Kansas University again might be searching for the right man to quarterback the Jayhawks, but you’d never know it from talking to the top three contenders for the job.
Sophomore starter Montell Cozart (62-of-125 passing for 693 yards, 5 TDs and 7 interceptions in five games) and back-ups Michael Cummings (9-of-19 for 71 yards) and T.J. Millweard (1-of-1 for 4 yards) spoke with the media before Wednesday’s practice, and instead of sounding like a trio stressed out about the competition, they sounded a lot more like a group of family members trying to fix a problem.
“We’re just trying to go into practice to put our offense in the best position to be successful,” said Cozart, who started the first four games of 2014 but was benched for the second half last week. “(Tuesday) at practice, going in and out, coming off, Mike asked me questions, and when I come out, he gave me advice, and T.J., as well. We’re all kind of counting on one another to build off of and learn.”
This week has been different than recent weeks in that all three guys had a chance to run reps with the first team. On Wednesday, Cummings was the first to trot out with the first-string offense, but all three got their opportunities and each said he enjoyed the chance to compete for the job that, not long ago, looked to be Cozart’s.
“I would like to be able to help this team out any way I can,” said sophomore Millweard. “Whenever the coaches say, ‘Hey, T.J., go do this,’ I say, ‘Yes, sir.’ Whenever I’m given an opportunity, I am pinning the ears back, and I really want to do the best I can. Other than that, there’s a lot of things I can’t control.”
Millweard, 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, admits that he does not possess the same athletic abilities as Cozart or Cummings. But not being able to sprint and flash all over the field does not keep him from having confidence in his game.
“I believe in my abilities,” Millweard said. “I’m not gonna break it for 75 yards or anything like that, but I believe I can pick up the first down. If I need to, I can lower the shoulder and get the first down for us. I’m just trying to work on my strengths and help the team out any way I can.”
All three guys spoke similar words, which made it easier to believe their claims that they’re working together — in practice, in meeting rooms and after hours — to try to figure things out. In fact, Cummings said what’s going on with KU’s quarterback position was really no different than what’s happening with most positions on the team.
“People look at it different because there’s only one quarterback out there at a time,” he said. “You can’t play two quarterbacks in the backfield at the same time, which you can do with linebackers, so it makes changes more noticeable.”
Despite not owning prototypical size or picture-perfect skills, the 5-10, 210-pound Cummings believes he can do the job if given the chance.
“I’ve always said that you play quarterback from the neck up,” he said. “You can’t really measure the caliber of a quarterback from height, weight and stuff like that.”
Worrying about production is a different story, and that’s what the KU coaching staff is focusing on the most.
“(It’s) a big week in terms of the plan and implementing it with the QB situation,” interim coach Clint Bowen said. “... Everyone is pulling in the same direction here, to do whatever we can to go out and win football games.”
The three players competing to be KU’s starter were not the only quarterbacks turning heads at practice this week.
Frank Seurer Jr., who joined the team as a walk-on earlier this year but was absent from the roster when the Jayhawks opened preseason camp, is back in a Jayhawk uniform.
According to a KU spokesperson, Seurer, the 5-11, 188-pound son of former KU quarterback Frank Seurer, who ranks second on KU’s all-time passing list with 6,410 yards, has been reinstated.
He came to KU after one season at Hutchinson Community College.