Kansas coach David Beaty was finally able to get a true look at his quarterback competition during Thursday’s first fall practice, as sophomore Ryan Willis returned to drills after being limited to “mental repetitions” in the spring with a wrist injury.
“I really like watching that kid spin it now,” Beaty said. “He’s got some talent. He’s got a long way to go, just like the rest of them, but I think those kids gravitate towards him and the rest of our quarterbacks too. They want to see who the guy is that’s going to lead them as well.”
Willis, who started the final eight games last season, is competing with junior Montell Cozart, who was the starter in 2015 before suffering a shoulder injury. Cozart, who was a team captain last year, led the team in some of its pre-practice stretches.
“He’s really got his arm strength up to where he’s comparable right there with Ryan,” Beaty said. “Those two guys can throw the ball pretty well.”
The team used two fields for its practice Thursday, which Beaty says allows the quarterbacks to be evaluated at all times with help from video.
Beaty refuses to leave anyone out of the QB competition, but he admitted that Cozart and Willis should have an advantage over the other candidates based on experience.
Officially on roster — Two notable players that appeared on KU’s roster Wednesday made their practice debuts Thursday: cornerback Mike Lee and running back Denzell Evans.
Lee, a four-star Rivals recruit who had committed to KU but originally was in the class of 2017, chose to come to Lawrence a year early.
“We just worked. That’s the deal,” Beaty said. “We’ve got a great staff that works extremely hard at turning over every rock we can in the country. We’re very creative. We understand for us to get better, we’ve got to develop and we’ve got to recruit. We’ve got to recruit better than we’ve got.”
Lee is KU’s first four-star Rivals recruit to make it to campus since the 2013 recruiting class. The last four-star player to appear in a game for KU was Tony Pierson, who signed with the Jayhawks in 2011.
Evans comes to KU from Arkansas, where he played in 15 games while mostly contributing on special teams. As a graduate transfer, he is eligible immediately as a junior.
“They’re going to be no different than the rest of the guys on our team. They’re going to have to earn it,” Beaty said of Lee and Evans. “Now both of them are talented, there’s no doubt about that. But we’ve got some talented guys on our team already, and they’ve got some experience. These guys aren’t going to give anything to anybody.”
Self speaks — KU basketball coach Bill Self addressed the football players during a team meeting on Wednesday night, with part of his message focusing on the importance of toughness.
“Every time he goes in there, (the players) perk up, and I don’t blame them. All of us coaches were taking pictures,” Beaty said. “We’re looking at a celebrity. He’s such a great guy.”
Tide addition — Alabama receiver Daylon Charlot announced on his Twitter account Thursday afternoon that he would be transferring to KU. The 6-foot, 195-pound wideout, who was ranked Rivals.com’s 78th-best player in the class of 2015, caught two passes for nine yards as a freshman last year. Because of transfer rules, he will have to sit out this season.