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The case for KU coach David Beaty picking one QB and sticking with him

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Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) communicates with the Jayhawks' sideline during the second quarter on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) communicates with the Jayhawks' sideline during the second quarter on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

It was almost as if Kansas football coach David Beaty checked Twitter or a couple of KU message boards before hitting the postgame press conference following Thursday night’s 55-19 loss at Texas Tech.

Without hesitating, and with a certain amount of conviction, Beaty came off a little defensive when asked about KU’s quarterback problems, which, at this point, are not in any way, shape or form a minor deal.

“Everybody thinks they know who should be our quarterback, but I’m with them every day in practice,” Beaty told reporters who asked about the ongoing, back-and-forth dance between fourth-year junior Montell Cozart and sophomore Ryan Willis. “We evaluate them every day. We make our decision based on what we see every day.”

That’s great. But for the third straight game, and what seems like the 1,000th consecutive season, the Jayhawks are not getting the production they need from that position.

Is there more to winning football games than quarterback play? You bet. The offensive line has to show up, running backs and receivers have to make plays, the defense has to get stops and you even have to catch a couple breaks here and there.

So, yeah, there’s more to winning football than what happens under center, and you can’t blame all of 1-3 KU’s problems on what’s happening at quarterback. But you’re also not going to fix very many of those problems if you can’t find a quarterback who can do better than what we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) pulls back to throw during the first quarter on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) pulls back to throw during the first quarter on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

I’m not one to claim I know more than a man who has spent nearly his entire adult life coaching football. I’ve never coached it. I’ve never really played it either. And even though that’s often the role and the right of any sports fan, from the extremely casual to the most die-hard, I don’t think that’s the motivation of the angry Jayhawk supporters sounding off about KU’s poor quarterback play.

But here’s the problem with Beaty emphasizing that he’s with KU’s QBs every day: What he is seeing when he’s with those guys every day is not what the rest of us are seeing on game days. Not even close. And, sadly for Kansas, that’s when it counts.

I don’t doubt for a second that both Cozart and Willis, overall, look pretty good during KU’s practices. I’ve seen it. Just like I saw Dayne Crist throw darts back in 2011 and just like I saw Jake Heaps complete nearly everything at practice a year later.

But performance in practice, though an important part of the evaluation, does not get the job done on Saturdays. So maybe it’s time for Beaty and company to start putting more weight on what happens in live action against an actual opponent. Evaluate that. Base the decision about the position on what’s happening when it really counts.

Who looks better against the blitz? Which QB throws more accurate, catchable balls with the defense breathing down his neck? Which player inspires his teammates to play hardest, dig deepest and sell out for the team?

Answer those questions and then pick that guy to play quarterback the rest of the way.

Beaty likes to talk about the need for depth at quarterback and often has mentioned how many Big 12 teams needed more than one quarterback a season ago. Heck, Texas Tech needed two QBs on Thursday night.

But in almost all of those situations, the dynamic between starter and back-up had been clearly established and the second QB, as was the case on Thursday, came into the game when he was needed, not on a whim or as part of a predetermined two-QB system.

I don’t think Beaty wants to go with the two-quarterback system. But, for some reason, I don’t think he wants to decide on one player over the other either.

Losing games is one thing. It happens. It’s been happening. And it’s going to keep happening, at least for a little while.

But losing the fan base is something completely different, something far more dangerous and difficult to bounce back from.

And Beaty’s handling of the QB position four games into his second season in charge of the Jayhawks — that and that alone — has some of the biggest KU football fans I know checking out.

This is not the time to be stubborn or indecisive. It’s time to pick one and play on, win or lose, good or bad.

Comments

Len Shaffer 5 years, 10 months ago

As soon as I saw that Cozart was starting again, I knew that KU was doomed to another crushing defeat. Cozart seems to be a great guy and a great teammate (and I was especially impressed with how he went over and congratulated Willis after Willis had thrown a TD pass), but he is clearly not a Big XII-caliber QB. It's hard to comprehend how Beaty can't see what the rest of us can see, no matter how great Cozart may be in practice.

