Jayhawks still uncertain who will start at QB in opener
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas coach David Beaty still has not announced a starting quarterback for Saturday’s opener against Rhode Island, and it’s not because he is trying to keep it a secret.
He insists that he legitimately doesn’t know.
"I’ll know a lot more after today and I’ll know a heck of a lot after tomorrow," Beaty said Tuesday. "So we’re getting close. We’ve got good choices."
Two potential starters in Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis have had a significant amount of snaps in their careers, while the third prospect — redshirt freshman Carter Stanley — may be the most physically gifted of the bunch, a dual-threat quarterback not unlike former Beaty protege Johnny Manziel.
"There is not a hair’s separation from them statistically in fall camp," Beaty said. "We literally play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to see who goes first."
The quarterback carousel is nothing new at Kansas.
There was quarterback controversy in 2012 with Dayne Crist and Michael Cummings, and again the next year with Cozart and Jake Heaps. The same thing happened in 2014 with Cozart and Cummings.
Last season, three different quarterbacks lined up in the starting slot at least once.
Cozart said he wins the most rock, paper, scissor battles during practice these days, and he uses paper as his weapon of choice. But games aside, the captain has been a part of the quarterback mix at Kansas for four seasons, making the entire process nothing new.
As a freshman in 2013, Heaps started most of the season before Cozart was thrown into the mix as the starter late in the season against West Virginia. He was the starter the next season until Cummings got a chance, just before then-coach Charlie Weis was shown the door.
Last season, Cozart started three of the first four games — he missed one due to illness — before a season-ending injury. Willis was thrown into the starting role as a freshman.
"I’ve been through it before," Cozart said of the quarterback battle. "I’ve just got to go into the game with the mindset of when I’m in there, controlling what I can, controlling the control-ables."
Willis played reasonably well in eight games last season, throwing for 1,719 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His passing yardage was the best by a quarterback at Kansas since Jordan Webb in 2011, and one of the best performances by a freshman in school history.
But Willis still has work to do.
"He’s a baby," Beaty said, referring to his youth. "He is by no means a finished product, at all. If he was, he would be named the starting quarterback and he’s not."
With Cozart healthy, Willis enjoys the battle.
"We have good competition going on in the room," he said. "Iron sharpens iron and this competition is going strong. The cream always rises to the top."
In practice thus far, Cozart and Willis are getting the most reps, but Beaty said Stanley’s dual-threat ability makes him an intriguing option in a quarterback competition still going strong.
"He’s got a little moxie to him that’s a little bit different," Beaty said. "And he’s a guy that doesn’t say a whole lot right now, but in the game, he is a guy that I think he’s going to have an opportunity when he does get into a football game to really show who he really is."