LAWRENCE — Here are a couple of known details about KU freshman quarterback Michael Cummings. He is 5 feet 10 and just a shade more than 200 pounds. He was a dual-threat spark plug at Killeen High School in Killeen, Texas. KU coach Charlie Weis believes he may be better suited to be a pocket passer. And Cummings may, by more than one account, be the favorite in a team-wide karaoke battle.
So this is what we know. Undersized quarterback. Big arm. Decent pipes.
For KU coach Charlie Weis, it’s what we don’t know about Cummings that will ultimately be more fascinating. Can Cummings build on his breakout performance against Oklahoma State last Saturday, when he led KU to two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and nearly helped the Jayhawks erase a 20-0 deficit? Does Cummings have the confidence to take on No. 10 Oklahoma’s resurgent defense?
“Well, he better, because I’m playing him,” Weis said. “He’s gonna go in there, so we’re gonna find out.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Weis added some clarity to the Jayhawks’ muddied quarterback situation. Three days after Cummings replaced an ineffective Dayne Crist and appeared to inject some life into a moribund Kansas offense, Weis announced that both Crist and Cummings would play this Saturday against Oklahoma.
Weis is staying mum on specifics; he won’t divulge who will start or which player will play more. He also shielded Cummings and Crist from media interviews this week. But the decision appears to be spurred by one of Weis’ preferred measurements: Production
“I think that Michael deserves an opportunity to play,” Weis said.
The most convincing evidence came on Saturday, when Cummings came off the bench against Oklahoma State. It was a dreary afternoon. The game had already been delayed by more than an hour. And when Weis finally found Cummings on the sideline, the Jayhawks’ trailed by double-digits while their offense languished in the soggy conditions. The game wasn’t out of reach — but it certainly felt like garbage time was only a few series away.
Last spring, Cummings probably wouldn’t have been ready for the situation. In those days, Cummings often looked unsure of himself. KU quarterback coach Ron Powlus says it looked as if Cummings was going through the motions. Not in a bad way, Powlus says. But maybe like a quarterback that was still finding his way.
“You could kind of see it click toward the end of spring,” Powlus says now.
To be fair, Cummings hadn’t been in a competitive game in more than a year. After committing to KU before his senior year of high school, he tore a ligament in his knee and missed the latter part of the season. Then came the redshirt year. And a coaching change. And then Crist showed up on campus to nail down the quarterback job.
As late as week three, Weis openly stated that the gap between Crist and Cummings was still rather large. But whatever the gap, Cummings has closed hard in the last few weeks. On Saturday, he ran a base version of the Jayhawks’ hurry-up offense. And the whole unit began to click.
“It’s one thing to know the playbook,” Powlus said, “and it’s another thing to execute the play.”
So now the Jayhawks must deal with the quarterback questions. And at his core, Weis appears to be a coach that would prefer stability — not the shuffling of a two-quarterback system. It would be nice, he said, if whoever started the game played so well that he couldn’t take him out. But for now, this setup appears to be the best answer.
“I think it keeps Dayne from being totally in the tank,” Weis said, honestly. “Because if you come in and say ‘Hey, Michael’s the guy.’ Well, that tank can’t get big enough.
“Michael, on the other hand, I asked him to make sure he checked his pants because he’s gonna play this week in Norman. I think they were both at ease.”
Weis also hinted at some new offensive packages that he may use against Oklahoma, even saying that he was “fired up” to unveil what he’d been cooking up for his two quarterbacks.
“I have a whole bunch of things in for this game,” Weis said. “We can’t just go line up and go vanilla; (we can’t just) sit there and figure we’re gonna slug it out and that’s gonna work out to our advantage.”
Injury updates — Weis announced that senior receiver D.J. Beshears had surgery on Monday after suffering a slight fracture in his shoulder during Kansas’ 20-14 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday.
“He’ll be gone for an extended period of time,” Weis said.
Beshears, who lost his starting spot to sophomore Andrew Turzilli after three games, has eight catches for 44 yards this season.
Weis also said senior receiver Daymond Patterson is questionable for Saturday’s game at Oklahoma because of post-concussion syndrome. Some of the issue stemmed from a hit Patterson took while trying to field a punt against Oklahoma State. A personal foul was called on the play.
Linebacker Tunde Bakare will be available after sitting out against Oklahoma State because of a concussion, Weis said. Running back Tony Pierson is also significantly better after missing last week’s game because of an elbow injury.