LAWRENCE — The way Kansas football coach Charlie Weis sees it, Montell Cozart’s debut against Oklahoma on Saturday was just the beginning.
Cozart, a freshman quarterback from Bishop Miege, came off the bench and saw limited action in a 34-19 loss. But after sitting out the first five games of the season, Cozart’s appearance burned his redshirt opportunity.
Cozart went three-and-out on his first drive in the second quarter, and finished with just three rushes for eight yards against Oklahoma. He didn’t attempt a pass. The rushing total, though, did include one nine-yard run, and Weis envisions more opportunities for Cozart after he shook off any butterflies in his debut.
“That was part of the plan,” Weis said Monday during the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “You can’t say, ‘Well, let’s go play him for nine snaps against Oklahoma, and then sit him.’ Obviously, as we go forward, he’ll definitely be in our thoughts, and you’ll definitely see him show up in the game.”
The question, of course, will be how much. Last season, as the Jayhawks’ passing offense sputtered and struggled, Weis inserted freshman quarterback Michael Cummings for starter Dayne Crist, leaning on a run-heavy offensive attack.
Cozart could play a similar role this year — although the KU coaches maintain that Cozart has the skills to be a solid passer.
Weis, it appears, is also not ready to go away from starter Jake Heaps, who completed just five of 13 pass attempts for 16 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma. Handcuffed by a shaky offensive line and a rash of receiver drops, Heaps is completing just 51.5 percent of his pass attempts, while throwing for 903 yards in six games.
After Saturday’s loss, Heaps said he didn’t feel threatened by Cozart’s emerging role.
“At the end of the day, I’m in it to win,” Heaps said. “Whatever we gotta do to win. For the most part, the game plan was to have me in the game, and manage the game, and Montell come in there and throw some different looks at them.
“For me, I’m not too concerned about everything else. All I can concern myself with is what I can do and help my team win.”
Early last week, Weis said, he was upfront with Heaps and Cozart about the game plan against Oklahoma. Heaps would start and play the bulk of the snaps, and Cozart would come in and lead some run-oriented packages that would have a better chance of being successful when KU was going against the wind.
But after another loss, which dropped KU to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big 12, Weis said he couldn’t rule out the idea of going to a more ground-oriented attack.
“Because I’ll have to wait and see where we are,” Weis said. “Obviously, you throw for 20 yards in a college football game, I don’t care if you’re playing the ’85 Bears, that’s just not acceptable.”
On Monday, Weis couldn’t say exactly how KU will use Cozart going forward. But they will use him. And much of the decision, Weis says, could depend on the individual game plans each week.
“Jake handled it very well, because we don’t lie to our players or mislead them,” Weis said. “We told them (last) Monday we were gonna do this. This wasn’t like something that just materialized on game day. As soon as we finish the first- and second-down game plan tonight, we’ll visit with those guys.”