Montell Cozart was thrown into the fire a year ago and that experience, as well as the arrival of new offensive coordinator John Reagan might very well be why the Kansas offense has the potential to put up big numbers.
Add the emergence of receivers Justin McCay, Rodriguez Coleman, transfers Nick Harwell and Nigel King and the return of Tony Pierson and it’s no surprise that Cozart had a very solid fall camp and has the swagger that will be needed as the season gets underway this Saturday night.
“He’s confident, bordering on cocky. That’s a good place to be,” head coach Charlie Weis said. “I think you’re going to see a different kid out there.”
Cozart’s growing confidence has led to calming the fears of Weis, albeit slowly. Now, the thought is that last year’s woes have a chance to turn into one of this year’s strength and with that could comes big leaps forward for a program desperately looking to star catching some breaks.
“I think like I said before, for the sake of being redundant, there are just less of them that I worry about now,” Weis said. “Last year at this time you wondered whether or not the passing game even had a chance. I don't feel that way anymore. You worried about well, are all these guys on defense going to pan out? I think our defense is going to be pretty solid, to tell you the truth. I think if our offense can score enough points, we'll have a chance to win a whole bunch of games.”
Cozart’s hot camp has come at the perfect time, as many wondered whether or not he’d be the guy, especially after last year’s opening game starter Jake Heaps transferred to Miami. That left the former Bishop Miege product as the odds on favorite to beat Michael Cummings, who started several games in 2012 and UCLA transfer T.J. Milweard for the job.
Cozart had some experience after having his redshirt pulled a year ago in the first half of a 34-19 loss to Oklahoma and from there, he showed signs of progress, including leading Kansas to its 31-19 victory over West Virginia in November.
However, there were many times, where he looked the part of a freshman who was in over his head, so he looked to use spring ball and fall camp to mature and to master the Reagan’s new Kansas offense, which is essentially the same offense that he and then offensive coordinator Ed Warriner used to lead Kansas to back to back bowl wins, including a win in the Orange Bowl, including that magical 12-1 season in 2007. Cozart’s growing confidence is a major reason for the optimism that prevails as the season nears its kickoff.
“I think that Montell came out of the spring as the guy. He took some leadership among himself this summer,” Reagan said. “Started camp and was doing really well and had a little bit of a lull then came out of that and since that has been very good. And by very good, not just by throwing the ball not just calling plays and getting us into the right plays but the way he is handling things. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and he has every right to be where he is with his confidence right now based on his camp.”
In the new offense, a simpler scheme could yield major results, while maximizing Cozart’s abilities. At its optimal execution level, the Jayhawks point to the 2007 season as a goal and template.
Then, Kansas average nearly 500 yards a game with nearly 300 yards passing and 200 yards running. Cozart will have the opportunity to not only makes things happen with his arm, but also with his legs, where he has shown the ability to be a playmaker. Though, his is a pass first, run second mentality, his gifts can’t be ignored and it’ll be up to the coaches to help him bring out a harmonious balance.
“I think (quarterbacks) Coach (Ron) Powlus has done a great job with Montell, just maximizing his abilities and just like at any position you want to maximize the best they have and minimize the other things and Ron has done a great job coaching Montell and doing exactly that,” Reagan said.
With the best receiving corps a Kansas quarterback has enjoyed in five years, 2014 could prove to be a breakout year for the new Jayhawks offense, but most importantly, for it’s young quarterback, because however far he makes strides this season, the fate of this Kansas team won’t be too far behind and it could play the most vital role on if this particular team will have reason to practice come December.