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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Tait

Could a 2-QB system be right for Kansas?

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) heaves a pass during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) heaves a pass during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

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Hold me by my feet over the guardrail of a mountain reservoir and force me to pick a quarterback for the Kansas football team to ride with for the rest of the season and I’d probably go with Montell Cozart.

For all of the negativity associated with his name, Cozart looked more mature, composed, confident and effective in Saturday’s season opener than at any time in his Kansas career.

But give me the opportunity to do exactly what second-year Kansas coach David Beaty did during KU’s 55-6 victory over Rhode Island at Memorial Stadium and I just might take it.

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Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) watches the clock deep in the Rams' territory during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Playing two quarterbacks all season might not be the obvious recipe for success. But it certainly did not hurt the Jayhawks on Saturday night.

Cozart, the junior who technically started the Kansas opener for the third season in a row, finished 18-of-25 for 199 yards and three touchdowns. Willis, the sophomore who did not find out until Saturday afternoon that he was not starting (and then handled it like a pro), finished 7-of-9 for 144 yards and two TDs.

Two drives here. Two drives there. Back and forth they went for three quarters.

Put them together and you’re looking at an exquisite body of work that includes a 74 percent completion percentage, 343 yards and five touchdowns. And that’s to say nothing of the extra touchdown, three completions and 56 yards that red-shirt freshman Carter Stanley added to the stat line during mop-up duty in the fourth quarter.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

David Beaty talks about KU's 55-6 win over Rhode Island

After a 55-6 victory over Rhode Island in the 2016 season opener, Kansas coach David Beaty discusses the win (his first as KU coach), offense and quarterback situation in his post-game press conference.

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Throughout history, only a handful of coaches who have gone with the two-quarterback system have been glad they did it. But as long as the gap between Cozart and Willis remains paper thin, as it was all summer and again during live action on Saturday night, the two-QB platoon might be the best move for the Jayhawks.

Here’s why:

“The system is taught the same,” said Beaty, indicating that what’s asked of one is not different from what’s asked of the other even though, as Beaty said, they’re very different types of quarterbacks. “We’ll go back and look at the tape and we’ll just see who handles the minute details the best. The good news is both of ’em performed at a very high level and it’s one of those deals where we still have competition going.”

Competition. It’s a buzz word that surfaces throughout football camps, at all levels, every offseason. And it inspires cheesy cliches from both coaches and players, such as, “Iron sharpens iron” or “Competition brings out the best in everybody.” Is it possible that, in this case, it’s true?

One of the big reasons both KU quarterbacks were able to let it rip when they were on the field and keep their composure — and focus — while standing on the sideline on Saturday was the fact that the two former Bishop Miege grads genuinely care about and pull for each other.

Beaty said he told Cozart and Willis at the same time Saturday what the plan was for the opener.

“I thought our quarterbacks handled the rotation pretty well,” Beaty said. “I don’t think that’s an easy thing. They knew what was going on when we went into the game so they were prepared for it.”

Perhaps the best part about all of this for Kansas — other than the fact that it keeps next week’s opponent, 0-1 Ohio, guessing — is that nobody associated with KU’s offense thought anything remarkable occurred on Saturday night. Not Beaty. Not Cozart. Not Willis. And not any of the other players taking snaps, catching passes or holding blocks so both could happen. Through their eyes, all that went down at Memorial Stadium on a beautiful evening for football was that the Jayhawks (1-0) took care of business the way they were supposed to.

“We didn’t do anything spectacular at quarterback,” Cozart said. “We just did what our coaches told us to do. And when you play your cards right, that happens.”

What happens from here is anybody’s guess, but don’t expect it to start with Beaty settling on one quarterback or the other any time soon.

“Until one guy completely separates himself, we’ll continue to rotate quarterbacks if we need to,” he said, emphasis on completely.

Asked how long he would be willing to let a Cozart-Willis rotation play out, Beaty’s answer indicated that this was no gimmick.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’re not really trying to look that far down the road. We’re just trying to get ’em both ready.”