Tom Horner 5 years, 10 months ago

Passes thrown into the ground, behind or otherwise out of reach of open receivers is the result of "hearing footsteps" by the QB. Unless you go "live" against the QB in practice, he will not feel the same pressure as he would in a game. And, of course, taking that action in practice risks injuring the QB. It should be obvious that the starting QB is afraid of the pressure in the game. He will continue to look good in practice and then throw it into the dirt in the game. However, I think that I too would be leery of the defense with the little protection provided by the offensive line. I believe that Beaty will eventually get it done for Kansas. This is not the year, however. Lets just try to hold our heads high and get through the season without losing players for next year due to injury and/or defection. The improvement of the defense shows a light at the end of the tunnel; however far off it my be.

Matt Tait 5 years, 10 months ago

Very well said. Still, it seems that it's their responsibility to do everything they can to win games this year — even as unlikely as that may be — and this current system of playing two QBs does not seem to be helping with that.

Like the attitude, though. Just caught me as alarming when I heard about the towel being thrown in by some people I know who have never quit on this team.

Joe Ross 5 years, 10 months ago

The $64.00 question is whether Beaty has even entertained the thought that there's a difference between being good in practice and being good in games, and I wish someone would ask him the question directly.

Beaty is walking on thin ice here, for exactly the reason Matt suggests. Fans want to see progress. They want to see development. Cozart, good guy though he is, is not showing that. Beaty is about to lose the fan base altogether. Willis can be developed. Tom youre right: Willis will not gain a comfort level in a real pocket until he feels it over and over again in a game. But there's no question that he's a more accurate passer than is Cozart. I screamed at my television last night, thanks to Beaty.

Count me among those who are nearly fed up with Beaty's stubbornness. Show some intelligence man. Belief in a process is good, but you need some raw materials to work with. What I fear is that with the two tough games coming up, both teams will shut down our offense, which will give Beaty ammunition to say "I told you so" if he starts Willis. But Willis would have been MUCH better prepared by having been given the start all season long, and his confidence would have been through the roof if he got the keys to the car for the duration of the first game. Now, no quarterback has any momentum, and will looking down the business end of a double-barreled shotgun.

Thanks, Beaty.

"And the band played when the ship went down..."

Brett McCabe 5 years, 10 months ago

Ask anyone who covers sports and they will say that the return of a starting quarterback is one of the biggest offensive advantages you can have. We had that, Beaty's ego got in the way, and now we don't.

An important point that you made earlier in the week should not be overlooked: what other personnel decisions are being made that are negatively impacting the offense? If he can't pick a QB, what else is happening with the other 10 spots on the offense?

David Coachman 5 years, 10 months ago

Very good article and brings up some interesting questions about the QB situation. I keep going back to this article in April.

The coaches (Likens and Beaty) never even considered moving Cozart. Which means that two coaches think Cozart has the goods to lead this team.

Joe Ross 5 years, 10 months ago

When and if Beaty gets canned here, and if he starts Cozart again he will have deserved it, he will likely satisfy himself with the idea that he stuck to his principles. I, on the other hand, will satisfy myself with the idea that he's somewhere else.

When you're rebuilding you have to know that you have to make better adjustments than stable programs do. For whatever reason, Beaty just can't get it in his head that consistent passes behind, way above, or at the feet of receivers is not synonymous with "progress". And here's what's scary (and I said this before elsewhere): doesn't this mentality about how he sticks with an inept situation worry you for other areas of his coaching?

Dale Rogers 5 years, 10 months ago

Until our guys can practice against the typical Big 12 caliber players their weaknesses will never show up in practice. Of course they'll look good in practice when playing against a last place defense.

Joe Ross 5 years, 10 months ago

Im not sure how it works in Div I college football, to be very frank, but I DONT think that our offense even faces our starting defense in practice. Isnt there a scout team defense and offense as well?

John Brazelton 5 years, 10 months ago

Cozart is a good athlete and should be an excellent running quarterback, but he doesn't like to be hit. No matter what position you play on the team, if you don't want to be hit, you won't be a good player. Willis, last year showed that he could take hits, play hurt, and be a passable quarterback with limitations. He stupidly broke his wrist just before spring practice and lost the confidence of his position coach, who also is the HC. He hasn't shown that he is better than his competition so far this season.

