his voice to just above a whisper, as if repercussions for saying too much don’t exist if his words are only read by coaches and not heard.

“I feel like Montell, is, you know, the guy,” Stowers said. “This is from play. This is from maturity. Playing against him this whole spring I really saw it. I saw it last year and I saw it playing against him this spring. I’m excited to see him going forward.”

Born leaders don’t make fear-based decisions. They decide how to lead and that’s who Stowers is. He’s not afraid to state his opinion if he thinks doing so will drive a teammate toward self-improvement. Born leaders also lace compliments with challenges.

“I really, really want to see him take his game to the next level,” Stowers said. “I want to see him get into the weight room, put some weight on, which he’s already done. I want to see him going more. I want to see him meeting with coaches. And this is coming from a defensive player, so this should tell you a little about the chemistry on this team.”

Cozart wasn’t looking to be named the starter Saturday and said he didn’t think it would have altered his offseason outlook.

“It wouldn’t have done anything,” Cozart said. “It wouldn’t have boosted my head or given me a big head. I’m not that type of guy. I’m pretty laid-back, mellow. It definitely would have given me a little excitement on the inside.”

He has a long way to go, but not as long as if he had not experienced playing in games a year ago. Cozart’s not close to being a polished quarterback, but is an exciting prospect. It will be enjoyable watching No. 2 operate as No. 1 on the KU quarterback depth chart in 2014.

Comments

Mark Lindrud 4 months, 3 weeks ago

So, he can run. Can he throw accurately? If not then there's no point to this argument.

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Dirk Medema 4 months, 3 weeks ago

He did complete 60% today, which hopefully is a step up from last year's less than 50%.

Definitely agree with the thought that he must continue to improve so that he can complete at least 60% against the Big12 elite.

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Jim Stauffer 4 months, 3 weeks ago

My observation says he can pass it better than he can pick out the right receiver to throw to at this point.

They ran a play and he failed to see Harwell when he was open. They ran the same play again and he hit Harwell right away for a nice gain.

Once he knows both the plays and players better, this should improve.

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Ashwin Rao 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I was under the same impression. He is still not mature enough to lead us into Big12, but he seems to be the only one with the potential in our team.

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Suzi Marshall 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Cozart threw the ball well about 90% as effective as Heaps for set positions....about 150% better than Heaps when on the run. Cozart is infinitely better running the ball than Heaps. If our OL does not develop, Cummings may be our number 2.

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Ashwin Rao 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Not sure if they did this, but most teams let their 1st string offense (Blue Team) go against the 1st string defense (white team)... so there is more parity, and you can be a better judge of where they stand right now... But whatever the case, I lost hope after the first half. The offense didn't seem to have any teeth! The WRs were not getting open, the QBs were getting hurried up... and we were not even in Big-12 type situation!

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Doug Cramer 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Agree 100% with Ashwin. This team has a long ways to go...especially if we have to rely on Cozart being our #1 QB. This is the Big 12, and if we don't spread opposing defenses out...our offense does nothing.

Cozart is not a throwing QB...that was evident last year. He's not even close to being as accurate as Heaps...not even close.

If we don't have a passing game...then it will be another dismal year for the offense.

2-10

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Max Ledom 4 months, 3 weeks ago

ITS THE SPRING GAME AND YOU ARE ALREADY DISMISSING THIS TEAM

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Jim Jackson 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Agreed Max, some of these posters with negativity are just comical. It's a completely new offense and they've only had 14 practices with it. I am not worried at all, we will be a much better team this year.

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Mark Lindrud 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Will better lead to wins is my concern. Winning one more game this season isn't a better team. We need at least 5. I like the coaching changes, but it's got to happen.

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Mark Lindrud 4 months, 2 weeks ago

What if the Kool Aid is spiked?

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Jim Jackson 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Keep it up with the negativity, if you think you're building a case to replace the staff you are in a state of delirium. The staff is going to get the full 5 years and I am looking forward to it.

It was a spring game you idiot, did you really think guys were going all out? One of the main objective out there was not to get hurt. It was practice.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Those who know me will remember that I have been an Oklahoma Sooner fan since the Bud Wilkinson days at OU in the 1950's. The boys from Parrington Oval will always be my favorites.

But as a sports fan I have to wonder why KU seems have this yearly problem of fielding a good football team.. By that I mean a team that can match up to others in the conference, Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and yes....Oklahoma. There has been a 20+ year parade of "great coaches" and "fabulous" players, and yet, at the end of the season KU is lucky to play in the Starbucks Coffee Cup Bowl. There seems to be no shortage of desire, and certainly a great deal of coverage from the home town newspaper.

But when it comes time to throw the ball, well, KU has its yearly problems. Teams like Florida State, Alabama, USC, Ohio State and (yup) Oklahoma always seem to be reasonably successful in football success. KU always seems to end up near the bottom.

There is a distinct problem in the very fabric of KU football.

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