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KU QB Montell Cozart deserves time to show improvement

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Duke defenders Kyler Brown (56) and David Helton (47) stay hot on the trail of Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2013 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.

Duke defenders Kyler Brown (56) and David Helton (47) stay hot on the trail of Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2013 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. by Nick Krug

Don't take this as me being a Montell Cozart or Kansas University football apologist looking for a silver lining during a few dark days.

It's not. Overall, the Jayhawks — and specifically Cozart — have been pretty awful for seven of the eight quarters they've played during this barely begun 2014 season. And there's no apologizing for that.

The Duke debacle was as bad as it's been since head coach Charlie Weis arrived and the more and more you look back at the opener, the more and more you start to realize that the Jayhawks may very well have been lucky to get out of that one alive. Unfortunately for all parties involved, the sluggish finish to the SEMO victory probably should have been viewed as a sign of things to come.

Many people saw that heading into the season. I didn't. In fact, I saw pretty much the exact opposite. I saw a fast start. I saw Cozart sprinting out of the gates with the kind of play that would energize and invigorate the fan base and I expected that on Sept. 16, Jayhawks everywhere would be talking more about the excitement of what's happening instead of dwelling on the uncertainty of what may come and what to do now.

Before we worry too much about the future, be that Central Michigan this weekend, Texas the weekend after that or what the program will look like on Dec. 1, I think it's important to gain a little perspective.

Cozart has been getting killed in the days since the Duke game and, when you're the quarterback, pretty much at any level, that's how it goes. You get the glory in the good days and you're the goat in the bad. That's nothing new and even casual sports fan know that's the way it goes.

So don't hold back on tossing blame at Cozart for the way the KU offense played against Duke. They were bad. He was awful. And Kansas, as we now know, stood no chance.

But do pull back on letting the Duke outing define Cozart as a college quarterback. He's 19 years old. He has started exactly five college football games in his life and barely played in enough to make up half a season. He deserves the chance to redeem himself. He deserves time to grow. He deserves to prove he is both willing to and can get better. Maybe he has it, maybe he doesn't, but a handful of games hardly seems like enough time to make a decision, for better or worse. If nothing else, the hard work and sacrifice he put in during the past 12 months should earn him a fair shake for a few more weeks.

All of this to a point, of course. If his Saturdays continue to look like last week, then the coaches owe it to the rest of the Jayhawks and the program in general to find a better option, perhaps even during the games. But we're not there yet.

If I know Montell at all, I know this is killing him. Weis said Monday morning that Cozart needed a little TLC on Sunday to help get past his poor performance and I've talked to enough people who saw him after the Duke game to know that he took it pretty hard. He's a confident kid. He's had success his entire life. And most of that success has come pretty easy and in pretty exciting fashion. Days like Saturday were not in Cozart's vocabulary.

Maybe that's part of the problem here. During the handful of interviews we did with Cozart throughout the spring and summer, we encountered a confident guy who believed in himself a great deal and believed he was going to hit the ground running and enjoy a solid season. He still might. But too many times his reasoning behind his confidence was that the whole thing reminded him of his path to QB prominence at Bishop Miege High. There's nothing wrong with drawing on past experiences to create confidence, calm the nerves or even fire you up to rise to a challenge. But maybe we should've seen such comments as a little bit of a warning sign that the young man might not quite be ready.

Cozart has all the physical tools you could want. He's fast, long, strong and blessed with incredible quickness and good vision. And he's a likable guy, too, which is important not only for the fan base but also for his teammates. Guys want to follow guys they like.

But simply having the right mind, body and soul for the job does not mean it'll be all aces when you get out there and face a team that's trying to knock your head off. Cozart still has to get used to that. And the only way to do it is by playing more games and succeeding or failing.

This is not high school. The path to him becoming KU's starting quarterback might mirror the path he took to taking the snaps at Miege, but that's where the similarities end. Now's the time for Cozart to pound out a new path, one fraught with potential pitfalls and mirages, good moments and bad.

Senior wide receiver Nick Harwell said after Saturday's game that outings like the one Cozart endured against Duke are part of the deal. “This was one of those games he's gonna have to get under his belt,” was how Harwell put it.

Everybody has 'em. Harwell did at Miami (Ohio). Ben Heeney did during his freshman year. Heck, even KU legend Todd Reesing was sent back to the bench after saving the Jayhawks against Colorado in his first ever appearance in 2006.

