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Five big winners from Spring football

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 by Nick Krug

Now that spring football has come and gone and the Kansas University athletes eagerly looking for to the 2014 season have shifted into full off-season mode, it's time to look back at the biggest winners from spring ball.

The list of guys who helped themselves and their standing on the team with solid springs is long, but here's a look at the five guys who made the biggest move toward landing a big-time role this fall during the past five weeks.

• Greg Allen – Seemingly overnight, Allen transformed from a guy that didn't really make much of an impact on the field into a guy who played like he was a returning starter. The sophomore nickel back oozed confidence throughout the spring and used his size, speed and athleticism to make sure his sharpened mental game delivered plays on defense. Allen played for both sides in the spring game and KU coach Charlie Weis said in the postgame news conference that the 5-foot-11, 210-pound defensive back was making a strong push to be included with the first unit.

• Montell Cozart – Cozart's solid spring game is what most people will remember, but it was his development and surge that came before the glorified scrimmage that put him in position to head into the summer as the guy to beat in the Jayhawks' quarterback race. No longer just an athletic guy with the ability to hurt you with his feet, Cozart looks like a much more polished and comfortable passer and seems to be playing with the kind of poise and confidence of a guy who wants to prove he's a complete quarterback, not just a dynamic runner.

• Kevin Short – Weis said at the start of spring ball that passing either of last year's starting cornerbacks (Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd) on the depth chart would be a serious challenge. And then Short went out and did it. Tall, long, athletic and a blessed with the coverage instincts of tin foil, Short showed enough this spring to earn a promotion to first-team cornerback, which also allowed KU to slide the versatile Shepherd into the nickel back position.

• Damon Martin – Martin entered the spring with 13 games on his resume and just five starts. All of those came at guard. But this spring, under the tutelage of new offensive line coach John Reagan, the junior lineman widely known as the strongest of KU's big bodies up front, showed enough consistency, improvement and understanding of the Jayhawks' new offense to play every first-string snap at right tackle.

• Rodriguez Coleman – He was quiet during the spring game, but his spring as a whole was lights out. The junior deep threat not only was one of the most popular answers to the questions about which guys looked the best during spring practices, but he also elevated himself from big-time question mark to near-lock status for one of KU's three first-team wide receiver spots.

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Comments

Mark Lindrud 2 months, 2 weeks ago

If we are to have real success Cozart and Coleman hopefully are big winners in progress because we need a stable and productive QB in addition to a second WR to Harwell. Here is hoping the line adds to the consistency we need to make progress this year.

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Chris Bailey 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I will watch, cheer and support this team as I have every year but I'm not gonna hold my breath on a wins total. Every year I set myself up to watch a team we HOPE will pan out and every year we have pieces that don't work out. It's tough to be hopeful. I'll yell as loud as always. I'll know each and every player. I just need to see something on the field to get my expectations up to where they should be year in and out. And we've got some really good players so maybe with the new OC we get the pieces to fit together finally. Our D is good enough to keep us in most games so it's now on the OLine and the rest of the offense.

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Jay Beakum 2 months, 2 weeks ago

If Short and Allen are as good as advertised we should have a real talented dime package filled with speed, length and power to both cover the pass and stuff the run. Sounds to me like Campo is getting it done in his area of speciality. The secondary has become the deepest unit on the team (okay maybe 2nd deepest to the RBs) and he’s doing it with JUCO’s, a transplant and a 3 star.

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Jacob Zutterman 2 months, 2 weeks ago

One thing I won't get... Why don't we use Shepard as a "Talib"? Especially if he is going to be playing in the Nickel, the defense won't need him on the field all of the time and we really could use an extra set of hands at receiver. I thought we were going to utilize our athletes in space on the offensive side of the ball? Just a thought though... Really proud of how this team has come in the last 2 years. Time to build off of it!

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Jay Beakum 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Lots’ of reasons for Shepherd not being used like Talib.

One, he’s not Talib.

Two, he had the dropsies as a WR to begin with, and he won’t get the extra time with Kiesau that the others are getting. Besides he’s just now getting dialed in as a defensive back under Campo.

Three, we probably won’t pass as much as that team and we already have about 7 guys at WR who would be above him. (Harwell, Rodriguez, Pierson, McCay, Turzilli, Parmalee. Plus Mundine, another TE and probably Spencer.)

Four, Allen hasn’t beaten him yet. It’s only summer. He could still easily be our #1 nickel, and he’s solid depth at CB.

Finally, we will play a bunch of dime this year (6 DB’s), as I mentioned above. He’ll be in there a lot no matter what. He’s a playmaker.

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Matt Tait 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I wrote a column about using Shepherd both ways last season and I think, if it was going to happen, that's when it would have happened.

KU's receivers are in better shape this year than they were last year and Shepherd is even more locked into his role on defense now.

No doubt in my mind that he would be capable of handling it, though. None.

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Doug Cramer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

We can have the best secondary in college football, but without a D-line...these boys won't be able to cover a Big 12 caliber spread when the QB has 9 seconds to relax in the pocket.

Actually Shepherd didn't have the dropsies when he was WR. So I agree using him as a Talib might be something to ponder.

Finally in response to Chris Bailey...the pieces aren't in place for anything other than a 2-10 or a 3-9 season. Our talent in the trenches is bad...and you know what happens to a team when the boys up front don't have what it takes in this league...

Cozart had a LONG ways to go from what we saw last year.

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Matt Tait 2 months, 2 weeks ago

You're right to limit your optimism and expectations, but I do think the D-Line is in better shape than many are making it out to be.

Keon Stowers, Michael Reynolds, Ben Goodman and Tedarian Johnson are all proven guys who have made plays and had an impact against Big 12 foes and the unknowns like Andrew Bolton and Tyler Holmes are at least intriguing.

It'll take more than that and these guys will have to perform, but I think the talent there is solid.

The O-Line is a much bigger question, has many more unknowns and is probably even more critical, so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out.

As I've said a bunch of times before, though, I think that's where Reagan really earns his money.

Time will tell...

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Jim Jackson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Cozart was much better in the Spring game when they were LIVE. As in, they could be sacked which is never done in the spring. Regarding DLine, we were p solid last year with those guys; I expect Anthony Olobia will help a lot once he gets to campus.

Also, there is another juco Olineman set to join the squad and another possible transfer-2 more guys total

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Jim Jackson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

No mention of Olobia or Fletcher?

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Matt Tait 2 months, 1 week ago

Since they're not here yet and I haven't seen them, I figured I'd wait to include them in any mention of why the D-Line is solid. Same with Mosby.

I think any one or even all three of those guys could contribute, but we've gotten to the point where it's best to wait and see them first, right?

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Jim Stauffer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The big key will be the O-Line giving Cozart the time and the RB's the space to open up a run pass kind of offense.

Cozart will have to improve on his vision to find the open man quickly and make his bacon on the short passes letting the receivers get the yac.

If, and it is a big if, the O-Line can open holes our running game will be dynamite, but only if there is a threat to pass.

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