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Archive for Friday, December 20, 2013

Column: Question of QB lingers for KU football

December 20, 2013

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Charlie Weis Dec. 19, 2013 press conference

Charlie Weis Dec. 19, 2013 press conference

Finally, I don’t have to wait until midseason to write about a quarterback controversy at Kansas University.

It’s raging already, more than eight months away from the Sept. 6 season-opener against Southeast Missouri State in Memorial Stadium.

A good, old-fashioned QB controversy, that’s what the last two offseasons lacked.

The name Dayne Crist was chiseled in granite two offseasons ago. He not only had the starting assignment locked up, he stood at the center of the program’s marketing efforts. His high school prowess and Notre Dame pedigree sold tickets.

Crist was such a poor fit he was replaced by Michael Cummings for a few weeks midway through the season. Cummings’ passing deficiencies created another shot for Crist, who didn’t benefit any from the layoff.

Last season, BYU transfer Jake Heaps, was the one chosen by Weis. He threw better than Crist, but needed an offensive line that could mask his mobility deficiencies and receivers who could catch his zinged throws. He had neither and was replaced in midseason by Montell Cozart, who could really run but overthrew everything but the government. That created another shot for Heaps. The receivers still couldn’t catch his passes. Tight end Jimmay Mundine was the best pass-catcher in the middle third of the season. Unfortunately, he dropped everything but his classes in the first and last thirds of the schedule.

It’s QB-hyping season again, but there’s nobody left to hype.

Or is there?

Nobody has seen UCLA transfer TJ Millweard play, which automatically makes him the man to beat in the minds of some not wanting to believe that one or both of the quarterbacks who steered Kansas to a 3-9 record will man the controls again.

Looking for a school where he thought he come become the starter, Millweard contacted Kansas, which had never recruited him.

He doesn’t run as well as Cozart, but based on the spring-game highlights of him playing for UCLA, appears more mobile than Heaps.

KU coach Charlie Weis hyped Crist and then Heaps to the moon, but he had history with those guys. He recruited Crist to Notre Dame and tried to get Heaps to go there as well.

Weis came close to hyping Millweard a little earlier in his hour-long press conference Thursday.

“He’ll be an interesting candidate here now because not a lot of people know a lot about him, but this kid is pretty good,” Weis said. “He is.”

Michael Cummings will be a fourth-year junior, drop-back passer Jordan Darling a second-year freshman, but this shapes up as a three-horse race and they’re battling for fourth.

Last month, when I asked Weis about Millweard’s mobility, the coach must have been wearing his X-ray vision glasses because he saw right through the question.

“I wouldn’t say he’s Montell, but I’d say better than average,” Weis said. “He’s not just a slug drop-back quarterback, if that’s what you’re asking, which that was the implication right there, which I clearly drew an inference from. TJ’s pretty good. It’ll be interesting.”

If Millweard wanted to watch someone else play quarterback he would have stayed with the Bruins and watched All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection Brett Hundley.

“I don’t think TJ is going home expecting just to be satisfied coming back here being third, fourth or fifth here,” Weis said. “I think that’s no different than those other guys, but I think that it’ll be interesting because he had a nice year on the show team, but that’s where he was most of the time after he got through the individuals and everything. It’ll be interesting in the spring to see whether or not one of those other guys can play themselves into the mix with these first two guys (Heaps and Cozart).”

Ideally, Heaps or Millweard would win the job and both stay healthy all year, which would enable Cozart to redshirt. Players who have had a taste of game action first have a better feel for how much better they must become in certain areas. They tend to get more out of their red-shirt seasons.

Whoever wins the job in the spring, he’ll be inheriting Miami (Ohio) University transfer Nick Harwell, which is good news, and many back from a receiving corps that last season dropped 47 passes, not such good news.

It will be decided in the spring, correct?

“Well, I’m going to leave it up to John (Reagan) and the offensive staff, but I’m pretty sure they’ll know who that is,” Weis said. “I don’t think it’s going to go into August. The old phrase, ‘If you don’t know who your quarterback is, then you don’t have one.’”

Kansas had one, two years ago, until it had two. Ditto for last season.

With any luck, KU will open spring football with three and play the entire regular season with one.

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