Can Montell Cozart provide KU with a hot hand?

08/22/2014 7:00 AM

08/24/2014 8:30 AM

What do Massachusetts, New Mexico, Air Force and Army have in common?

They’re the only schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision not to reach double digits in touchdown passes in either of the past two seasons.

Oh, wait. There’s a fifth school to add to that list. Kansas.

The Jayhawks have passed for 16 touchdowns since quarterback guru Charlie Weis became the coach in 2012. That’s in 24 games, in which KU quarterbacks have been intercepted 25 times.

So now we’re supposed to believe that sophomore Montell Cozart, who was spottier than a leopard during his indoctrination into college football last season, is the quarterback to lead Kansas out of this abyss?

Who are we trying to kid?

That’s not a knock on Cozart, who was recruited out of Bishop Miege to be Jake Heaps’ understudy for a couple of seasons. But Weis became impatient with Heaps and gave Cozart the starting job last season. That prompted Heaps to transfer to Miami (Fla.), where he’s in a battle for the starting job with freshman Brad Kaaya after expected starter Kevin Olsen was suspended for the season after failing a drug test.

Meanwhile, Cozart is the starter at Kansas. And there hasn’t been much of a competition.

This after a 2014 season in which Cozart completed 23 of 63 pass attempts for no touchdowns and 227 yards.

Meanwhile, at Kansas State, senior quarterback Jake Waters is on more watch lists than the James Gang.

Waters, who eventually wrested the QB job from the exciting but mistake-prone Daniel Sams last season, won’t be looking over his shoulder this season since Sams has transferred to McNeese State.

Waters is actually underrated going into this season. With Tyler Lockett in the receiving corps, Waters could become only the second K-State quarterback in history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season, joining Josh Freeman. Waters passed for for 2,469 yards last season when sharing time with Sams.

He has a rocket arm, one suited for the NFL. Waters isn’t getting any Heisman Trophy run, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he nudges his way into the discussion that now centers on quarterbacks Jameis Winston (Florida State), Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Braxton Miller (Ohio State) and Brett Hundley (UCLA).

Waters represents quarterback stability at K-State. Cozart represents a continuation of musical chairs at KU.

Kansas’ passing game has been woeful during its two seasons under Weis, who once was Tom Brady’s offensive coordinator at New England. If there’s any residual street cred from those days, it’s dissipating quickly.

Marcia Brady would stack up well against the KU quarterbacks of the past couple of seasons.

In 2012, with Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist at the wheel, the Kansas passing attack ranked 123rd of 124 teams in completion percentage and efficiency, and 117th in yards. Remember how Crist was promoted as the savior of the Jayhawks’ offense?

Then it was Heaps’ turn. The BYU transfer, we were told, was the real deal. Finally, the Kansas offense was going to start dealing.

Except it didn’t.

In 2013, Kansas ranked 122nd in completion percentage, 120th in yards and 123rd in efficiency.

Now it’s Cozart’s turn, though before it was supposed to have been.

Cozart was a project from the beginning. He was a fantastic running quarterback at Miege and has a strong arm. But last season, there were times he missed receivers by not inches, not feet and not even yards. But by area codes.

Not all of the blame belongs to the KU quarterbacks of the past couple of seasons. The Jayhawks have not developed dependable receivers and have had to rely on a running attack for most of its offense. Now, that running game has been diminished with the graduation of James Sims and the early departure of Darrian Miller.

Kansas needs to find a way to become airborne and there’s a buzz about Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell, who caught 229 passes for 3,166 yards and 23 touchdowns during three seasons. Tony Pierson and Jimmay Mundine are also going to be counted on to catch some balls.

And let’s not give the offensive line a free pass. Protection has been minimal and that, combined with questionable quarterback play and the lack of proven receivers, has made the Jayhawks’ passing anything but fancy.

Weis sounds eager to utilize Cozart’s feet as well as his right arm. He wants a quarterback who can scramble and escape danger. For two seasons, though, the danger of playing quarterback at Kansas has been too much for anyone to overcome. Perhaps this season will be different. Perhaps a young quarterback with more gumption than experience will show that Weis is indeed a quarterback guru.

We’re all waiting to see the proof.

Reach Bob Lutz at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @boblutz.

About Bob Lutz

Bob Lutz has been The Eagle's sports columnist since 1996. A native of Derby, he has worked for the newspaper since 1974 and covered a variety of beats, from high schools to Wichita State to pro sports. If you want to get in good with him, mention the St. Louis Cardinals. Provided they're winning, of course.

Contact Bob at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com

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