Chris DeWeese 5 years, 10 months ago

I totally agree. Cozart is afraid to get hit, always has been. He doesn't have much in the way of killer instinct or swagger. I want a QB who wants to punish the opposition. Cozart just doesn't have that eye of the tiger.

Jack Joiner 5 years, 10 months ago

One of HCDB's early remarks were that we were going to throw to the TE's. Cozart has never known where they are and can't stay in the pocket long enough to find them Willis has and does. Yes, Willis will get sacked when the line gives up. Cozart is not the future. Willis may not be either if we don't give him the reps.

Ken Schmidt 5 years, 10 months ago

Matt, I share your thoughts. As fans, we are tired of seeing the same product of the last 6 years trot out each week. Cozart, in many ways has become the standard bearer for our pain of recent years, not to his fault primarily. To most fans, we would rather see him succeed in a different position. It would be one of the most tangible ways of observing the coaching staff trying to fit puzzle pieces in their place.

If the competition is that close, maybe a final, key deciding factor is to let the fans see something different rather than the same re-heated cold pizza.

Kevin Robert Fest 5 years, 10 months ago

When Alabama played USC in the first name it was evident that the Alabama quarterback was not getting the job done in the first series of plays Saban then switched to a new quarterback who brought a completely new Dynamic to the game Alabama got on a roll and cruised through the USC defense. Saban did not come out of the game and talk to the press and say he would make his decision on who the quarterback would be for the next game he saw who the most effective quarterback was and is sticking with him now the other quarterback is transferring from the Alabama program. Alabama's never been known to have strong quarterback play they always seem to win games to spite of the quarterback.

Now is KU football Alabama football by far no, but the same logic applies even a Pop Warner football coach can see who can play who cant make plays, you don't keep switching the most important position with two or three guys and expect anybody to build confidence wether it's the receivers for the offensive line and expect to have any continuity with that logic.

Cozart and Willis know even if they have a couple of good series the other one is going to come back and they both know if they have a bad series they are going to be pulled so how do you build any confidence or any trust knowing that one mistake could be the last play you made for the rest of the game.

Each time a quarterback in a substituted the Rhythm and the Cadence of the offense changes because each quarterback throws a different ball uses a different flexion Cozart is a running quarterback Willis is a pocket quarterback maybe that's why you see a lot of false starts and holding penalties against the line depending on who's in there. Beaty is so worried about losing the team if you picks one quarterback over the other he's afraid of hurt feelings and he just needs to make a decision and stick with it we scored 19 points against one of the worst defenses in the Big 12 and the offense looked completely lost.

Brett McCabe 5 years, 10 months ago

Also, what are the effects on the team? Do we have Team Cozart and Team Willis? I guarantee that we do, because people are people. This is why coaches get paid big, big, big money ($800K a year is big money, no matter what anyone says), to make decisions.

Michael Lorraine 5 years, 10 months ago

I feel sorry for Montell. He seems like a great kid and I like everything about him but he is being put in a position where he cannot succeed.

Chris DeWeese 5 years, 10 months ago

He seems almost apologetic to being the starting QB. He seems to see himself in a one down situation automatically, which is killing the offense and the team (in my opinion). Beaty says he's not going to give up on Cozart. Why? If Cozart isn't suited to the position, what makes Beaty think he will somehow rise up and perform? Just shaking my head.

Humpy Helsel 5 years, 10 months ago

Matt, Sounds like you're getting as frustrated as the rest of the Jayhawk (fast shrinking) Football Nation. I want to like this coach, and I want to like this team, but it is very painful right now.

Maybe Coach Beaty should switch to a "change head coaches during games" approach. Assuming he has a good week as head coach at practices, he could start out as head coach during the games. Once we are down by 20 or more points, one of the other coaches steps in as "head coach." Once we are down by 40 or more, another one of the coaches get their shot. Down by 60 or more, we go with no "head coach," allowing one of the players who rarely get to play to put the headset on.

