LAWRENCE (AP) — Michael Cummings has never been the go-to guy at Kansas at the beginning of the season.
He’s always been the reliever.
The junior quarterback out of Killeen, Texas, sat behind Dayne Crist his redshirt freshman year. When Crist failed to deliver, Charlie Weis and his offensive staff called upon Cummings, who started the final five games and played fairly well in wrapping up a 1-11 season.
Even though he nearly orchestrated a win against Texas Tech, he went back to the bench for the following season, when more high-profile transfers arrived.
Through it all, Cummings stuck it out. He refused to quit, or transfer himself, even though it seemed as though Weis was never going to give him a shot to start. But when Weis was fired, it didn’t take long for interim coach Clint Bowen to appoint Cummings the starter, and the junior quarterback has been getting better with each passing week.
“It was tough, but you can only control what you can control,” Cummings said of his long and bumpy road toward starting. “A lot of those things were out of my hands.”
His first start of the year was at West Virginia. He was 8 of 17 for 65 yards.
His performances only got better from there.
In his last three games against Texas Tech, Baylor and Iowa State, Cummings completed over 60 percent of his passes and threw five touchdown passes and one interception. He also showed off his speed and athleticism, running the read option and scrambling for big gains.
Kansas (3-6, 1-5) won against Iowa State last Saturday, marking not only Cummings’s first victory but also just the second Big 12 win in the past four seasons.
“It was a great feeling,” he said. “Getting that first win as a starter is a milestone, in the mind of a quarterback. I want to get a lot more and I’m trying to make the most of it.”
That’ll be a tough task this week. No. 5 TCU is coming to town.
Still, Cummings understands that it merely represents an opportunity for success, especially given all the hurdles he’s overcome to get to this point.
Just consider last season.
Weis brought in two more quarterbacks, a high-profile transfer from BYU named Jake Heaps, and an all-state freshman from Missouri in Montell Cozart. Both seemed to jump immediately in front of Cummings on the depth chart, Heaps getting the starting nod from the get-go.
He wound up being a bust. Heaps threw for just 1,414 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and Cozart eventually took over. He started the final three games last season, and was only marginally better, throwing a pair of picks and no touchdown passes.
Even when Cummings got on the field last year, it was no guarantee he’d take snaps. He lined up at halfback at Iowa State and had four carries for 14 yards.
After the season, Heaps transferred to Miami, so the door for Cummings to return as a starter was open. The only person in the way of that was Cozart, who was picked as the starter.
Cozart pieced together a couple wins against Southeast Missouri State and Central Michigan, but the negatives quickly began to outweigh the positives. He threw four picks and completed less than 40 percent of his passes against Texas, and Weis was fired the followed day.
Bowen took over as interim coach. Cummings became the starter.
“When he did have opportunities in the past, he made the most of them,” Bowen said. “I think through evaluations and different circumstances being practice or whatever the case was, I think that the coaches at that time felt that other guys gave us a better chance.”
Now, there is little doubt that Cummings is giving Kansas its best chance.