Each week of the football season, Bevo Beat will interview a reporter who covers Texas’ upcoming opponent. Rustin Dodd, Kansas beat writer for the Kansas City Star, answered five questions about the Jayhawks. Texas visits Kansas on Saturday for both team’s Big 12 opener. Kick off is set for 3 p.m.
Q: Quarterback Montell Cozart threw for a career-best 226 yards in Saturday’s 24-10 win over Central Michigan. A week earlier, he struggled against Duke and earned a public scolding from his coach. Is he Kansas’ best option behind center or could we see a change at some point?
A: Cozart is definitely Kansas’ best option behind center, but he’s a sophomore who is still learning the nuances of the position — like moving around the pocket and reading defenses. Last week, KU offensive coordinator John Reagan put Cozart in position to have success. In the first half, he rarely attempted to go downfield. Junior QB Michael Cummings has some experience, and he has come in to run the Wildcat package. But Cozart is the best blend of athleticism and arm.
Q: Kansas was without two offensive linemen on Saturday. Explain what right guard Mike Smithburg (appendectomy) and right tackle Damon Martin (undisclosed illness) mean to the line and just how much Kansas would suffer if they were to miss this week’s game.
A: The Jayhawks managed against Central Michigan, but the running game was slowed a bit. The offensive line has been a work in progress. Neither Smithburg or Martin are going to dominate, but Smithburg is solid and Martin was running with the first team for a reason.
Q: New offensive coordinator John Reagan installed a spread system, something his boss, head coach Charlie Weis, has long been averse to doing. What have been the early takeaways from that transition?
A: It’s been mixed. The receivers have looked more comfortable — though that could be partially due to a new receivers coach, Eric Kiesau. The quicker pace and mobile quarterback has also helped KU protect Cozart in the pocket. Really, though, it’s early. The passing game really struggled at Duke. The rushing attack has been more consistent. And that was the story the last two years as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the offense evolves in Big 12 play.
Q: Kansas finished last in the Big 12 each of the past three seasons. Is this year’s team better, worse, or about the same as those teams?
A: From a talent and experience standpoint, it’s better. There are potential pros in the secondary. Senior linebacker Ben Heeney is an All-Big 12 talent. The receivers are improved. But how much better? That’s the question. KU has improved in many areas over the last three years, but have they closed the gap on their Big 12 opponents? That’s the biggest question.
Q: Finish this sentence: Charlie Weis will be Kansas’ coach in 2015 if …
A: The KU brass believes that the program has gained momentum and is moving forward. KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger has used the word “momentum” many times. More victories would be nice, of course. But more important could be how KU competes in the Big 12 — week in and week out
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