University of Kansas

Game of chance helps KU quarterbacks settle some first-team reps

Kansas football coach David Beaty (center) still hasn’t decided whether Montell Cozart (right) or Ryan Willis will be the starting quarterback this season.
Kansas football coach David Beaty (center) still hasn’t decided whether Montell Cozart (right) or Ryan Willis will be the starting quarterback this season.

Montell Cozart has found the most effective way to get first-team reps at quarterback for the Kansas football team: He throws paper.

During certain instances — like two-minute drills late in practice — Kansas coach David Beaty will have Cozart and teammate Ryan Willis play Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine who goes in first.

Cozart has found success while mostly avoiding rock and scissors.

“I’m well over 50 percent,” Cozart said of his winning percentage. “I’m at least probably about 75.”

The fact that Beaty relies on a game of chance for his team’s first man up perhaps says a lot about KU’s quarterback competition heading into the final week.

Just four days before his team’s season-opener against Rhode Island, Beaty reiterated Tuesday that neither Willis nor Cozart had earned the starting nod.

“They are still competing,” Beaty said. “I’ll know a lot more after today and I’ll know a heck of a lot after (Wednesday).”

The message seemed a bit different from the one delivered during the Big 12 teleconference Monday. On that call, Beaty hinted that he knew which way he was leaning with the quarterback battle while saying he didn’t want to give any advantages away to Rhode Island by announcing a starter.

When asked Tuesday if he knew who would start Saturday’s game for KU, Beaty said, “I do not.”

“We’re getting close. We’ve got good choices, y’all,” Beaty said. “They are both talented guys.”

Beaty also has the option of rotating his quarterbacks. He was opposed to that line of thinking last year when Cozart was battling Michael Cummings for the starting job but seemed more open to it Tuesday when he said the first guy “may not be in there long.”

With no official declaration, both KU’s quarterbacks did their best to describe the situation during Tuesday’s interviews.

“I assume both of us will play,” Willis said, “but you’ve got to prepare for whatever.”

Added Cozart: “(Coach) is just going to keep evaluating us as we go, and we’ll find out.”

Willis appeared to be the frontrunner after starting the last eight games in 2015. He possesses the team’s strongest arm, though he also struggled some with late decision-making that led to costly interceptions during close games against Texas Tech and TCU.

A wrist injury also kept Willis from fully participating in spring practices.

“He is by no means a finished product, at all. If he was, he would be named the starting quarterback, and he’s not,” Beaty said. “We don’t have a starter yet. We didn’t have that separation.”

Cozart, meanwhile, has been first string the last two seasons before struggling to stay there. He played in four games last year before a season-ending shoulder injury.

Beaty has said through fall practices that he wasn’t going to put a timeline on choosing a quarterback while waiting for a “clear divider.”

The coach — at least publicly — is saying he hasn’t seen that yet.

“It’s one of those deals, our guys know where they are at. They know where they are at,” Beaty said. “And that depth chart is going to be fluid through the entire season.”

Jesse Newell: @jessenewell