Beaty open to quarterback combo

Kansas quarterbacks Montell Cozart (2) and Ryan Willis (13) look up the field for receivers during the first day of practice on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 at the fields south of Anschutz Pavilion.

Kansas quarterbacks Montell Cozart (2) and Ryan Willis (13) look up the field for receivers during the first day of practice on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 at the fields south of Anschutz Pavilion.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Whether it’s because of injury or a desire to add a wrinkle to their offense, six Big 12 Conference programs have used at least two quarterbacks as a part of their attack during the 2015 season.

Kansas University, which enters this week’s game at Texas with an 0-8 record and an 0-5 mark in Big 12 play, is one of them. And although injuries to starter Montell Cozart and junior-college transfer Deondre Ford have forced the Jayhawks to lock in on true freshman Ryan Willis as their signal-caller, first-year KU coach David Beaty did not rule out the idea of playing two QBs should Cozart be able to return this season.

“Absolutely,” said Beaty when asked if he could envision playing Cozart and Willis at some point this season. “When you’ve got a guy that really his strength is not running, but you’ve got another guy his strength might be running, there’s a chance for us to do that.”

Although this stance is a dramatic departure from Beaty’s strong comments in the preseason about not wanting to employ a two-quarterback approach, it also shows the rookie head coach’s ability and willingness to adapt to adversity.

The possibility exists that Cozart, a junior who started three of KU’s first four games this season before injuring his shoulder against Iowa State, could get this season of eligibility back via medical red-shirt. Because of that, Beaty said KU would not rush Cozart back onto the field.

“Right now, it’s going to be up to how much he is continuing to get well,” Beaty said. “There’s no way he can take a hit right now on that shoulder. I think we’re going to see over the next couple weeks how he does (and) if he can help us in that regard when he’s back, absolutely.”

That, Beaty said, was the main focus of both the team and the player.

“We’re trying to get him back,” he said.

Shelley-Smith improves

Beaty said left tackle Jordan Shelley-Smith, who sat out last week’s loss to Oklahoma after suffering a concussion late in the loss at Oklahoma State the week before, was on track to be back in the lineup Saturday at Texas.

Beaty did not guarantee that Shelley-Smith would start or play, but said as long as Shelley-Smith continued to improve and did not get dinged up in practice that he likely would be out there in Austin this weekend.

If not, true freshmen Clyde McCaulley and Larry Hughes, who filled in for Shelley-Smith along with senior Larry Mazyck, would get another opportunity to gain valuable experience and a greater understanding of what it takes to compete in the Big 12.

“That’s really one of the areas we’ve got to get to with (Clyde) and Larry, improving their strength,” Beaty said. “The great news is their strength numbers have gone up significantly from the time they got here. We’re just not to the level of a third-year Big 12 player yet. That’s because you don’t get third-year results in six months. You get that in years. We’ll get there.”

Never forgotten

Asked what he liked most about his group of freshmen, many of whom have played key roles and a high number of snaps during their first season of college football, Beaty was quick to answer.

“Work ethic, resiliency, willing to do what you ask them to do,” he said. “Those are the things that I like about this group. We have a lot of really good kids in there, which is good. I think that has a lot to do with the older guys. You’d be surprised how much the environment affected the younger guys. Our seniors, for the most part, have been really good. I told them the other day, ‘I can promise you one thing, I will never let you be forgotten,’ because they have done an amazing job for us.”