At a recent Kansas football practice, offensive coordinator Rob Likens looked at his group of quarterbacks and barked out a set of instructions.
“We’re pushing off this left foot,” Likens said, hitting his left thigh for emphasis. “We’re push, bang, bang, throw!”
There are six quarterbacks on the Kansas roster, and as first-year coach David Beaty guides the KU program through spring football practice, that’s pretty much all we know about who will be under center in the fall.
Beaty says he is in no hurry to name a starting quarterback or set a depth chart. Senior quarterback Michael Cummings, who finished last season as the starter, began the spring working with the first-string offense. But Beaty said it would be wise to not put too much stock in spring reps.
“I don’t want to guess,” Beaty said. “I want to make sure we’re right.”
When Beaty was the offensive coordinator at Rice in 2010, he said he waited until three days before the season opener before naming a starter.
“If we don’t name a starter until the day of the game,” Beaty said. “I’m fine with that.”
The quarterback situation will grow even more complicated in the summer, when two freshmen, Bishop Miege’s Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley of Vero Beach (Fla.), arrive on campus. Cummings should be in solid position to win the job after throwing for 1,715 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Junior Montell Cozart, who began last season the starter, and junior T.J. Millweard, a former UCLA transfer, are also active in the competition.
Beaty has praised Millweard’s football IQ, while Cozart is generally considered the most physically gifted quarterback on the roster.
“We want a guy that can manage the game,” Beaty said, “can take care of the football, can move our team and be an effective leader. I think everybody in the country is looking for that.”
Beaty said he is also looking for a quarterback that can do “some things on their own,” another way of saying that he would like a quarterback that can improvise and keep plays alive with his feet.
“(We want) guys that are competitors,” Beaty said. “Guys that love to compete, guys that are not necessarily robotic. They can do some things on their own.”
For now, Beaty and Likens have plenty of quarterbacks to evaluate, including walk-on Brock Gilmore, a Chanute native who spent last season at Coffeyville Community College. But one pressing question remains: Could one of the newcomers — Willis or Stanley — be in position to win the job in the fall? Likens, in his first season as offensive coordinator, said learning the Air Raid offense won’t be an issue.
“You could learn it in three days,” Likens said. “It’s easy.”
For the moment, Beaty and Likens will watch and wait. There are six quarterbacks on the roster right now, and two more coming.
“I think it’s very simple,” Likens said of a freshman quarterback learning the system. “Physically is where you’re going to get the problem. Are they strong enough, will their body (hold up)? You see a lot of freshman hit walls physically, right around the third week of (fall) camp and then you’ll see it again in September.”