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53 Days: The Kansas QB Carousel

A look at the recent chaos at the most important position on the field.

Missouri Tigers v Kansas Jayhawks Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

It’s not exactly a secret that Kansas has had issues at quarterback since the Todd Reesing era came to an end.

Well, really they’ve had issues at every position, but quarterback has been easily the most noticeable, due both to the importance of the position and the lack of any stability whatsoever. As we hope to see a stable plan at QB under new coach Les Miles, let’s revisit the trials and errors of signal caller position since Reesing’s last game.


We got a bad sign right out of the gate when new coach Turner Gill pulled Mark Mangino’s chosen heir to the position, Kale Pick, after just one half of play. Freshman Jordan Webb didn’t fare much better as Kansas lost their opener to NDSU 6-3. Webb was the starter the rest of the way, aside from some games missed due to injury in which Quinn Meacham took over. Pick converted to WR and never played under center again.


2011 was a rare season in which Kansas stuck with a single starter. Quinn Meacham got some mop-up duty here and there but Webb actually had one of the better seasons we’ve seen out of a Kansas quarterback in the last nine seasons, with 1,883 yards (6.7 y/a) and 13 TDs.


With Webb and Meacham (and Gill) gone, new coach Charlie Weis brought in Dayne Crist, easily the most hyped QB in Kansas history, to take over. Crist was a former 5 star recruit who’d had varying levels of success at Notre Dame. There were no variations in his level of success at Kansas. Crist threw 9 interceptions to just 4 TDs and was replaced by redshirt freshman Michael Cummings, a dual threat QB who took over more of an option-based spread offense. Cummings did OK-ish given his lack of experience and lack of weapons around him, but hardly look poised to take the QB position from the *next* heir apparent in...


Remember Jake Heaps? No one will blame you if you don’t! Heaps was the next big transfer QB at Kansas. He dazzled fans at BYU as a highly-rated freshman, then lost his starting job as a sophomore. In 2013, he showed Jayhawk fans more of that sizzle that cost him the QB1 job in Provo as he, like Crist, completed fewer than half his passes and threw more picks than TDs. He, like Crist, then lost his job to a freshman, Montell Cozart. Cozart showed flashes of great running ability but no flashes of great passing ability as he completed just 36.5% of his throws across seven games of action.


Cozart started the season looking better than in his freshman campaign, but ultimately lost the starting job to Michael Cummings, now a junior, who may have had the best run of play we’ve seen at the position during this time. Cummings played some wildcat QB from the start, so he was able to log a full 12 games of action. He completed 56.1% of his passes for 1,715 yards (7 y/a) and 9 TDs with just 6 picks. It looked like KU finally had a solid QB in place going into the next year.


LOL @ Kansas. Cummings appeared the unquestioned starter until he tore his ACL in the spring game. If anyone ever asks you to describe the David Beaty era in one really long paragraph, simply have them read the following:

Montell Cozart was named the starter headed into a week one game against South Dakota State. In the first half, Ryan Willis, a promising true freshman, had his redshirt pulled and played one series. Cozart then returned to play the remainder of the game, a narrow loss to an FCS school that ended on a botched attempt to stop the clock.

The next week, Cozart played start to finish against Memphis while Willis, his redshirt gone, watched from the sidelines as KU lost by 32 points. The week after that debacle, it was announced that Cozart was not benched, but too sick with the flu to play. Naturally, Willis stepped up and... watched from the sideline as Juco transfer Deondre Ford got the start. Unfortunately, Ford suffered an early knee injury, opening up the opportunity for Willis to... again watch from the sideline as Cozart, saddled with a flu virus, kept KU in a fairly competitive game against Rutgers.

As common sense would dictate, Ryan Willis then shared time the following week with a now-healthy Cozart. Willis eventually won the starting job and played very well for a true freshman in a bad situation.


Cozart was once again named the starter out of the gate, but the position quickly evolved into a job share of sorts between him and Ryan Willis. Willis would eventually succumb to injury, leading to a job share between Cozart and a new freshman getting thrown to the wolves, Carter Stanley. Stanley would, if nothing else, lead the Jayhawks to a victory over Texas, while putting up mediocre numbers about as good as anyone else had been able to muster that year.


The Peyton Bender era begins! Bender was once a highly regarded air raid quarterback who signed at Washington State to play under Mike Leach. However, he left after a year, spent a season in the Juco ranks, and made his way to Lawrence. Bender showed flashes of accuracy and arm talent that got lost in a sea of horrendous decision making. Once again, Stanley would get a late season call-up, but fared no better (maybe worse). No one knew who would get the nod at QB headed into the next season.


Bender never established himself as the kind of QB KU fans hoped they were getting when he signed on, but he actually played pretty well (by KU standards) last year. His 13:3 TD:INT ratio was far and away the best we’ve seen from a Jayhawk signal caller since Reesing. He threw for 1,894 yards (also the best we’ve seen since ‘09) and looked much more competent than he did in his first year. Unfortunately, the offense still sputtered and Carter Stanley once again got some chances as the season went on, completing 72.3% of his passes and throwing just one pick. Between the two, we might have seen the best QB play of any season since Mangino’s firing, which is very sad.


Stanley has one year left and his resume boasts a win over Texas (remember when Kansas beat Texas in football?). Incoming juco transfer Thomas MacVittie appears to be the coaches’ choice if he can make a smooth transition back to the D1 level (he was on the roster for a year at Pittsburgh as a freshman). It will likely be late August before a starter is named, and at this point we don’t even know what the offense will look like so it’s tough to say who will or should be the starter.