Zack Stoudt, the No. 2-ranked junior-college quarterback in the country, will not be coming to Kansas University.
Stoudt, one of the top priorities on the KU coaching staff’s recruiting board, orally committed to Mississippi on Monday night, marking a sour end to weeks of anticipation and effort by the Jayhawks.
KU was one of seven schools that extended a scholarship offer to Stoudt, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound, pro-style quarterback from Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
In October, KU coach Turner Gill drove to Iowa to watch Stoudt play. Stoudt returned the favor by making a visit to Lawrence the weekend of Nov. 20 for the Jayhawks’ game against Oklahoma State. At the time, all signs seemed to indicate that Stoudt would commit to KU.
“Right now, Kansas is my favorite,” Stoudt said on Nov. 23. “Those other schools are going to have to beat them out.”
One did, and, now, KU is left scrambling. It appears that Mississippi’s conference and history of producing NFL-caliber quarterbacks was a big pull for the Ohio native.
“It came down to the opportunity to play in the SEC,” Stoudt told Neal McCready of Rivals.com. “On top of that, the opportunity to play at Ole Miss is very good. Coach (Houston) Nutt is a great guy, and I really liked (co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks) coach (Dave) Rader. They need a guy to come in, and the spot is wide-open.”
Stoudt also told McCready that informing the KU coaches of his decision was tough.
“They are a great group of guys,” he said. “Coach (Chuck) Long was as good a guy as I’ve ever been around. He probably would’ve been a great coach for me.”
Losing out on Stoudt is a big blow for the Jayhawks, who will enter the spring with just two experienced quarterbacks, Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham, on the roster.
Webb was the Jayhawks’ leading passer this year as a red-shirt freshman, but his stats and sporadic play overall were underwhelming. He finished 121-of-214 (56.5 percent) for 1,195 yards, with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. Webb also added 84 yards rushing in nine games, including seven starts.
Mecham, in four starts, had a higher completion percentage than Webb (61-of-102, 59.8 percent) and threw for 554 yards and four TDs, with five interceptions.
Other existing options for the Jayhawks in 2011 include a pair of former quarterbacks now listed as wide receivers.
Kale Pick, the junior-to-be who was KU’s opening day starter at quarterback in 2010, and Christian Matthews, a highly touted dual-threat QB out of high school, also have experience at the position. But it’s highly unlikely that either player would return to quarterback next season. Late last month, Gill said Pick was “on board at receiver, full-throttle, ready to go.” And Matthews hasn’t taken many meaningful snaps at QB throughout his KU career.
Help is on the way, but that help won’t arrive until August and will come in the form of true freshman Michael Cummings, a 6-foot, 196-pound dual-threat quarterback from Killeen, Texas, who missed the second half of his senior season because of a knee injury and still is on crutches. Cummings shapes up as a likely red-shirt candidate.
Cummings committed to Kansas in June and is expected to sign in February. He said the chance to play for Gill and Long, KU’s offensive coordinator, was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“Playing for them will be the best of worlds,” Cummings told Rivals in June. “They were both great quarterbacks. Coach Gill was a mobile quarterback and coach Long was more of a pocket-passer. So they will be great coaches that can help me a lot. I spent a lot of time around them. Coach Gill is a man who knows what he wants to do with his program. He wanted me to be a part of it.”