Leading up to Saturday, Kansas coach David Beaty remained mum on his backup quarterback. Was it junior-college transfer Deondre Ford or true freshman Ryan Willis? On Saturday, at least, it was Willis, who played two snaps against South Dakota State and lost a possible redshirt season in the process.
Willis, a Bishop Miege graduate, entered early in the second quarter after Montell Cozart was shaken up on a hit near the KU sideline. After the game, Cozart said his absence was less about injury and more about a chin strap that had to be repaired after he absorbed the hit. But nonetheless, on came Willis, who threw two incomplete passes before Cozart re-entered the game.
After the game, Beaty said the plan was to play Willis if the Jayhawks needed to use a backup.
“This week, at least,” Beaty says. “He’s still going to have to continue to earn it. He and Deondre were both kind of neck and neck. And we got to the point where we thought Montell was actually ready to go (after the hit). And right at the last second, he wasn’t.”
Beaty was noncommittal about the coming weeks. But given that Kansas pulled Willis’ redshirt in the opener, it appears the 6-foot-4 pocket passer could have an opportunity to play more as he gains experience in Kansas’ system.
▪ The football program welcomed back a crew of former standouts this weekend, including former Jayhawks defensive linemen Gilbert Brown and Dana Stubblefield and defensive back Kwamie Lassiter.
Brown, who carried the nickname “The Gravedigger” during a long NFL career, helped the Jayhawks to the 1992 Aloha Bowl. Stubblefield, meanwhile, was also a member of the 2002 Aloha Bowl team and was a three-time Pro Bowler with the San Francisco 49ers.
▪ The announced attendance for Saturday’s season opener was 30,144, which was down from last year’s total of 36,574 for an opener against Southeast Missouri State.