The reality of it all might be this: With the kind of dynamic play-makers that fill the KU roster at the wide receiver position, pinpointing a starting quarterback may not really matter. Take the 71-yard touchdown pass from Willis to Steven Sims Jr., in the third quarter, for example. On the play, Willis took two steps after catching the shotgun snap and threw without pressure an easy pass eight yards to his left. Sims did the rest, racing untouched to the end zone.

Credit Beaty for this reality. After taking the play-calling responsibilities and reinventing KU’s offense, questions roared about whether the second-year coach could handle it. He never flinched. Saturday night we saw why.

Beaty has put in an offense in which the play-makers shoulder the heavy load and the quarterbacks are asked simply to make the right — and most often easy — plays.

That’s just fine with the rest of the Jayhawks. Said junior linebacker and team captain Joe Dineen: “I don’t really notice who’s in there or who’s not and I’m happy either way, as long as they put points up. And that’s what they did tonight.”

— See what people were saying about KU's first win of the season during KUsports.com’s live coverage


More news and notes from the 2016 season opener


Comments

Dale Rogers 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Out here on the West Coast I had to watch the game on ESPN3 but I'm thrilled I got to watch this one. I hooked the laptop up to the TV and we watched it on TV. Sadly, though, ESPN3 stays with ads way, way too long, frequently returning to the game after a play or two is already done. We missed one touchdown that way and we missed other exciting action. Some of the replays filled us in but not always. And the announcers were among the worst I've ever experienced. Did these guys even notice there was a game going on? Could they please tell us who just did what? Occasionally they did but much of the time we were left guessing. And a couple of times they didn't even tell us what the official just said about someone getting a penalty. Sad. But at least we got to watch the game and didn't have to follow it on play-by-play website.

It was an exciting game and despite the low-caliber opponent there was obviously a lot of improvement in the Jayhawks. And I was pleased to see how most fans stuck around past half-time. Amazing what a win does.

Ashwin Rao 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I am in Ohio, and I had to also depend on ESPN3... I agree, it was fun to watch!

Dirk Medema 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Given the history of injuries to QB's not named Todd, we'll likely need Carter as well.

Ashwin Rao 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I loved Carter's composure & accuracy. He has potential.

Brett McCabe 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The handling of the QB situation is baffling to me. Beaty said during the week that the starter knew who was starting and then said that he didn't tell him until game day. Which was it?

This approach of getting in the head of your returning starter and best QB (Willis) reminds me of the worst type of high-school rah-rah b.s. when the coach has fallen in love with the guy who is the best on the bus, so the coach decides to mess with the guy who is clearly better but who doesn't meet the coaches hand-holding quotient on the sideline.

What I saw is what I've always seen, one guy who is slow with the throws and indecisive at the worst times (red-zone pick) and one guy who is in control, calm and delivers the ball where players can make plays.

There's such as a thing as too cute coaching, and that's what we have here.

Jay Scott 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Somehow your football coaching resume was overlooked.... How much bigger would the margin have been with you at the helm?

Jay Scott 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Brett. For any person of average intelligence it should be easy to grasp that I like to make fun of those that post comically stupid ideas.

If you feel "stalked" it might be a sign....

Jay Scott 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Of course "average intelligence" is probably more than you could hope to aspire to....

Chris Bailey 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Brett,

I changed my avatar just for you. Hope you like it!

Dirk Medema 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Personal attacks aside, I'm recalling Coach's comment about starters being more along the lines of the players know from practice where they stand relative to their teammates. He also said that all 3 QB's were equal then later said that well maybe Carter wasn't quite as equal in practice as the others, then later still said that Willis hadn't displayed the leadership that Coach expects out of his QB. There's been lots written about Montell having strong leadership on this team.

Maybe it is a bit of reverse Miege/HS magic. The underclassman has a subliminal sense of deferring leadership to the upperclassman.

I definitely don't know much about FB, and got to see very little of the game, but it sounded like the end zone pick was a matter of trying to be too accurate/thread the needle. For the most part though, it sounded like all 3 did a good job of making the right throw - against a exhibition/practice squad. Essentially = to the BB playing Emporia.

We won't really find out anything until at least next week and the following when we play a top 100 team and then go on the road. It's all just been a dress rehearsal so far, but nice to shed the monkey anyway.