Adam Kasson 5 years, 10 months ago

Both our qbs are not good at this time. Your qb leads your team so unless we get a 300-400yard passing qb like everyone else seems to have we will not win hardly any games. We are subpar in about every position. Some of our players on both sides of the ball show signs of greatness and with the emotion that Willis shows when he overthrew the wide open receiver that would of probably been a td he wants to win. I don't think either can get into a flow with the back and forth playing routine. Both qbs had open receievers several times and over threw them with at least 3-4 that probably would of resulted in tds. You can pass a lot of blame on the qbs but remember it takes a team to win a game and yes a line to block for them. Our reveivers seem good or above average and we still cant get them the ball for some reason. The sideline pass is a dead play which resulted in a loss of yards and is just to jr highish to throw in d1 football. I would remove it from the playbook as it will not work as you have witnessed. We have to move the ball downfield north and south not sideways and also throw a pass over the middle more than 10-15 yards. If we cant do that defenses will just scheme on that and start sucking in more and more. If that doesn't work recruit a damn qb with an arm please. I know both these kids can throw it over 50 yards but how well can they do it accurately is the question. I also noticed out line isn't quite firing off the ball and moving the defense 5-10 yards. We use to have running backs that could get 8-10 carry...well not anymore I guess. Who is the offensive line coach?? He needs to get some fire under these guys. As far as moving Cozart to another position that is the coaches call. He does appear that he could be one hell of a receiver or even a def back or safety. I guarantee Mangino would have already figured it out and the change would have already occurred. It seems to me like the coach doesn't want to step of dudes toes and is maybe even powder puffing some of his players a bit. I would coach to win games and be as hard as you need to be before you lose your job. Winning is the end result and it doesn't matter how you do it but don't cater to these dudes and be soft with them. Most of them want everything handed to them as it is and need constant reminders you are here to play football. I know a few of them personally...the Lawrence boys. You will get 100% out of them always. They have football in their blood and are all out football players as in Dineen and Loneker. Lets not all jump off the ship yet. Things can only get better as we know if your a diehard football fan. Winning takes two things effort and heart. One without the other is a loss everytime.

Michael Maris 5 years, 10 months ago

So now, the idea of hiring Clint Bowen looks even better than it did 2 seasons ago?

Yet, 2 years ago the thought of hiring Clint Bowen was sickening to the majority of the individuals who post on here.

Believe me, I want to see wins just as much as the next fan. But, everyone knows how bad of shape this program has been placed in by Charlie Weis hiring.

Firing David Beaty now would even futher the demise of the football program. And, if you think that hiring Les Miles is the answer, than talk to the LSU fan base and see how much he adjust to the changing landscape of college football. Or, watch more of Paul Finebaum during the week.

Michael Lorraine 5 years, 10 months ago

Willis seems to have a better chance of playing on Sunday than on Saturday. 6'4", 211 lbs. The TD against Tech was an NFL caliber pass.

Jim Stauffer 5 years, 10 months ago

What Beaty is doing to the fanbase is disappointing, but what he is doing to himself is devastating. Because of his refusal to recognize talent appropriately and select a QB now, he will not have one ready to go next year. As a result he will spend next year trying to find a QB rather than trying to win games with one already developed. He will have set himself back one full year in the rebuild.

Chris DeWeese 5 years, 10 months ago

I think Cozart fully expects to lose, and so he has this apologetic demeanor. Willis seems to expect to win and has more fire and swagger (you can see it in his eyes). Very different attitudes. I think Cozart now knows he doesn't have what it takes, but he is eager to please his coaches. Therefore, he says the party line to the media and does what he's told. To me, it seems Cozart doesn't really take very much responsibility for his performance or the losses, maybe because of the QB carousel or because he knows he will fail. Such a weird dynamic going on with the team.

Sean Kelly 5 years, 10 months ago

We're seeing these follies because they don't have a winning QB on the roster and the staff knows it. Somehow, KU seems to be the only major college program that, year in and year out, are unable to identify and bring in a competent QB. Every other team in this conference can trot out a kid who can execute the offense to some degree or other. Beaty should send every single assistant out there this offseason and declare, "don't come back until you find me a capable QB!" It simply cannot be as difficult as they seem to find it.

Dave Roberts 5 years, 10 months ago

The team is improved in many respects; OL pass blocking, DL rush and blocking, and WR work overall. We just need to settle on one QB, specifically Willis, the guy who seems to be in charge and have an idea of how to lead the team.

Unfortunately the one person who couns most in this decision, the QB coach and the HC, doesn't seem to think that there's much difference between Monty and Ryan! Hopefully he'll see the light before too long.

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