Kansas head coach David Beaty didn’t want to waste anymore time deciding who his starting quarterback would be when the Jayhawks open their season September 5th against South Dakota State. The first year coach ended the wait on Monday, when he announced that junior Montell Cozart would be the team’s starting quarterback.
Cozart, who has made eight starts in his career, regains the job he lost last season in early October. However, in a new offense that promises to be more quarterback friendly and with the added bonus of now being a veteran, it’s Cozart that feels ready for the challenge.
"Competing and earning it, that is something that we are harping on around here," Cozart said. "I knew I had to step up. Going through camp I feel like my teammates and the coaching staff have gotten a lot of confidence in me and that is a great feeling as a quarterback."
The job became Cozart’s to lose when Michael Cummings was lost to a season ending knee injury in the Spring Game. He entered camp knowing that he’d face stiff challenges from junior college transfer Deondre Ford, as well as incoming freshmen Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley. Cozart won the job by doing the little things in addition to the ones that garner the most headlines.
"Montell has been able to operate our offensive effectively," Beaty said. "He has been able to move the team, he has taken care of the ball and valued possessions and he has really become productive as a leader with that group which is really important to us."
Winning the quarterback competition is an honor for Cozart, but Beaty primed him for the competition when camp was just getting underway earlier this month. The two shared a long conversation about the road that would lead him to this point.
“You know, they were very simple. They were not unlike the conversations that we had with the rest of the players. It's real simple. I said, 'Tell -- I call him 'Tell. Montell, if someone beats you out here, then it's your own fault, and I know it's not going to be because you don't work hard, Beaty said. “That won't be what it is. Are you focusing on the things that you need to focus on to win the job, to be able to do what you want to do.”
“So, the challenge to you is to listen very closely and understand what your weaknesses are and try to build up on those so you can eliminate those from your game and become the quarterback that you want to become,” Beaty continued.
“You have the inside track. You have the thing they don't have. You have experience. You have time here. You have time in our system now through the spring. So really for you, I think the challenge is to work on you, which is going to be really what we focus on a lot with us, is we're going to work a lot on us. We know we're playing an opponent. We get that. We understand that,” Beaty concluded. “We're going to be prepared for those guys. But really at the end of the day, if we don't handle us, it really doesn't matter who we're playing. Same thing with him. You've got to handle you. You've got to handle you. What are your weaknesses, how do you continue to work on trying to make those things strengths, or at least minimize the amount of weakness it is for you. That's what the conversation was like. And you couldn't tell that to a better kid because he took that to heart and went to work on it.”