Jim Stauffer 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Brett, I will wait until the competition improves to agree or disagree with you. If we continue to play anyone at any position who proves he is inferior to another, I will agree. Saturday, Cozart was measurably better and this is a Willis fan speaking. Time will tell. Cream rises to the top and any others you can think of.

Pius Waldman 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Out of state TV was available on Direct TV channel 792. The announcers were the ones from TWC. Same is true with basketball for the 6 games TWC televises. So maybe if you get 792 it will have the KU game.

Dale Rogers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Cox Cable here. The Ohio game will be broadcast here in the metro San Diego area on Fox Sports Network. But the Rhode Island game was not on Cox here, only ESPN3.

W Keith Swinehart II 7 months, 2 weeks ago

ESPN3 is much appreciated here in South Carolina. The telecast, other than the announcer professionalism, was good in it's video quality, and did show tell as us replays and highlights that they have neglected in the past. Honestly, it was nearly as good as network TV.

Aaron Paisley 7 months, 2 weeks ago

A two QB system has worked for teams in the past (2008 Florida won a national title with a 2 QB system), and it worked for KU last night. Cozart and Willis both looked pretty good last night and as long as they can each play well, it gives teams something more difficult to prepare for.

That said, as soon as there is separation between the QB's, the Beaty needs to end the 2 QB system and play the one that has separated himself.

Dirk Medema 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Generally agreeing, though also wondering if it really does give opposing coaches more to plan for? Willis is supposed to be the more athletic runner, but that doesn't really seem to be part of the O being run or the way he has performed in the past. I think Willis had the better running stats yesterday.

Aaron Paisley 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Cozart is the better runner as Beaty called a couple of designed runs for Cozart, and I believe both of Willis' runs were scrambles. Willis had 2 carries for 22 yards and Cozart had 4 for 17 yards.

I'd love to see the zone read be part of the offense because it adds an extra runner to defend against, but Beaty doesn't seem too interested in utilizing the zone read much.

Dirk Medema 7 months, 2 weeks ago

If it were a part of the O, or 1 of the QB's resembled Swopes, Bell (OU), or most any other QB that has actually run for significant yardage, but like you said there doesn't seem to be much QB running in our O. Maybe that changes for Cozart against better competition, but there's been little IMO from the past 3 years that would make me game plan against Cozart running.

Dale Rogers 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I suspect the proof in the pudding comes when we play a team who can more easily get through our line and rush the QB. Then we'll see if Cozart handles the pressure better than last year.

Micky Baker 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe it isn't really a 2 QB system that worked really well. Maybe it's that the system works well for whoever the QB is. I couldn't really tell a big difference in play calling except for a couple of designed runs by Cozart. Both QBs threw the ball well and the receivers are going to love how it get's spread out. Beaty might be onto something with the air raid for Kansas.

Humpy Helsel 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Texas and ND played pretty well tonight with both using a modified two QB system. Not the same, but if the offense has confidence in both, then why not for now. Again, game situations will likely create separation at some point. Now that we have tasted victory, let's go get another one.

Chris Bailey 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I think that Willis will end up winning the starting job before the season is up. I still don't think Cozart is gonna be able to handle the pressure from an FBS defense. Remember he's played well against inferior competition before. We shall see Saturday.

Greg Ledom 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Watched a fair amount of Ohio and Texas State on TV Saturday. Ohio is very beatable and I hope we can get win #2 this Saturday and look to Memphis being 2-0. Don't get me wrong, Ohio is well coached with Solich, but they are nothing special from what I saw. Jayhawks by a couple touchdowns.

Rock Chalk!!

Brock Wells 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I love your articles Matt and with all due respect, I'm going to disagree with you. I completely agree with Coach B about giving Montell the start because if there was no separation, you give the Captain the start. But the interception he threw, no pressure, should have used his elite speed to take off and run but he throws off his front foot... pick. Willis just has that "it" factor and it tough; throws such a great ball; plus he had more rushing yards with fewer attempts then Montell. I hope I'm wrong because Montell has done nothing but been I class act representing the University of Kansas but we NEED to win football games and that equals Ryan playing QB! ROCK CHALK!

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