Here is the blueprint for a perfect Saturday. Montell Cozart will arrive at Memorial Stadium in the afternoon. He will cue up his iPod, pre-programmed with a special 10-song playlist. He will step onto the stadium turf for warmups.
The first song, Cozart says, is this rap song called “Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek Mill. It’s the kind of song, he says, that allows him to clear his head visualize what will transpire over the next four hours.
Then, he will play — with the following goals in mind:
“Throw for about 350 (yards),” Cozart says, “Run for about 50-plus, and (we) beat them up.”
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Yes, it’s fair to say that Cozart, Kansas’ sophomore quarterback, is not setting the bar low in the Jayhawks’ season opener against Southeast Missouri State at 6 p.m. Saturday. After seeing limited action as a true freshman, Cozart is now the leading man in the Jayhawks’ new spread offense. He is no longer the fidgety true freshman that completed fewer than 40 percent of his passes. He is not established either, of course, but his head coach sees a young signal-caller who is making consistent progress.
“I think that right now he’s confident bordering on cocky,” KU coach Charlie Weis said, “and that’s a good place to be. I never saw that at any time last year.”
Cozart, a graduate of Bishop Miege, objects to the word “cocky.” He prefers another word: “swag.” To be cocky is to be selfish, Cozart says. To have swag is a lifestyle.
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘cocky,’ because I’ve never been that type of guy,” Cozart said. “So I’m going to use the word swag. That’s just how I am. That’s just what comes with being a quarterback.”
One year after taking his first snaps, Cozart has a new scheme and fresh weapons at his disposal. Senior receiver Nick Harwell, a transfer from Miami of Ohio, will make his KU debut, while true freshman Corey Avery and junior-college transfer De’Andre Mann will split carries at running back. More than anything, though, Cozart now has experience. And for Weis, that could make all the difference.
“For us to win more football games, it starts with the guy with the ball in his hands on every play,” Weis said. “Our completion percentage was crummy. He was part of that, OK. And everyone else was part of that too — coaches, players, everyone.
“But I think you’re going to see a different kid.”
Southeast Missouri at Kansas
WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Lawrence
TV: Time Warner Cable SportsChannel
Other story lines
THE FRESHMEN THEME: Seven true freshmen appeared on the Kansas depth chart this week, and coach Charlie Weis indicated that all seven could see the field against Southeast Missouri. Freshman running back Corey Avery, a Dallas native, will play a featured role in the rushing attack, while smallish freshman receiver Derrick Neal — another Dallas native — has impressed during fall camp. Other true freshmen to watch: Former Grandview offensive lineman Junior Visinia begins the season as the backup right guard, while reserve cornerback Matthew Boateng could see time in the secondary. True freshman Joe Dineen is not on the depth chart, but is available to play after switching from safety to running back during fall camp.
OFFENSIVE LINE QUESTIONS: Junior college transfer Keyon Haughton won the starting center job during preseason camp, shoring up the main question mark on the offensive line. But the rest of the line remains an enigma. Can senior Pat Lewandowski and junior Damon Martin do the job at tackle? Will former junior-college transfers Ngalu Fusimalohi and Mike Smithburg continue to be sturdy at guard? Will quarterback Montell Cozart’s mobility cover up for some of the line’s deficiencies? We’ll know more after Saturday.
BOLTON ASSUMES ROLE UP FRONT: Junior defensive tackle Andrew Bolton, a former juco transfer, finally makes his Kansas debut after sitting out last season. Listed at 6 feet 3 and 290 pounds, the KU staff is hopeful Bolton can bolster a defensive line that has struggled at times during the last three seasons. Bolton was a standout at Hinds Community College in Mississippi before a knee injury ended his 2012 season and delayed his playing career at KU.