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Monday, March 17, 2014

Keegan

Column: Cozart’s future at QB, not WR, for Kansas

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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Todd Reesing beat out Kerry Meier in the spring of 2007, and not too long after that, Meier became one of the most prolific wide receivers in Kansas University football history.

Might that happen with Montell Cozart in the event either Jake Heaps or T.J. Millweard beats out Cozart for the starting quarterback job? Probably not.

“Montell was recruited to play quarterback,” Kansas coach Charlie Weis said when asked the question. “I think he is good enough to play there. There is good competition at that position. No one is getting handed that job.”

Cozart, the fourth quarterback to start a game at KU under Weis (following Dayne Crist, Michael Cummings and Heaps), is the only one to win a Big 12 game, 31-19, versus West Virginia. Cozart moved great, side-stepping rushes and ever-so-smoothly striding for first downs. Everything about him looked good, except for the football sailing way over the heads of intended targets.

Cozart’s passing stats during his true freshman season: 23-for-63, no touchdown passes, two interceptions, 3.6 yards per pass attempt, a 36.5 completion percentage.

He overthrew receivers at an alarming rate. What caused that?

“I think that it was probably nerves,” Weis said. “This is the first time he is playing real college football against the big boys at times of the game that count. You are starting against Kansas State; this isn’t like you are just playing anyone. You are playing the arch-rival. He grew up in this area, you have a pretty good idea of who you are going against.

“I think that a lot of that comes with being a freshman. I’m not making excuses for anyone. (Those are) the facts. I mean, anytime you are a freshman, you are in there, and some of those passes are sailing, you probably are a tad bit nervous.”

Cozart had a similar take on the overthrows.

“Last year that was a little bit of jitters, a little nervousness,” he said. “It seems like everything was just happening so fast for me. Now I’ve been watching film, studying the game, going out in practice, and I’ve been able to get the timing and chemistry down with the receivers. This year I look forward to it being a little different.”

Or a lot. He said he thinks a 70-percent accuracy rate is a good goal, which would mean completing twice as many passes.

Two factors ought to help right off the bat. First, new offensive coordinator John Reagan’s offense will feature quicker, shorter passes, which are easier to complete. Second, whoever wins the quarterback job in Nick Harwell will have a go-to receiver who isn’t learning on the job but already has had a season in which he caught 97 passes, nine for touchdowns, and amassed 1,425 yards.

Weis’ pro-style offense required the physical and mental challenges of seasoned pros and was too much for developing youngsters to execute. Mix in an untalented and/or inexperienced group of receivers, and the quarterbacks had two strikes on them before taking a snap.

Reagan’s offense, Cozart said, is simpler because the calls at the line of scrimmage are more streamlined — for example, he said, he doesn’t have to relay as much to receivers because they are looking at the signals as well — and it features “a lot of quick game, a lot of short routes and let the receivers do what they do in space. I’m looking forward to that.”

Heaps, the favorite to win the job, sounded just as eager early in the spring as Cozart to embrace the new approach.

“We came from a very complicated system, and guys have that confidence that it’s not going to get much harder than that, and we feel we can pick up anything,” Heaps said.

If both Heaps and Millweard beat out Cozart, he could always spend his second season as a red-shirt and have three remaining years to play.

“Everyone looks at a quarterback and says, ‘Well, if he doesn’t play there, let’s move him someplace else.’ Well, usually those guys at the other positions have been playing there for a long time and have a huge head start over those players,” Weis said. “We always look at those things, but I think Montell is a quarterback.”

Comments

Phil Leister 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Was there ever any discussion of Cozart playing WR or was that an off the cuff question from a reporter? The title of this column makes it seem like there's a contingent of people thinking he could play receiver. Maybe I don't follow KU football closely enough.

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Andy Tweedy 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I think it was an off the cuff question from Keegan.

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Ashwin Rao 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't hear anything about Cummings anymore. He seems to be so looooow down in the list. Is there a chance that he may move to a different position?

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Jim Stauffer 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't seem to be getting the complete article. Just the intro. And no, for the record, I don't use mascara.

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Chandler Accipiter 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I know this comment won't get much traction on a KU football article the week of the NCAA tourney, but here I go: there have been many references about Reagan's new offense, but the fact remains that Ron Powlus is still the QB coach. This seems to be an important fact when you consider that Weis failed at OC and Ianello failed at WR coach, so how did Powlus get a pass? He and Ianello were handpicked by Weis at ND, and then they both left for Akron and were met with no success which got them the KU gig when Weis was hired. New offense or not, I don't expect much improvement from any of the QB's, especially when the same old Weis crony of a position coach remains.

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Aaron Paisley 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Powlus wasn't let go because if you take away the drops and make that stat a closer to average number, the completion % of the QB's last year is right around the 60% range which is not a bad number.

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Dyrk Dugan 4 months, 2 weeks ago

i think the fact of MC being the only QB on the roster to win a Big 12 game is significant. a step further: he is the ONLY regular starting QB at KU to start, complete, and win a league football game since Todd Reesing. that's right. Jordan Webb didn't finish the Colorado game in 2010.

all this being said, if Millweard is the real deal, then i wouldn't mind Cozart wearing the RS...it would be nice to get that eligibility back, and we have a stronger offense going in 2014. by the next year, Heaps will be gone.

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Aaron Paisley 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Kerry Meier was officially the back up QB had Reesing been unable to go at some point. If Cozart doesn't win the starting job, a similar arrangement wouldn't be the worst thing in the world at this point. The offense clearly needs all the help it can get and Cozart is a good enough athlete where he could do both. Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M played WR while waiting his turn at QB for the Aggies so why couldn't Cozart play some WR while waiting his turn at QB?

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Doug Roberts 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Should it concern me that Weis didn't say with the wide receivers we have and the ones coming in that it would be hard for Cozart to crack the lineup at wide receiver?

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Mark Lindrud 4 months, 2 weeks ago

You are over thinking this. Cozart is a QB and that is the position of focus for him. If he doesn't get the starting nod I say RS him so he can develop and down the road he could be really good hopefully.

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