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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Keegan

Column: Cozart motivated by missed chances

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart heads up the field on a run against Southeast Missouri State during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart heads up the field on a run against Southeast Missouri State during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 at Memorial Stadium.

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Practicing an area that needs improvement is one thing, but nothing pumps up the urgency of that sort of self-improvement quest quite the way getting exposed in a game does.

Montell Cozart doesn’t need to be told he didn’t put the right touch on his long passes in Saturday night’s season-opening 34-28 victory against Southeast Missouri State.

Arm strength never has been the issue. You don’t fire the laser he did on the run to Tony Pierson on the right sideline if you have a weak arm. Dating to last season — when the long misses were more egregious than Saturday’s — Cozart has overthrown long balls.

“When it was time to throw the ball down field, I tried that,” Cozart said. “I missed Nigel (King) on an out route that I wish I could have back. I keep dreaming about it. And also a deep ball to Nick (Harwell). He dove for it, right on his fingertips. A few plays we wish we could have back, icing on the cake, that would have changed the whole momentum of the game.”

He needs to hit on a long pass the way Charlie Weis needs to hit on a quarterback during his time at Kansas. The former could help the latter happen.

“This week we’ve been staying after practice a lot more throwing deep balls, just getting the chemistry, getting the receivers’ feel for everyone’s depth and different speeds for the route,” Cozart said. “So I’ve been staying after a lot with those guys, throwing the ball down the field, and I feel like it’s going to show this week.”

Cozart said he has spent extra time with King, Pierson, Justin McCay and Rodriguez Coleman.

“You definitely have to know your personnel and who you have out there,” Cozart said. “If you’ve got McCay out there in comparison to Tony, you’re not going to throw it as far. McCay, you’re going to throw it up there and let him go get it. Tony you can just throw it and let him run under it. You can trust his speed.”

These are all things Cozart knew about his receivers from working with them throughout camp, but again, nothing like missing the mark in the game makes an athlete sharpen his focus and dial up the intensity of whatever he’s trying to perfect.

A few late-season steps out of bounds short of the first-down marker from Cozart late last season called into question his willingness to take a hit. He quelled those concerns by running the option in a fearless way, took one particularly vicious hit and bounced right back onto his feet.

“Which one?” Cozart said when asked about the play. “I was fine. It’s part of the game. I came off the sideline and my teammates were talking about that. I told them you don’t have to worry about that. I’m always going to get up. If I don’t get up, then come get me.”

They’ll come get him to celebrate when he connects on his first accurate long one. Premonition: Coleman burns behind the Duke defense, extends his arms and Cozart hits him in stride. Touchdown. The crowd grows quiet. The visiting sideline goes wild.

Comments

David A. Smith 6 years, 2 months ago

I have a hunch this we're in for solid QB play for the first time since Reesing.

rggeiger 6 years, 2 months ago

My daughter and I will be on the visiting sidelines in Durham screaming our heads off when it happens.

Joe Ross 6 years, 2 months ago

I dont know if it will happen in the Duke game or not, but I feel like Cozart needs some time in the saddle to get comfortable with the long pass. To make a basketball analogy, shooting free throws in practice is not like shooting free throws in a game (this is not to ignore the obvious reality that no one who shoots well in a game does poorly in practice, but you understand the point of the observation). I have argued that Weis needs to have his QB throw tons of passes to his receivers on real routes, both unguarded and defensed, so that the QB can develop a feel for the pass and that the group of them can develop a chemistry. Before one says "Im sure they are emphasizing passes in practice", Im quite sure I mean something else by using the word "emphasis". As in 500 routes per day in the off-season. Why such a heavy commitment? Because Cozart does not need to practice his running. He has a natural feel for that. And he certainly doesn't need to practice handing the ball off to the RBs. They know what to do. My feeling is that perhaps as much as 80% of Cozart's time in practice should be spent throwing. Some time is necessary to teach recognition of defensive fronts and so on, I grant you. But much of that kind of thing can also be accomplished in the classroom setting. TONS of time in practice needs to be spent throwing the ball.

Aaron Paisley 6 years, 2 months ago

You just can't throw that many passes everyday in the offseason. I agree with the thought process, but think about relief pitchers in baseball. Their arms just simply can't take the wear and tear of throwing the volume they do on an everyday basis. Cozart got a dead arm in the middle of fall camp and his throwing had to be scaled way back because of it so I don't think there's anyway his arm could handle 500 throws everyday in the offseason without major negative consequences coming from it.

There are ways to practice the lob pass into the end zone without a receiver though. That's a pass the QB is aiming for a specific spot and not the receiver to begin with, so setting a trash can in the back corner of the endzone and throwing for that is a way a lot of QB's at the high school level and I'm sure higher levels as well practice with that method as well.

Joe Ross 6 years, 2 months ago

Im pulling a number out of a hat obviously. I dont even know how long it takes to throw 500 throws and its quite feasible that, despite arm considerations, throwing 500 balls may take 6-8 hours. The message I am really trying to convey with my comment is the relative emphasis on practice in throwing. My hunch is that it needs to be much greater (especially given that Cozart has not been playing the QB position very long). And yes, you could throw to areas of the field without receivers but why would you? If your quarterback is there and the receivers are available, then in game situations they have the confidence of knowing they have made and caught that pass in route-running practices however many times youve practiced it. Trash cans dont suit up.

Aaron Paisley 6 years, 2 months ago

The specific pass you were saying Cozart needs to work on is the deep ball and those are typically thrown to a specific spot on the field, usually that back corner of the endzone. That's not a pass that you hit the receiver with, the receiver has to make the play. I can give you a specific example from the SEMO game of a perfectly thrown fade route the receiver blew. Remember the would be TD that Nick Harwell gator armed in the end zone? That was a perfectly thrown ball by Cozart and he was absolutely aiming for a spot on the field and it was up to the WR to go make the play. I'm not trying use this to say that all of those missed passes were on the WR's because Cozart absolutely overthrew quite a few deep passes. I'm just using that Harwell play as the example as to why you practice fade routes by aiming for a specific spot on the field.

Joe Ross 6 years, 2 months ago

I played receiver and so I can tell you with confidence that there are many long routes that dont go to the corner of the end zone. And it is also true that there are many deep routes that depend on the accuracy of the quarterback in making the throw, which is exactly the point Keegan and Tait have made. They are correct and I can verify this from personal experience on the field. You can not say with any degree of certainty at all that Cozart was throwing to a spot on the field so dont avail yourself of that instance for an example. Again, there are many more routes than the fade for deep balls. The deep out, corner, post, dig, slant crossing routes, and so on. Many of these passes require that the quarterback time the throw properly and give the right amount of arm to hit the receiver in stride. It is often the case that receivers have to adjust routes because of how the defense is deployed, or the receiver has been moved from his original route by coverage during the play. There is no justification to your position at all, to be frank.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 2 months ago

I believe there was a comment in an article earlier this week where JaCorey commented on staying after practice to throw extra balls with the main WR's. Does that mean they are as smart as you? :-)

I do agree with you in that I think we are headed to the best QB play in years. I'm believing the 1st qrtr is more the norm than the latter. I think the coaches have lots more to show that will ultimately add to the total package as well.

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