Ranking Kansas football position units: No. 6, quarterbacks
Kansas has had a few big victories in the post-Mark Mangino/Todd Reesing years. Then again, too few to mention. But we’ll mention them anyway and just for fun look at who the starting quarterback and head coach were for each game. Playing for Turner Gill, Quinn Mecham led KU from way behind to a 52-45 victory against Colorado. Coach Charlie Weis gave the starting assignment to true freshman Montell Cozart threw just 12 times on a day Kansas had 54 rushing attempts in a 31-19 Kansas victory against West Virginia. Playing for interim head coach Clint Bowen, Michael Cummings led KU to a 34-14 thrashing of Iowa State.
But the quarterback was Carter Stanley, the head coach David Beaty, the opponent Texas when Kansas executed its biggest victory in the post-Mangino/Reesing years, the first triumph vs. Texas since 1938.
Stanley, the 10th quarterback to start a game in the years since Reesing rewrote the Kansas passing record book, was the most impressive of the lot. Even so, chances are good that he will open the season second on the depth chart behind junior-college transfer Peyton Bender, who ran an Air Raid offense in high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and in the three years since, the first as a redshirt at Washington State, the second as a backup at WSU.
Stanley performed pretty well at the spring game and Bender was even more impressive. Stanley is the better runner and his quick decision making instantly put more pep into an offense that didn’t run quite as well when his predecessors Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis were the trigger men. But Bender has the quicker release and the stronger arm. Bender grew up in Georgia before moving to Florida for his high school years after his father’s career necessitated the move. The family since has moved back to Georgia, so it would have been convenient for Bender’s parents had he chosen a school closer to home. But even after Georgia made a late run at him and offered a scholarship, Bender stayed committed to Kansas, explaining that he felt more secure about his chances of winning the job.
At Itawamaba Community College in Mississippi, Bender threw 21 touchdown passes and was intercepted four times and sacked just once. In conference play, he averaged 354.5 yards passing per game and completed 65.6 percent of his passes.
A year ago at this time, the competition for the starting spot was between Cozart and Ryan Willis, a pair of quarterbacks recruited by Weis to run his offense. Neither was a perfect fit for Beaty’s Air Raid and both have transferred, Cozart to Boise State, where he will be eligible to play this coming season as a graduate transfer, Willis to Virginia Tech, for which he can play in games in 2018. As soon as he was given the opportunity to start, thus becoming the team’s third starting quarterback in 2017, Stanley showed he should have been the starter all season. If Bender has as much going for him as many believe, he’ll show that Stanley, the best QB Kansas has had in eight years, should be the backup. Clearly, the position has been upgraded.
Tyriek Starks has the strongest arm on the roster and has the most potential as a runner, but needs more seasoning at reading defenses and commanding the offense to be game-ready.