The question is, will Cozart learn from his early experiences the way those guys learned from theirs? The only way to find out is to give him time and to remember along the way that the young man is doing all of this for the first time.

Comments

Doug Cramer 7 years, 11 months ago

Have said all along that Cozart was not the right choice for this program (which was based off of how he handled his playing time as a freshman). Much like last season, he lacks accuracy and anticipating open receivers (or vision down field).

He's not a D-1 QB and never will be...especially with the O-line he has to deal with.

At this point you got to go with Millweard. Yes Millweard would still have to make due with a poor offensive line, but from what I understand, he's the most accurate QB out of both Cozart and Cummings.

With the wide receiver talent we have this season, you gotta go with the accurate QB, and thats Millweard. Heck you never know, maybe his anticipation regarding open receivers is better than Cozarts as well....at least it should be.

Matt Tait 7 years, 11 months ago

Lot of ifs there, just like there are with Cozart. What's the saying? If you've got two (or three) QBs it means you don't have one. If anything, that could be the case here.

But Cozart did enough over a much longer period of time to beat out those other two guys and, for that alone, I think they gotta stick with him for now and see if he improves. If he doesn't, by all means, make a move.

Chris Bailey 7 years, 11 months ago

I think we've seen that he isn't very good. The bad thing is were sitting here after 2 plus years of Weis the QB guru and we still lack a quarterback on the roster. Guys like Harwell have got to be thinking why did I sign up for this? He goes to even a school like ISU and he is lighting it up. We have talent, wwe have some really nice receivers and talent scattered all over with exception of the DLine which again proved they can't get any pressure on the quarterback. We are in for another long and dismal season. How long do we keep beating the happy go lucky drum about rainbows and sunshine with what Weis is doing? Something isn't working. His ability to pick out a college quarterback is a glaring reminder of that. I'm as excited as anyone for the start of college football each and every year but this is bad. We are no better than we were under Gill. Still getting blown out. We won't win another game this season with how we've played. No one respects us and rightly they shouldn't. Another season of when does basketball start. I for one don't like basketball as much as football. Yeah sure I love watching KU but my abilities were as a wrestler and football player so naturally I tend to like those sports better. How long to we stick with what isn't working? How long do we stick with CW? He isn't showing improvement in the scores. Again, we have talent but if you can't put the pieces together it's futile.

Matt Tait 7 years, 11 months ago

All questions that will be answered soon, in my opinion. I still have to cover the team, though, ya know? Always appreciate the input and am looking forward to the rest of the season, whatever that brings...

Chris Bailey 7 years, 11 months ago

Matt. I realize you have to cover the team. I'm not attacking you. I never am. But what has Weis done to prove he knows what he's doing? Why can the talented man not find a quarterback? This is the 3rd one in 3 years and ALL 3 have been terrible. That's my point. I have no doubt that if I were in your shoes I'd write positive things. We all know the players read the paper and most likely all of our posts. I don't know if Weis reads these or not pretty doubtful he does. Doesn't matter either way. We still sit here no better off at QB than we were under Kale Pick or Jordan Webb. Heck Dayne may have actually been better off with these receivers. Who knows. Cozart hasn't shown that he is capable. SEMO first quarter is meaningless. His option pitches are atrocious at best. And he doesn't read the defense well. We're in for a long season if that doesn't change quickly.

Matt Tait 7 years, 11 months ago

No sweat, Chris. Wasn't implying otherwise. Just a reminder that, as long as Cozart or whoever is the QB, we've gotta cover that. If it changes, we cover that. Same goes for any position and same goes for the coach.

This weekend is definitely HUGE and it'll be very interesting to see how it plays out.

Hold on tight. Could be a wild ride ahead...

Lance Cheney 7 years, 11 months ago

If Millweard was that good, wouldn't he be higher than #3 on the depth chart? I'm all for changing the QB, but where do we go from here? I am intrigued by Millweard, but Cozart was supposed to be the best of what we got.

David Kemp 7 years, 11 months ago

If Cozart is the best we have the blowouts are just beginning. We may well be looking at a guy getting decapitated before the season is over. Obvious the guy has no vision or instinct and as a blogger said earlier you can't learn it.

Doug Cramer 7 years, 11 months ago

Lance - Back in 2006, Kerry Meier was supposed to be the best we had too. Then we were forced to play Reesing, and we discovered that Meier wasn't the best choice.

