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Spring game review: Kansas

4/14/2014

The time is now for the Kansas program under Charlie Weis. The Jayhawks head coach made several changes to his coaching staff this offseason, including the addition of new offensive coordinator John Reagan. Saturday’s spring game was unique, with the Blue team featuring KU’s first and second-teamers and the White squad featuring the third and fourth-teamers. In addition, all quarterbacks were live, meaning they could be hit, as KU tries to find its starting quarterback. Here’s what happened:

Best offensive performance: After entering the game alongside Jake Heaps as dual front-runners to start at quarterback, Montell Cozart was the best signal-caller on the field. The sophomore finished with 70 rushing yards and two touchdowns along with a game-high 58 passing yards, completing 6 of 10 passes. Cozart didn’t lock himself in as the Jayhawks starter, but Weis was pleased with what he saw.

"I was pleased to see him sit in the pocket,” Weis said. “We know he can bootleg and run on the edge, but it was good to see him show some poise in the pocket."

Best defensive performance: Linebacker Jake Love is a quiet playmaker alongside fellow linebacker Ben Heeney, who garners most of the headlines. Love finished with a game-high 10 tackles, including six solo stops. Love, who averaged 4.8 tackles per game in 2013, picked right up where he left off during the spring game. He could join Heeney to give KU one of the better linebacker duos in the conference.

Best debut: Receiver Nick Harwell’s final numbers were uninspiring. Four receptions for 31 yards won’t send fear into the hearts of Big 12 defensive coordinators. Those same coordinators would be wise to learn the name of the Miami (Ohio) transfer. His playmaking ability was evident and, if the spring game is any indication, Reagan’s offense is likely to try to put the ball in his hands often this fall.

Notable play: Cozart’s 60-yard run in the fourth quarter was the longest run of the game and was a glimpse at the reason why he could have the edge in the quarterback race if he continues to develop as a passer. He’s far from a finished product, but the sophomore could be a playmaker for Reagan’s offense.

Developing storyline: Michael Cummings has been the forgotten name in KU’s quarterback battle, yet he looked like the second-best quarterback on the field, outperforming Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Cummings, playing on the White team, which featured third and fourth-teamers, led his squad on a 12-play, 74-yard drive against the No. 1 defense that resulted in the only points of the first half, a 26-yard receiver pass from Tre’ Parmalee to Andrew Turzilli. Cummings didn't finish with great numbers (3-of-10, 42 yards, INT) but looked like his name should be alongside Heaps and Millweard behind Cozart.

Biggest question answered: The Jayhawks have some playmakers emerging on offense to help offset the loss of running back James Sims. Harwell will be a threat at receiver, Tony Pierson is one of the Big 12’s most explosive threats when healthy and running back Brandon Bourbon more than held his own at Sims’ former spot in the backfield with 12 carries for 96 yards. KU’s offensive line and quarterback play will decide how explosive this offense can be, with multiple playmaking options starting to emerge at running back and receiver.

Quotable: “We still have questions, but we also have a lot more answers now than we did in the beginning of the spring. We've implemented a new offense and we still have a ways to go, but I think it's positive at this stage. We've got to continue raising the bar around here." -- Weis