Over the next two weeks, the writers at RCT will be previewing the 2014 Jayhawks by giving you an in-depth look at each position group. Today we look at the quarterbacks. Be sure to check back tomorrow as we take a look at the running back position
When Charlie Weis was hired, many assumed that, if nothing else, the quarterback situation in Lawrence should improve. Weis had produced two first round draft picks at Notre Dame and, as any article written about Weis ever will tell you, he coached Tom Brady in New England. He immediately recruited Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps to transfer to Kansas, and the position seemed set through the end of this year.
Obviously, none of those expectations panned out. Weis failed to produce a passer with even a 50% completion rate in his two years running the offense. Both Crist and Heaps were eventually benched in favor of a freshman, and neither freshman looked any better. Even the Jordan Webb/Quinn Mecham combo from the Turner Gill era looks good compared to the last two seasons.
This year, we welcome in a new offensive coordinator in John Reagan, who Kansas fans hope can fix the mess created by quarterback guru Charlie Weis. Today we'll look at what happened with the quarterbacks last year, and dig a little deeper into what we have on the roster this season.
2013: Jake Heaps started last year with a decent amount of fanfare. Fans were hesitant to get excited about another highly-recruited transfer at quarterback after the Dayne Crist debacle, but Heaps had shown a lot of promise his first year at BYU, so there was reason for hope. That hope faded quickly as Heaps put together a season in which he completed less than half his passes, and threw more interceptions than touchdowns as Kansas brandished one of the nation's least potent offenses. He eventually lost his starting job to Montell Cozart in game 10 against West Virginia. The true freshman Cozart had been slowly worked into the offense in prior weeks, and would lead Kansas to the win. Still, his overall performance in his first year left a lot to be desired.
2014 Starter: Montell Cozart
It was announced shortly after spring football that Cozart had officially won the starting job from Jake Heaps, which would prompt Heaps' transfer to Miami. Cozart is entering his true sophomore season, and coaches said they made the announcement early to give Cozart time to acclimate to being the leader of the offense.
Given John Reagan's penchant for using the quarterback in Rice's ground game over the past two years, along with recent interviews in which he reiterated his belief in the importance of having a dual-threat quarterback, it comes as no surprise that Cozart won the job over Heaps. While Cozart doesn't have blazing speed, he was able to make some plays with his feet last year, rushing for over 250 yards in limited playing time (adjusted for lost yards due to sacks).
Still, it's hard to call Cozart anything more than a question mark until we see him in action this year. Cozart's freshman campaign was riddled with errors in decision making, most memorably a play against Iowa State in which he stepped out of bounds well short of the first down marker on third down, despite having no immediate threat of being tackled. His passing left a lot to be desired, completing just 37% of his 63 pass attempts. He did not record a touchdown pass, despite starting three games.
The primary reasons for hope at the QB position are Cozart's youth and the change at the OC spot. In 2013, Cozart was a true freshman put in the unenviable position of running a chaotic, ineffective offense behind a subpar line. As bad as his numbers were, it's hard to expect much more from a 19 year old placed in that position in the Big 12. John Reagan put together a smooth, efficient spread offense using a mobile quarterback at Rice, so the hope is that he will put Cozart in a much better position to succeed in 2014. Given this, it seems logical to assume that Cozart aligned for a significantly improved sophomore season. However, very little of what has happened in the Charlie Weis era could be described as "logical," so fans should probably be in wait-and-see mode where Cozart is concerned.
Millweard succeeds Crist and Heaps as this year's "highly recruited quarterback who couldn't make it work at his first school" on the roster. Millweard redshirted his first and only full season at UCLA before deciding to transfer to the Jayhawks midyear in 2013. Though considered more of a pro style quarterback, Millweard did run for nearly 500 yards one season in high school, and word from those around the program suggests that while he isn't exactly a "dual-threat" type, he does run well enough to fit in with Reagan's offense.
Because Millweard has never seen the field in a college football game, there isn't a lot to say about him. He was a 3 or 4 start recruit depending on the service you look at, has NFL size at 6'3 230 pounds, and scouts like his arm strength and footwork. Still, after just one full season at UCLA, for whatever reason, the opportunities did not appear to be there for him long term, and he came to one of the worst programs in BCS conference football. As of now, he's listed as an "or" option with Michael Cummings for the second-string QB spot.
As mentioned, Cummings appears to be in a dead heat with Millweard for the backup role headed into camp. We've seen Cummings in both the last two seasons, though his appearance last year was short-lived, as Weis elected to pull Montell Cozart's redshirt rather than continuing to use Cummings in the offense. That's not much of an endorsement. Cummings did see more significant playing time his freshman year, in which he was able to run for 123 yards and pass for 456. Like Cozart, Cummings has respectable speed but isn't a burner. In fact, they look like very similar players on the stat sheet. Whether he can solidify a spot as the sole 2nd stringer remains to be seen, and will likely depend on how well he does this month as Reagan goes about installing his offense.
Darling drew some praise coming out of high school, and even picked up a scholarship offer from down the road at Kansas State (as did Montell Cozart). However, Cozart clearly impressed the staff more as the season went on, as Darling was never considered to be in the mix for the position that Cozart eventually won. This year, he still finds himself left off the depth chart. Barring a huge improvement, or significant injuries to those ahead of him, it's unlikely that we would see Darling on the field this year.