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Montell Cozart becomes third Kansas QB to leave in two months

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If it wasn’t clear before, it is now — Kansas’ quarterback room will have a decidedly different look this coming season.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, Montell Cozart announced his decision to transfer from the Jayhawks and finish his playing career elsewhere. The quarterback described it as “a tough decision that brought along a lot of prayer, sleepless nights, and meaningful talks with my family.”

Cozart started five games as a true sophomore in 2014, then started three of the first four games of the 2015 season before a shoulder injury ultimately sidelined him for the remainder of the year.  After starting seven games this past season, he lost his job just past the midway point and never got it back.

He received a medical hardship waiver for the 2015 season, giving the graduate another year of eligibility he can use immediately in 2017.

Early last month, Ryan Willis announced his decision to transfer from Kansas to Virginia Tech. Less than four weeks later, Deondre Ford followed his former teammate out the door as well.

Redshirt freshman Carter Stanley took over as the starter for the three last games of the 2016 season and is pencilled in as the starter heading into the offseason. KU also added Peyton Bender, a transfer from Washington State by way of the junior college ranks who’s eligible to play immediately in 2017 and will pose a stiff test for the incumbent.

Kansas taps the MAC for latest coaching hire

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This past September, Ohio of the MAC defeated Kansas of the Big 12 in Lawrence.  As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em.

The Jayhawks have announced yet another addition to David Beaty‘s coaching staff, confirming that Jesse Williams has been brought in to be KU’s defensive line coach.  Williams had spent the past five seasons as the line coach at, you guessed it, Ohio University.

“Jesse brings a wealth of technical knowledge that will be extremely valuable in our defensive line room because it all starts with those guys up front, especially in the Big 12 Conference,” Beaty said in a statement. “The productivity he has gotten from his players from a run and pass rush standpoint is impressive. His defensive lines have consistently become a unit other teams game plan around because of his ability to find, evaluate and teach the position.”

In addition to Ohio, Williams has also been on FBS coaching staffs at New Mexico State, Colorado State and San Jose State in a coaching career that spans a quarter of a century.  Obviously, this will be his first on-field job at a Power Five football program.

“I’m extremely excited to be able to work with Coach Beaty and his staff.” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to working with the caliber of a guy like (defensive coordinator) Clint Bowen and the talent that is already in that defensive line room – I can’t help but be excited. I’ve never heard a bad thing about Lawrence and my family and I are extremely grateful for this opportunity.”

David Beaty has Kansas looking like the most interesting team coming off a 2-10 season

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You may not think Kansas has found reasons to be optimistic about its future after going 2-10 in 2016, but Kansas is taking some small baby steps forward as a program under David Beaty. In 2017, Kansas is already looking to build on a strong start to the recruiting efforts and will invest more in its coaching staff, two key ingredients to turning a program around.

Let’s be honest in agreeing Kansas had nowhere to go but up. Since a magical 12-1 season in 2007, the Jayhawks have had just winning season, and that was the following year in 2008. After failed runs under Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, Beaty was hired to provide some new energy in the program, and although that hasn’t necessarily been seen in many ways on the field, it is becoming clear something may be working off of it.

Though incredibly early, Kansas currently has a good jump on its Class of 2018 efforts with what is ranked the fifth best class according to Rivals. Forget about Beaty’s mission to “take this dadgum state back,” because Kansas has been setting up shop in Louisiana and the results are paying off. With eight commits lined up, including a trio of four-star prospects, Kansas is already taking strides in improving the roster’s talent level. The three four-star recruits (WR Devonta Jason, DB Corione Harris, WR Ja’Marr Chase) already equals the total number of four-star players to sign with Kansas from 2014 through 2017. Nothing will be official until next signing day when they submit their letters of intent, but if Beaty and his staff can keep those players on board, that would be a giant step forward. All three also happen to be from Louisiana, where Beaty appears to be building a pipeline with three other players from the state included in the early Class of 2018 lineup. The recent success in Louisiana, a state rich in football talent that has seen a few battles favor Kansas over LSU, has led to a promotion for running backs coach Tony Hull to associate head coach.

One way to keep that going is by providing some financial security to the staff, and Kansas is reportedly doing that. According to a report by Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star, Kansas will be bumping the overall pay of the staff by $731,400 to push the total pay over the $3 million benchmark and putting them more on par with their Big 12 opponents. Beaty is also getting a bump in pay following his contract extension last December. This is what happens when you beat Texas.

