LAWRENCE -- In addressing his team's three-man race for the starting quarterback role, David Beaty invoked the name of a fourth signal caller from Kansas' not-so-distant past.
The purpose of the reference was clear: It won't matter who the fourth-year coach picks as the team's next quarterback if the Jayhawks can't field a competent offensive line this season.
"Those dudes up front are going to make a difference," Beaty said Saturday at the team's media day news conference "Montell (Cozart) leaves here and plays pretty daggum good. Why do you think that is? He had a good line in front of him."
Cozart completed 62.9 percent of his pass attempts last season as a graduate transfer at Boise State, throwing for 754 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception and rushing for 361 yards and four touchdowns as part of the Broncos' timeshare approach.
Cozart threw 14 touchdowns and 19 interceptions across four seasons at KU.
"He didn't magically get better, I can tell you that," Beaty continued. "He was already a good player. He had a hard time staying on his feet. Our job is to get better up front."
Cozart wasn't the only quarterback Beaty used to illustrate his point about the offensive line, which last season allowed 2.42 sacks per contest and struggled to field a consistent lineup.
"I know this: When we had Johnny Manziel, we had five first-round draft picks in front of him," said Beaty, a former assistant coach at Texas A&M. "Baker (Mayfield) had three really good players in front of him. Make no mistake: You have a quarterback that has a good offensive line in front of him, that's why this guy sticks out to me so much."
Beaty at that moment pointed to the back of the room inside Anderson Family Football Complex, gesturing to a mural of former KU standout quarterback Todd Reesing, who holds virtually every team passing record and, despite his college career ending in 2009, stands as the team's most recent successful starting quarterback.
"(Reesing) did it with a good offensive line, I wouldn't say great," Beaty said. "Todd Reesing was as good as I've ever seen because he made things happen that I didn't think many could."
If the Jayhawks don't field a good offensive line this season, it won't be for a lack of effort.
KU lost standout center Mesa Ribordy in the offseason to a career-ending injury, highlighting turnover that also included the departures of offensive linemen Jacob Bragg and Larry Hughes. But the Jayhawks added graduate transfers Kevin Feder (Ohio State) and Alex Fontana (Houston) and on Saturday released an updated roster that includes four new offensive linemen, including graduate transfer Dwayne Wallace (Cal).
The team's current roster lists 22 offensive linemen, and while some are walk-ons, it's clear Beaty and new offensive line coach A.J. Ricker are searching far and wide to turn the group around.
"If you're eligible, you're in the mix," Beaty said. "We have a lot of guys that are 'returning starters,' but we're trying to find the best five, then the next one, the next two, those type of deals. The great thing about all of those new guys, it gives us some real competition."
Ricker said he's enjoyed the competitiveness the unit's new faces have infused.
"The biggest thing you can see is we've got depth, and not just bodies," Ricker said. "Guys are coming in to start, to play, and you've got some veteran guys that have played at other places, which will really help with the room in general. But I really like the group we have, because every day guys are looking behind them and saying, 'Hey, I've got to show up every day.' All jobs are open, and that's what you really need."
After suffering a disappointing season hampered by injuries, Hakeem Adeniji is expected to anchor the offensive line as a junior. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder is "100 percent" healed from his offseason surgeries in each shoulder, Ricker said, and the coach hopes to see Adeniji make big strides in the technique department this fall.
"It's really starting from ground zero with him," Ricker said. "Obviously he's a great player naturally. He's got natural ability. That makes him a good player, but we're trying to make him a great player, and obviously he's hungry. He wants to be great. We've just got to fix some of his technique where he'll be more consistent."
The team had eight different offensive linemen snapping the ball at Saturday's practice, an indication of the width of the net Beaty and Ricker are casting in their attempt to replace Ribordy.
"I love it. I love for it to be basically like musical chairs, and the guys know that," Ricker said. "I say, 'Guys, we're going to move guys around.' At the end of the day we've got to find the best 10 guys for the season. We have some guys playing some positions they're not used to, and they love it too, because at the end of the day they want to play.
"You can't have enough centers."
QB TIMETABLE SET -- Beaty didn't narrow the quarterback race Saturday -- senior Peyton Bender, junior Carter Stanley and sophomore transfer Miles Kendrick are all still in the hunt -- but he did say the battle is "shaking itself out pretty quick."
"We'll know here in the next couple weeks," Beaty said.
FIVE LEAVE PROGRAM -- Saturday's update included the removal of five players from the team's roster.
Running back Kezelee Flomo (heart), defensive ends Foster Dixson (back) and Mazin Aql (foot) and offensive lineman Hunter Saulsbury have each been forced off the team due to medical issues, while offensive lineman Larry Hughes has elected to transfer.
Flomo's heart condition was potentially life-threatening, Beaty revealed.
"Thank God we found it, because one big hit with the condition he had could have killed him," Beaty said. "It just stinks for that kid because he is such a good guy. He's worked his rear-end off."