With Cozart's speed and athleticism, does the next coach play the Meier card, and stick Cozart into a wide receiver role ?

Mark Lindrud 7 years, 11 months ago

I would say that Cozart gets up through first conference game to make a case for remaining as the starting quarterback. If the same habits continue, and we don't win the next two games, instead get blown out then a change needs to happen. I am not going to say he can't be a D1 quarterback yet because there were a lot of areas against Duke that were horrible.

Here is his chance to learn and grow from a bad game. I definitely agree that Cummings is a bad choice because he is only a running quarterback and since we actually have a talented group of receivers we need a quarterback that can get the ball in their hands.

Chris Bailey 7 years, 11 months ago

If he's gotta win the next two games we may as well make the change now because that ain't happening.

Mark Lindrud 7 years, 11 months ago

I am not saying he has to win the next two games, but show improvement in his reads, accuracy and just leading the team. The odds of us winning games is definitely dwindling.

Savion Havon 7 years, 11 months ago

Cummings is only a running qb because weis won't open the play book point blank period watch film he'll go to the spring game and watch him and Turzilli hook up Weis doesn't want and didn't want a qb controversy period I'm actually surprised Cummings stayed here

Mark Lindrud 7 years, 11 months ago

If we go by the spring game Cozart should be throwing for 300 and running for 100. I have no faith in Cummings.

Savion Havon 7 years, 11 months ago

What film are you looking at there's a reason TJ left ucla to come here

Stephen Londerholm 7 years, 11 months ago

Doug I am getting tired of seeing you post the same thing on every article. The fact that you act like your some kind of football know it all pisses me off. the fact is you don't know s--t thats why your not a coach stick to what you. That being said I understand why everyone is mad this team sucked against duke and has been horrible for years. The problem where to begin is vast from game planning on down to player giving up and looking defeated well before the game was over, you should never give up until the clock hits zero. If your getting killed get mad not sad this is a man's game. The chiefs looked liked two different teams from week 1 to week 2 on effort alone even after losing 3 pro bowlers. We need a leader Todd got me fired up seeing how he reacted to making a big play, Johnny football would have jumped on his team if they came out the way KU did like he did in his bowl game against duke last year. We lack a vocal leader who isn't afraid to hurt someone feelings. We have two good running backs we need to run the ball control the clock throw some screens to tony our give him some handoffs we have to make a point to get him the ball he is home run threat every time he touches the ball. Avery can run but if missed a block like that on a good team he would got his butt chewed out on the sideline but not on this team I didn't see anyone say anything to him. I think he is a good runner and needs to play but he needs to be held accountable for not doing his job. All that said we were down from the go so run heavy was not an option. I hate to lose at anything no matter what it is I don't see that in this team they seem to be ok with losing even though it may get them down a little bit should bother them until they get out there and win again. Winning is a attitude.

Stephen Londerholm 7 years, 11 months ago

KU s biggest problems is Clint Bowen and the QB coach. Clint is a horrible coordinator if your gonna play in man your safeties have to line up closer to their man the other teams take advantage of this game in and game out. It was just like this when he was here the first time when he destroyed a good defense except last time he lined the cornerbacks ten yards from the line let other teams run stops all the way down field as long you don't risk giving up a big play right. you only need ten yards to stay on the field and if give up five yard stops every play you can't stop them grow a pair Clint get aggressive it's football blitz the QB. He can't make simple adjustments that someone who knows nothing about football could notice. And lastly Ron he sucks plain and simple all the quarterbacks have looked the same BAD and he is the only constant. Do KU s quarterbacks go through reads are even read defense before the snap and make adjustments cause I haven't seen any of them do that while Ron has been coaching and these are all of his jobs to teach his QB. Quarterbacks in the NFL read the defense and know by what they are showing where to look first that's how they get the ball out of their hands so quick. That said defenses try to hide what they are doing (not KU) but when they do that's where your progression come into play. My point is these two coaches have had multiple years they proved they suck they need to be fired.

Stephen Londerholm 7 years, 11 months ago

Sorry for the missing words and grammar I wrote these in a hurry. I just had to get that off my chest.

Doug Roberts 7 years, 11 months ago

Ron Powlus has had plenty of time and isn't getting it done. Change in quarterback coach can't hurt. It's the next adjustment in a long line of them that Charlie has made so far.

