This week we’re highlighting the make-or-break position battles for every program in the Big 12. We continue the series with the Kansas quarterback battle:
What happened last season: The Jayhawks started out 2014 with Cozart behind center. But after throwing four picks in a shutout loss to Texas, Kansas went with Michael Cummings to much more effective results. Cummings played well in hard-fought losses to Oklahoma State and Texas Tech before leading the Jayhawks to their first Big 12 win, a 34-14 victory over Iowa State in which he threw for 278 yards and a touchdown. Cummings was terrific the following week, too, nearly leading Kansas to an upset over third-ranked TCU.
Cummings, however, suffered a knee injury during Kansas' spring game, which required surgery. That and the arrival of new coach David Beaty left the Kansas QB derby unsettled again heading into the season.
What they offer: Cozart is the only Kansas quarterback to have any meaningful experience, which by default makes him the odds-on favorite. But the last two seasons, he has only completed 50 (2014) and 36.5 (2013) percent of his passes. He has the ability to make plays with his feet. But his accuracy so far has been a liability.
Willis, at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, has prototypical size and a big arm and was a three-star prospect with offers from Illinois and Kansas State. Stanley has impressed the coaching staff with his intelligence and athleticism; he also had a sparking high school career with more than 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns as a senior in Vero Beach, Florida.
Millweard, a former UCLA transfer, is a long shot to get time after finishing third in the derby with Cummings and Cozart last year. Ford was a post-spring juco addition who was mostly a pocket passer at Dodge City (Kansas) Community College but could also make plays with his feet when needed.
Prediction: Cozart was the clear favorite heading into camp, but the competition has been closer than expected, with Beaty still having not named a starter. Willis and Stanley are both intriguing prospects for the Jayhawks. But given his experience and all the new starters elsewhere, Cozart will get the first nod.