In the moments after a 27-14 loss to Rutgers, Kansas coach David Beaty offered a window into his increasingly muddled quarterback situation. For now, Beaty says that junior Montell Cozart and junior college transfer Deondre Ford are “clearly” Kansas’ best options at the position, but he added that true freshman Ryan Willis will see the field at some point.
“We are going to use Ryan,” Beaty said. “There’s no doubt. But he is not ready to play with the whole system right now. There’s just a lot for a high school senior” coming into college.
On Saturday, Ford started in place of Cozart, who was battling the flu. But it’s unclear if Ford would have started anyway. On the Jayhawk Radio Network, color analyst David Lawrence told listeners that Beaty had decided to start Ford after Kansas’ loss to Memphis but elected to keep the decision under wraps to maintain an element of surprise.
In his postgame news conference, Beaty disputed that.
“I don’t want to speak for him, but he’s around our practice a lot,” Beaty said of Lawrence. “He’s a former player and obviously a good friend of our program. But it’s hard to evaluate a quarterback when he’s always playing behind the second group.”
Beaty went on to suggest that Ford was given reps with the first team during practice for evaluation purposes, but that the decision on a starter wasn’t made until Saturday.
“Listen, you can’t evaluate a quarterback behind the second line all the damn time,” Beaty said. “You can’t do that.”
In the end, Ford suffered a sprained thumb during the second quarter, and Beaty turned back to Cozart. Beaty was unsure of how long Ford might sidelined.
“We have to get it X-rayed,” Beaty said. “We don’t know yet.”
Willis, a highly-touted recruit from Bishop Miege, remains something of a wild card. He draws high marks for his skill set, and he played two snaps in the season opener when Cozart went down, burning his redshirt. But after using Willis for two plays against South Dakota State, Beaty and offensive coordinator Rob Likens haven’t gone back to him.
On Saturday, Beaty hinted that the staff had creative packages to feature Willis. He declined to get specific but said Willis will likely be used in those situations.
“We are being very smart with how we’ve created some things to utilize him,” Beaty said. “The situations have to arise for that to happen the right way.”
In addition to Cozart, linebacker Marcquis Roberts also played through the flu Saturday. Roberts said he was held out of practice for most of the week. Linebacker Kyron Watson also didn’t make the trip to Rutgers because of the flu.
Redshirt freshman receiver Tyler Patrick continues to emerge as a weapon in the passing game. One game after snagging a career-high six receptions against Memphis, Patrick hauled in three catches for 70 yards again Rutgers.