Jack Brooks 7 years, 11 months ago

Doug hits the nail on the head. Cozart does deserve time, but Powlus does not. In two years that Weis and Powlus have been here, we've seen nothing but terrible QB play. Powlus clearly can't develop QBs, making him a waste of salary. Charlie did well to remove himself from the offense and hire a college O-coordinator, now he needs to send Powlus packing and hire a QB coach that can actually develop QBs.

Micky Baker 7 years, 11 months ago

Mangino scheduled Duke. That game was a contractual obligation.

Len Shaffer 7 years, 11 months ago

Not only was Duke a contractual obligation, but NOBODY could have foreseen Duke being a good team. They had been terrible for years.

Robert Brock 7 years, 11 months ago

I hope that Cozart can withstand the incredible physical beating that he is going to suffer due to poor blocking such as we saw from Avery a couple days ago. I gasped when Cozart was crushed and thought that he might be through for the season or his career.

Mike Nicco 7 years, 11 months ago

I agree Robert, it was a terrible attempt. However, did you count how long Cozart held onto the ball? He held the ball too long all day or scrambled unnecessarily when he had Pierson open along the sideline or in the flat. Maybe the thought of having a porous offensive line got in his head and he panicked. If the Duke game is any indication, he is not ready. And Weis’ gamble on Crist and Heaps plus poor QB coaching landed us here.

Mike Pressgrove 7 years, 11 months ago

Matt - Good article and some good points. My concern watching the game is his toughness. He looked nervous and unsure, but it also appeared he was very hesitant on the option and always made the pitch, most of the time too late. Our line also did a poor job there. Crazy idea, any chance to turn Joe Dineen into a quarterback for next season?

Matt Tait 7 years, 11 months ago

Thanks, Mike. He definitely looked tentative out there, but from the sound of it, the breakdowns on the line in front of him made it that way. Hard to know without being the one out there, but I think he'll learn from that and be much more decisive on the option from here on out, whether it's there or not.

Allison Steen 7 years, 11 months ago

Finally! A column that isn't giving excuses but doesn't make me want to jump off a bridge. Good article Matt!

Matt Tait 7 years, 11 months ago

Thanks, Allison! Glad you enjoyed it. Had to be written. The kid's young. Very young. He might not have it but it's a little early to say that definitively. Let's see how he responds and go from there.

Mike Nicco 7 years, 11 months ago

Coach's gamble on Crist and Heaps is still being felt. In Weis' hurry to turn this program around, he keeps mortgaging the future. Why were they not strongly recruiting QBs even if he thought they were the future? Can you ever have too many? Now he's putting a kid in a position for which he's not ready. I like Cozart's potential and agree he needs time to grow. But here are 17 reasons why his step backwards at Duke hurts so much: 1. Tony Pierson 2. Nick Harwell 3. Dexter McDonald 4. Trevor Pardula 5. Justin McCay 6. JaCorey Shepherd 7. Victor Simmons 8. Ben Heeney 9. Cassius Sendish 10. Jimmay Mundine 11. Michael Reynolds 12. Pat Lewandowski 13. Ngalu Fusimalohi 14. Mike Smithburg 15. Trent Smiley 16. Keon Stowers 17. Tedarian Johnson

Doug Cramer 7 years, 11 months ago

100% agree...and have made a similar point in an article a few days ago.

Will add that Weis's "get rich quick" tendencies has screwed us over in the trenches as well. He tried to put JUCO bandaids on both sides of the lines...instead of recruiting young talent and stewing them through the system.

This recruiting strategy will set us back X amount of seasons...even if we can muster up a good coach.

Alex Berger 7 years, 11 months ago

Except we were recruiting high school Qbs, dline, online, and everything else in between. We are getting Juco players because most of the good high school recruits are saying no thanks. Sites like rivals and 247sports show who we have offered scholarships to and they are rejecting us in favor of other teams. Crist and Heaps were the best options we could get.

Glen Grunz 7 years, 11 months ago

No team that has the run game KU has displayed, especially given horrible pass game, can be said to have a terrible offensive line. The line is a work in progress but the talent is here, ask our OC. He does know a little about offensive lines. Try collecting hard data rather than emotional knee jerk. Seven times on Saturday my stop watch revealed Cozart had 5 plus seconds to throw. That is all a QB can ask for. I timed other occasions but on these seven Cozart launched ill advised passes in the wrong direction all were, thankfully, incomplete. From the first snap Cozart looked rattled and disoriented. The Duke DC did what any good DC would do when he saw that. He blitzed hard and often. Even if the blitz failed to get to Cozart it obviously added to his confusion. A good portion of the problem in picking up the blitz lies with the running backs. Did you notice more blitzes when Avery was in there. He is a freshman and talented back that he is there are other phases of the game that are clearly a work in progress. Please remember an offensive line can make a QB look bad but a QB can also make an offensive line look bad. The question that remains and will is not nearly so much about the KU offensive line as it is the KU QB. Will Cozart make it, very unlikely. He has had freshman exposure as a starter, spring ball and fall camp. In seven of eight quarters he has shown more regression than progress. The sad conclusion is just that sad, failure.