We are not at the point where we can throw Kansas into the Big 12 championship picture, and it may be a while before we are, but Beaty has things working in Lawrence in the offseason. How much of that translates over to the football field in 2017 and beyond remains to be seen, but Kansas fans have reason to be optimistic about where the program is going.

Big 12 to withhold 25 percent of Baylor’s revenue ‘pending third-party verification of changes’

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Baylor’s conference is laying down what could prove to be a very significant financial hammer on the university.  Or a means to change. One of the two.

The Big 12 announced Wednesday that it withhold 25 percent of future revenue payments to BU, only releasing the monies “pending the outcome of third-party verification review of required changes to Baylor’s athletics procedures and to institutional governance of its intercollegiate athletics programs, among other matters.” According to the conference’s release, its board of directors voted unanimously on the measure.

Baylor itself didn’t have a vote in the matter.

“The Board is unified in establishing a process to verify that proper institutional controls are in place and sustainable,” said Oklahoma president and Big 12 board chairman David Boren in a statement. “Effective immediately, the Conference is withholding 25 percent of Baylor’s share of any future revenue distribution until the proper execution of controls is independently verified. By taking these actions the Board desires to ensure that the changes that were promised are actually made and that systems are in place to avoid future problems. The proportional withholding of revenue distribution payments will be in effect until the Board has determined that Baylor is in compliance with Conference bylaws and regulations as well as all components of Title IX.”

The action is in direct response to the sexual assault scandal that enveloped the school last year and resulted in the head football coach, athletic director and president losing their jobs.

On its surface, the measure could cost the university’s athletic department upwards of $8 million annually if the revenue that’s being held doesn’t ultimately find its way to the school. The reality, though, is this is appears to merely be a way for the conference to push one of its members toward enacting changes that are wholly necessary.

In that vein, the university’s acting president, David E. Garland, released a statement shortly after the Big 12’s announcement, highlighting the actions the school has taken in the wake of the scandal.

Upon learning the scope and scale of the troubling incidents that occurred within our campus community through an independent investigation, Baylor University took unprecedented corrective actions that led to leadership changes within the University administration and athletic department and 105 recommendations to strengthen the safety and security of our students. No other university in the country has responded as aggressively and decisively as Baylor regarding incidents of sexual assaults on its campus.

“Under the University’s new leadership, Baylor has demonstrated a firm commitment to athletics compliance and integrity, increased awareness and prevention of sexual assault, implementation of Title IX best practices and providing comprehensive support services for any student in need of them. Baylor already had planned to hire an outside auditor to audit the implementation of our enhanced practices, and we welcome the Big 12 Conference’s request of an independent review. While the withholding of conference distributions is an unexpected financial event, we do not deem these actions to materially impact the overall financial position of the University. We pledge our full cooperation, and we will work with the Big 12 Conference to conduct the audit as expeditiously as possible.

“This third-party review at the request of the Big 12 Conference will provide an opportunity for us to demonstrate our progress to date and our ongoing commitment in establishing Baylor as a leading institution in athletics compliance and governance and for preventing and addressing sexual assaults on college campuses.

Kansas currently claims a top-10 recruiting class for 2018

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Evaluating recruiting rankings in early February, when the players in question won’t sign for a day more than a full calendar year, is about as useful as judging a marathon after the first 100 yards. It’s pretty much never notable.

Except in this case, the proverbial marathon here is the Olympic marathon, and the runner in front hopped his way to the front of the lead in a potato sack.

According to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Kansas currently leads the Big 12 and ranks ninth nationally for the recruiting class of 2018. Kansas — KANSAS! — is one spot behind LSU and three notches ahead of Alabama as of this writing. The Jayhawks’ class consists of seven members at this point, including 4-star wide receiver JaMarr Chase, 4-star wide receiver Devonta Jason and 4-star Corione Harris. All three players hail from Louisiana, and all three committed on Saturday.

In fact, KU landed six commitments on Saturday and one more today, and all but one of their seven pledges (quarterback Clayton Tune) are from Louisiana.

Can KU hold off the Olympic marathoners charging behind them? It’s too early to say, but the Jayhawks will definitely need to lose the potato sack and start running like the rest of their peers for the first time in a decade.