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Kansas also keeping QB decision under wraps

AP Photo
Montell Cozart
AP Photo Jake Heaps

LAWRENCE, Kan. - As the week ended, Dana Holgorsen remained secretive about who West Virginia's starting quarterback might be today against Kansas.

He insisted that even with practice already in the books, he'd still not made a decision. Presumably it will be either Paul Millard or Clint Trickett, but Ford Childress seems healthy again and so, for the first time in almost two months, Holgorsen can be picky.

Almost no one really believes that Holgorsen is going into today's noon (ET) game undecided. He just doesn't want to say.

And why should he? After all, Kansas' offense has a two-headed quarterback and Charlie Weis isn't even trying to hide the fact that he's keeping his starter under wraps because he simply doesn't want West Virginia to know who it is.

"I know who's starting at quarterback,'' he said this week. "But why should I tell them? That's really what it comes down to.''

Truth be told, Weis keeping his starter a secret is considerably more significant an issue for West Virginia than WVU's unknown starting quarterback is for Kansas. The bottom line is that whether West Virginia starts Millard or Trickett - or even Childress - the offense doesn't change much.

Kansas? That's a different story all together.

Jake Heaps, the former BYU quarterback who transferred and sat out last season, has started every game. He's thrown for more than 1,200 yards with seven touchdowns and as many interceptions. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior is the odds-on favorite to start again today, too.

But whether he starts or comes off the bench, true freshman Montell Cozart presents an entirely different look. The 6-2, 189-pounder didn't even play the first five games of the season, but has come off the bench more and more frequently in the last four. The last three games, in particular, have been his coming-out party.

Last week, in a loss to Oklahoma State, Cozart replaced Heaps for most of the game. He completed just 6 of 17 passes for 58 yards, but he also ran 18 times and gained 55 yards. Heaps hasn't gained that many yards all season, running for a plus of 42 and suffering 192 yards in sack losses.

In other words, Cozart changes the offense. Dramatically.

Then again, the Kansas offense changes almost weekly regardless of who is taking snaps.

"We need to recognize what their plan's going to be,'' Holgorsen said. "But they switch up what their plans are on a week-to-week basis, so we need figure out early [in the game] what their plan of attack's going to be and we need to make some adjustments on the sidelines in order to defend that.''

Forcing West Virginia to adjust on the run is, of course, the reason Weis won't name his starter. Unlike Holgorsen, who perhaps pretends not to have made a decision, Weis did that right off the bat. He just isn't saying what the decision is.

"You can't go to practice with an 'or' in mind [as in this quarterback or that one] because if you have an 'or' you really have nobody,'' Weis said. "But why should they know?

"As it is, what do they have to practice on? Well, not that we're trained killers on offense, but you have to practice. Jake's in the game at quarterback, what do they do when Jake's in the game? Montell's in as quarterback, what do they do when Montell's in the game?''

Kansas actually presented WVU with the same dilemma a year ago, although with two different quarterbacks. So Weis figures if nothing else, he can go back and look at that tape and see how the Mountaineers adjusted to the passer and the runner.

"Let's go back and look at last year's game when Michael Cummings was in the game and let's see what they do. Is that similar to what they're going to do with Montell?'' Weis asked. "So you practice that stuff, too. Before you get into anything else game-plan-wise, there's three things that you're already practicing. If I do one out of those three things and they spend one third of their time on it, then 'or' was definitely worthwhile."

Holgorsen and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson are naturally concerned about having to prepare for multiple offensive styles, but again, that's nothing new. More than one team the Mountaineers have faced this season presented similar options, as did the Jayhawks a year ago. And in that one WVU had no trouble stopping whatever KU threw - or ran - at it in a 59-10 win.

"It's still football and you need 11 people, seven of them on the line of scrimmage,'' Holgorsen said. "I don't really know how many different things they can come up with. They'll probably try to reinvent the wheel, but whatever they come up with has already been done.''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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