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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

QB Cozart comfortable with game planning

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) has nowhere to go as he is surrounded by Rutgers defensive back Kiy Hester (2) and linebacker Steve Longa (3) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) has nowhere to go as he is surrounded by Rutgers defensive back Kiy Hester (2) and linebacker Steve Longa (3) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.

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Sniffling and congested but still smiling, as he always seems to be, Kansas University quarterback Montell Cozart met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the Jayhawks’ upcoming battle with Iowa State.

First, though, there was that whole issue about last week’s showing at Rutgers in which Cozart played in relief but did not start because he was dealing with a 104-degree temperature the night before.

The junior QB hit 10 of his first 11 passes, finished 13 of 18 through the air and threw for 193 yards while leading the Jayhawks on their only two touchdowns of the game.

“I remember saying at the end of the game to Kent (Taylor) or Tre’ (Parmalee) or somebody, ‘I feel like I was the most relaxed I’ve ever been in a football game,’” Cozart said. “I guess the sickness (played a part) in that. I felt comfortable knowing exactly what Rutgers was doing on defense and everything was slowing down for me.”

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Because of that, Cozart’s comfort and poise allowed Kansas offensive coordinator Rob Likens to call his best game to date with his new quarterback.

The first-year KU coordinator’s connection with Cozart has taken some time to build. The usual growing pains that come any time a new coach takes over certainly have shown up at Kansas, with things like terminology, likes and dislikes, a relationship off the field and comfort with the new offense all taking time to develop. But both coach and quarterback believe the bond is strengthening each week, with every rep in practice and each snap on game days, good and bad.

“I saw some things in the game that really got my confidence up in making some calls for him,” said Likens before elaborating. “Just quickening up his read into his throw. His drops were good. He wasn’t just scanning the field. He knew exactly who to look at, exactly where he wanted to throw the ball off of that particular read off of the defender and that was good.”

Cool, calm, confident and effective against Rutgers, Cozart showed the ability to master a limited number of tasks and never looked as if he was being asked to handle too much. Likens said that was by design and added that the Cozart who hit the field last Saturday was the one he wanted to see the rest of the season — a healthier version, of course.

“It is,” Likens said. “And the more he (plays like that), it’s muscle memory. If you keep trying to put too much stuff in, those are all new experiences and then he’s re-learning all over again. So you try to keep it down to where he’s not learning too much and he’s just getting better at what he’s doing and it showed in the game on Saturday.”

Cozart said last week’s game plan and his preparation helped create the ideal environment. And he’s hoping both continue this week, particularly the extra hours he spent in the film room.

To that same end, Likens is hoping his own breakthrough with his new QB continues, as well.

“When I can make it easy on Montell as far as different things to look at pre-snap and things like that, he operates at a very high level,” Likens said. “So I put a lot of the onus on myself in that way.”

Ford sidelined indefinitely

KU coach David Beaty said junior quarterback Deondre Ford would be out “a little while” because of a thumb injury that knocked him out last week’s game at Rutgers in the second quarter.

“I’m not sure how long,” Beaty said. “We’ll take it week-to-week, but there’s no way he’s going to be able to go this week. So we’ve ruled him out for this week. But we’ll see how it progresses next week. It was a fairly good shot he took when he hit ground.”

Taking another shot

Last week’s loss at Rutgers pushed KU’s losing streak away from Lawrence to 34 games and thanks to this week’s 11 a.m. kickoff at Iowa State, the Jayhawks get an immediate opportunity to snap the annoying skid.

“We always look at a road game as a challenge,” Cozart said. “The streak that we keep hearing about, we can’t run away from it. It’s something that we’ve gotta take on. So we look forward to road games and we want to go up there and be able to get rid of that streak.”

Almost injury free

Outside of the Ford injury and a few bumps and bruises to other players, KU enters its fourth game of the season relatively healthy.

Freshman wide receiver Jeremiah Booker was back on the practice field Tuesday — wearing a red, no-contact jersey — after missing the past several weeks with a collar bone injury.

“We are in pretty good shape,” Beaty said. “Our guys have taken care of themselves (and we’re) going to have a pretty healthy ballclub going into the (Iowa State) game.”