John Fitzgerald 7 years, 11 months ago

In my opinion, no one played well. They weren't prepared (coaches fault) and they didn't execute (players fault). Coaches can't motivate players they can only inspire them. As an athlete if you can't motivate yourself to play 110% then you shouldn't be playing the game. I like Cozart and think we should give him more time. He's young, athletic, and coachable. He just needs the right mentor. And that's a whole different argument.

John Fitzgerald 7 years, 11 months ago

Also, I'd like to see Weis get pissed off in his interviews. Show some passion and intensity. Get loud and enthusiastic so your players can feed off that energy. He always seems too relaxed to me.

Doug Cramer 7 years, 11 months ago

Yeah...Weis getting pissed off in interviews is gonna get this program going. lol Dude you crack me up.

John Fitzgerald 7 years, 11 months ago

I'm sure you're a good person and all, but what you just said makes no sense. I didn't say it will keep the program going. I'm simply saying I want to see the passion so I know he actually cares. Hell, I'm not on the Weis bandwagon anymore. I want to win as much as anyone and if that's without Weis, so be it. My advice to you though is to read the posts 7 or 8 times before responding so you don't come off as incompetent. You're a smart guy, Doug. I mean you're a meteorologist for goodness sakes.

Doug Cramer 7 years, 11 months ago

I'm just crackin your honies man...you're good. Take it easy on J-Ross though :)

Clarence Haynes 7 years, 11 months ago

Cozart, This is your chance to prove everyone wrong!

David Kemp 7 years, 11 months ago

Couldn't agree less. This guy is probably a good fb player somewhere and he will never be a QB who EVER completes > 50%

kellerman411 7 years, 11 months ago

Cozart is Charlie's only hope to be the head coach at KU next year. He has to absolutely turn into a super star.

Honestly, I don't think the instincts are there after watching him play on Saturday but maybe he has too many coaches in his head, including Charlie, telling him how to play.

Charlie needs to back off and let this kid feel the game. This is not Tom Brady. Cozart's biggest upside is his ability to avoid the rush and make plays with his feet. He's going to take some hits, that's okay.

Also, there needs to be no talk of changing QBs. Cozart needs to know that he is the guy no matter what. That way he can play loose and just let the game come to him.

Anything even close to what we saw against Duke and Charlie is gone by the end of the month.

Kevin Randell 7 years, 11 months ago

Just saw a report on yahoo sports that covered coaches that are on the "hot seat". They talked about the HC's of Florida, Nebraska, Michigan, and Kansas. Something jumped out off the screen to me. 3 of the 4 schools had something in common........Adidas! Coincidence?.........(I'm joking of course. Had to throw some humor into a stressful time around our Jayhawk Nation). Have a great day everybody!

Bill Kackley 7 years, 11 months ago

I agree with Stephen Longer holm, Doug Cramer needs to shut up until he takes football 101.

Jim Stauffer 7 years, 11 months ago

I didn't have time to read everyone's comments, so I hope I am not repetitive. The fact is if Cozart was our QB in Weis' first year, you could reasonably say, we need to give him time.

Problem is Weis is in his 3rd year and on his 3rd QB. They have all failed. It is obvious the statements everyone has made about Cozart's confidence were based on Cozart and his buddies saying he is confident. Well, that was easy because he had not played anyone wanting to tear his head off. He has played in the Spring and Fall with no one really coming after him with a vengeance.

Weis has no choice but to turn this thing over to Cummings, Milweard and others in search of a guy who just has "it". Montel is a great athlete, but he does not have "it". Reesing had "it" and he never wet himself like Cozart has since he has been starting. He simply cannot trust himself to just play the game and find success on each play. He is tied up with mechanics and his decisions just never come until some guy is wrapped around him or his RB or his WR.

Weis will move on to another QB or he will move on himself.

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