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Friday, August 8, 2014

Keegan

Column: Montell Cozart right fit at QB for KU

Blue Team quarterback Montell Cozart scrambles in for a touchdown against the White Team 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 scrambles in for a touchdown against the White Team 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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If the Kansas University football team had the Hogs, the famous line of the 1980’s fielded by the Washington Pigskins, then Jake Heaps might have emerged from the spring as the starting quarterback.

Since the guys the O-line will face most weeks are the ones with the nicknames, and in many cases fat NFL paychecks are in their futures, waiting for them, Montell Cozart was the easy choice, Heaps not the right fit.

“I think if you look across the country — and Clint (Bowen, defensive coordinator) and I talk about this all the time ­­— regardless of the system you’re in, if you have a quarterback who can keep plays alive and make plays with his feet, it’s important,” offensive coordinator John Reagan said. “It puts a whole different strain on the defense. It forces them to defend the entire field, not just him throwing the ball, but what he can do with his feet as well. With where we are and the development of who we are as an offense, it’s probably even more important right now. You need a guy with the ball in his hands who can erase the mistakes of other players.”

Reagan, Bowen and head coach Charlie Weis agreed an offensive scheme is only as good as its quarterback, to a large extent.

“When you open up new opponent study as a defensive coach, it always starts and probably finishes with the quarterback,” Bowen said. “What is his skill set? What are the things he does well? ... If he’s a scramble guy, how are you going to rush him? Those kind of guys can be scary. ... That QB guy is always a huge factor. Guys who can truly be running threats and throw the ball, well, those are difficult to defend.”

Cozart didn’t throw the ball well last season, completing 36.5 percent of his passes for 3.6 yards per attempt.

In the spring game, played with the defense allowed to tackle the quarterback, Cozart completed six of 10 passes for 58 yards and ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.

“He can run the ball, make some plays with his feet, bail us out of some situations,” Weis said. “I mean, the kid’s got a lot of athleticism, and he’s become a more accurate thrower.”

Cozart’s accuracy, Weis said, is the biggest factor that makes him a better thrower than reserve Michael Cummings. For his career, Cummings has completed 47 percent of his passes and averaged 5.1 yards per pass attempt with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

KU needs better than that out of Cozart. Kerry Meier numbers (56.5 completion percentage, 6.5 yards per pass attempt, 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions) during his red-shirt freshman season would suffice.

Weis did a nice job of capturing what needs to happen for Cozart to improve his accuracy.

“I think the biggest thing is not being nervous, because accuracy is never an issue when you watch him throw in practice,” Weis said. “It’s what can you do when the pressure’s on. Quarterback is totally different when people can actually hit you. It’s one thing when you know you’re not going to get hit. ... It’s a totally different deal when you know they can smack you in the mouth. He was better in just about every facet in the spring time.”

Dayne Crist and Heaps hesitated, even ducked for cover, when steadily bombarded by pass rushers. Once Cozart starts turning broken plays into big gains, defenses will think twice about bringing so much heat for fear he’ll leave them in his rear-view mirror.

“John likes to run the hell out of the ball,” Weis said of Reagan. “What we’ve done now is added an extra runner. Montell fits John’s scheme way better than Montell would fit mine. In my scheme, the quarterback is not a runner. The quarterback hands off to the running backs and gets the hell out of the way. In this scheme, the quarterback is another guy you have to defend.”

Cozart definitely is the right style quarterback. He won’t get a chance to prove he’s the right guy until he plays against opponents.

Comments

Clarence Haynes 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Instead of origins, why don't you call it Washington's Football Team.

Steve Corder 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Give the political correctness a rest, Tom!

Joe Ross 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Interesting. The article addresses the huge question of whether or not Cozart will be able to pass at all. Yet in spite of not knowing the answer for sure (only giving speculative reasons that he can be more successful than his predecessors because of his ability to run), the title is conclusive with regard to Cozart being the right man for the QB job. Maybe he IS. But how can we know this when (one) his passing has not thus far given any observer to think he can, when (two) Weis' synopsis of his quarterbacks' abilities have not translated to much on the field in the past and (three) his running ability did not produce the kind of freedom we would have expected and the numbers remained low. These statements do NOT mean I am hopeful that Cozart will fail; on the contrary, my hope is that he be as successful as the title of this article suggests, even if the title is not a justifiable statement at the present time.

Aaron Paisley 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The biggest element Cozart brings to the offense is the ability to run the zone read. That is not an easy play and Cozart torched the defense a couple of times in the spring game with that play.

Outside of that, there are two other factors in Cozart's favor that should help him out quite a bit next year. The first is the upgrades at WR. A new coach that is teaching them how to catch and how to run routes will make a big difference along with upgrade in talent. The second is that playbook. Reagan's plays focus more on short and intermediate routes that take significantly less time to develop and that means that Cozart should get the ball out of his hands quicker this year.

Nothing is a given, but there are legitimate reasons to believe Cozart can be the starting QB for the next 3 years and be productive during that time including this season.

Savion Havon 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The runs Cozart torched the defense on were sprung by a no contact blocking Tony Pierson up until that point he was very indecisive with running the zone read the spring game is now on youtube take a look

John Boyle 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I loved the Redskins when they had the Hogs. That was some great football.

Jim Jackson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I think the fact that Cozart is now getting 95% of the snaps; has an offense more suited for him; an extra year under his belt; has seen live Big 12 action and has upgraded talent all around him will really help him.

Not saying he is going to be RG3 but if he can put up Kerry Meier type numbers, I think we get 6 wins.

Gregor Southard 2 months, 2 weeks ago

My sense when I heard Cozart got the nod was "hey, our OL still sucks so let's put a guy out there who can run." The proverbial elephant in the room is Bowen's still the DC so we're going to have to average over 40pts a game to have a chance to win.

ps. Go Redskins!

Aaron Paisley 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The top scoring defense in the Big 12 gave up about 21 points per game. KU's offense averaged just 15 ppg last season and only scored 30+ points 4 times the past two seasons. The defense isn't the elephant in the room in regards to KU's success this season.

Jay Beakum 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Not really accurate. McHargue ran a lot for Reagan at Rice and they had a really good offensive line.

Bob Bailey 2 months, 2 weeks ago

GS -- good to know some of our guys recognize Defense!

Gregor Southard 2 months, 1 week ago

I meant Bowen, not the defense in general. Go back and check the defensive ranks for KU, Western Kentucky, and North Texas under him. That said, I've supported KU football through thick and thin. Went to all but two home games when I went to school in the late 80's when they weren't much better than now

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