Comments

Len Shaffer 7 years, 2 months ago

Montell played a great game against Rutgers, no doubt (especially given how sick he was), but let's face it, it also didn't hurt that Rutgers' top three CBs were out (and that they didn't have that great a defense to begin with). Defenses are going to get much tougher very quickly, so let's hope he can show that same progress when he has a lot more challenges to deal with..

Jim Stauffer 7 years, 2 months ago

Boy this whole process will be a slow slog. We need some patience right now. These guys are working hard but they are so far behind in talent and experience and with a new staff that presents even more difficulty.

Pete Hatcher 7 years, 2 months ago

Matt-Remember Likens talking about how long a team takes to learn the offense prior to the season starting. Off the top of my head, he said it took one team till the second year and another had it down a few games into the year. Any idea where KU stands in this respect?

Edward Daub 7 years, 2 months ago

Montell is comfortable with game planning , but the litmus test is game execution. If Montell struggles or needs a breather, we will definitely see Willis play this weekend.

I think our defense is actually weaker than our offense. Of course, the air-raid style or hurry up offense does them no favors. I am impressed with our coaches that they know short term this is tough but long term it will pay dividends.

Lets hope that Mangino and his intense desire for revenge will back fire on him. His achilles heel is and has always been control of his temper. Go Hawks!

Doug Cramer 7 years, 2 months ago

Edward - Did you not see how gracious Coach Mangino was after last year's loss ? The guy came over with nothing but humility and congratulated Bowen in the middle of the field. He showed no indications of a violent temper that day after the loss.

Lets show some respect for the best football coach this school has ever had, and what he did for the program.

Greg Ledom 7 years, 2 months ago

DC, I might debate your statement 'best coach the school has ever had...' if I had more time. That said, I completely agree that Coach Mangino doesn't have a vendetta out for Kansas and that win or lose he would be nothing but gracious in his approach. But make no mistake, he would much rather kick our ass than not, but that goes both ways too.

Joe Ross 7 years, 2 months ago

Mangino licked his chops around Snyder and among the Stoops boys. His pedigree is remarkable. What he accomplished at Kansas is remarkable. Only coach to win a major bowl game. Record-wise he is among the best coaches of all time. When he took over the program Kansas was terrible under Terry Allen's tenure. The statement that Coach Mangino is the best coach in Kansas history has a lot of merit and supporting evidence. It's debatable, I suppose; but even if someone could make a better case for another coach (which I dont think is possible), Mangino would have to be mentioned in the same breath as whoever that coach is. He did wonders for our program and we were foolish to let him go, but as his accomplishments fade into historical record I think we become less awed but what he brought to Lawrence. With respect to Edward's comment above (that his Achilles heel has been his temper), I would make the opposite argument: that "coincidentally" the coach with the strongest temper has achieved the greatest feats on the football field, and is therefore a strength. Below someone mentioned Yost as the greatest coach of all time. I would argue that despite an unblemished record of 10-0, no consistency is demonstrated nor was a program lifted from obscurity in the manner in which Mangino did it. I miss the big guy, but Ive come to a reluctant acceptance of the fact that the divorce is final.
He still has my vote for the greatest coach in Kansas football history.

Thanks Lew!

Edward Daub 7 years, 2 months ago

Okay Doug and Greg , Mangino may be the best KU football coach in the last 50+ years.

Since 1960 , we have had Jack Mitchell, Pepper Rodgers, Don Fambrough, Bud Moore, Don Fambrough, Mike Gottfried, Bob Valesente, Glen Mason, Terry Allen, Mark Mangino, Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, and David Beaty.

However, the greatest KU football coach was Fielding Yost who in 1899 (his only season) led KU to a 10-0 record. Also interesting, Phog Allen was the coach in 1920.

Ashwin Rao 7 years, 2 months ago

By stating Phog Allen's name, you saying that Bill Self should now coach, Edward? :)

Edward Daub 7 years, 2 months ago

Hi Ashwin! Just call me Mister Ed. No , Bill Self better stick with coaching basketball! I was reviewing the history of KU Football head coaches, when I stumbled across Phog Allen and Fielding Yost. Yost went on to coach Michigan for over 20 years! And MI now hired a coach named Harbaugh, does that sound familiar?

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