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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps using transfer year to get head start on 2013

Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps (9) warms up during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps (9) warms up during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, at Memorial Stadium.

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The 2012 Kansas University football season has been tough on KU quarterback Jake Heaps, but not because he has tossed interceptions, taken sacks or misread defenses.

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Kansas redshirt quarterback Jake Heaps takes off on a run during the first half of the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field.

“Jake is very, very frustrated,” said KU coach Charlie Weis of the former BYU QB who has sat out the season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. “He’s frustrated that he can’t help.”

Last December, when the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Heaps became the second former five-star recruit to commit to the Jayhawks in the same day, no one imagined that KU’s quarterback play would reach the point where Heaps not only was frustrated, but also longed for. But that point is here. Fellow five-star transfer Dayne Crist struggled and was benched midway through the season. His replacement, red-shirt freshman Michael Cummings, showed signs of life but has been slow to adapt to the starting role. And at 1-8 overall and 0-6 in Big 12 play, KU currently sits in need of an upgrade at quarterback with its best option unable to suit up on Saturdays.

Sounds like the punchline to a cruel joke, but Heaps said the situation had not been all bad.

“As much as I am frustrated that I want to be out there, I know this is helping me improve as a player,” he said while talking with reporters for the first time since August. “Me sitting out has made me a much better player than I (would be) if I was to play right now.”

During his Tuesday news conference, Weis was asked to describe the ways in which Heaps had improved this season. The junior who will have two years of eligibility remaining starting next season has been there during Weis’ Monday night meetings with his quarterbacks. He has taken to the film study and extra time in the playbook made available to him with the pressure of competing off of his plate. Perhaps most importantly, though, he’s been able to get a sneak peek into what the guy who recruited him to Notre Dame out of high school is like as his head coach.

“Coach Weis puts a lot on the quarterback,” Heaps said. “And that’s the fun part about it. ... This has all just been a great process for me, to be able to dissect myself and look back at my game and see what I can improve physically and mentally.”

Asked Tuesday what he thought Heaps had gotten out of his first season in Lawrence, Weis smiled then rattled off a two-part answer.

“He’s been able to learn the offense,” Weis said. “And he’s formed relationships with a lot of guys, especially guys that aren’t the front-line guys because he spends a lot of time with ’em.”

The bulk of those bonds were built while preparing KU’s first-string defense for its upcoming opponent each week, as Heaps has handled scout team duties as a way to stay active and contribute to the team.

“Let me tell you something,” Weis began. “He’s the show team player of the week every week. We never give it to him, but it isn’t even close. Every week, he’s the guy. That poor defense. You think that they get passes completed on ’em in the game? You should see this guy in practice. That’s good and bad, by the way.”

Heaps did win the honor once this season — during the first week. After that, though, Weis informed his quarterback-in-waiting that he would not be eligible again. Heaps more than understood.

“It was a tremendous feeling, him saying in front of the team, ‘You’re the scout team player of the week this week and I expect you to be that every week,’” Heaps recalled. “Although I don’t get to play on Saturday, I give everything I have in whatever it is.”

While Heaps’ time off has allowed him to absorb Weis’ offense and gain the trust of his teammates, it also has provided an unexpected benefit for the program.

“He’s a hidden gem in recruiting,” Weis said. “Because all these guys that are being recruited all want to talk to him.”

That recruiting advantage might be more important than all of the other benefits combined. See, there’s still time to learn the offense. And Heaps and his teammates soon will have an entire offseason to bond. But getting better players to jump on board can’t happen soon enough, and both Weis and Heaps seem willing to do whatever it takes to expedite the process.

“Any time a recruit wants to ask me a question about KU and what it’s like here, I’m gonna give ’em an honest opinion,” Heaps said. “(Recruiting is) hard, and, as a player, I can give ’em a different perspective. I understand. For me, it’s an awesome opportunity not only to get to know future players, but maybe to get that inside track on getting them here.”

Recruiting is never far from Weis’ mind, and he said his recent conversations with recruits included their experiences with Heaps.

“They ask him anything they want,” Weis said. “We never tell him anything to say, and I can’t tell you how many recruits I talked to (Monday) night (who) said, ‘Yeah, I talked to Jake last week. Yeah, I talked to Jake last week.’ Jake’s wife must be mad at me right now.”

She’s not.

“I have a very supportive wife,” said Heaps after laughing about Weis’ prediction. “Sometimes she’ll be like, ‘Hey, if it comes down to it, I’ll promise to make him some dinner,’ or something like that. So she gets it. And whatever we can do to help this program, we’re all in.”

For now, aiding in recruiting and staying sharp on the field and in the weight room are the only areas in which Heaps can help the KU football program. But the time is coming when he’ll have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job, a job which, if he wins it, will bear the responsibility of helping the Jayhawks bounce back from three of the roughest seasons in school history.

“We’re at the point in the season where we can still end this on a positive note, and that’s where my focus is,” said Heaps before acknowledging that he was aware of the hope people had attached to his name. “With expectations, you can’t try to prove people right or wrong. You can’t worry about all that. It’s based off your work ethic and what you do on the field. Sometimes this game gets stressful and you start worrying about other things, but, at the end of the day, this is football, and this is a game that we all love to play. If you’re not having fun, then what’s the point of being out there?”

Comments

byuhockey 1 year, 5 months ago

@jayhawker111....you">p>@jayhawker111....you have a wonderful QB in he making. our BYU coaches started him too early and the BYU OC does not know how to coach a drop back passer. Our head coach has a man crush on the current QB who cannot throw father than 40 yds. Heaps got a raw deal at BYU. he also had absolutely NO offensive line in front of him. he was scared to get hammered out there on EVERY play. look for great improvement from Heaps and you are very lucky to have him. most BYU fans are wishing he was back at BYU now. he would have won the starting job back this year.

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UtahGma 1 year, 5 months ago

LOL. We're sufferin' back here at BYU without Jake ; > But I don't think he'd consider leaving again. Sounds like he's found a great fit, and there are Jake fans here at BYU who are rooting for KU!!! He was a great recruiter here as well. If we had him here, I believe we would have only one loss with our hot defense. Our close loses to Boise State, Notre Dame and Utah probably wouldn't have happened with Jake at the helm. But what the heck, we have great church fireside talks... sigh.

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heskia1 1 year, 5 months ago

Yeah, maybe KU will win a BigXII game next year!!

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 5 months ago

How many times are going to get tricked into falling for fool's gold? It's obvious that Crist and the other transfers were not successful at their respective schools. We convinced ourselves that they would be successful here.

We fooled ourselves into thinking Crist got the shaft at Notre Dame...but in reality, Crist cannot handle the college game. And I have a news flash for you, folks, Jake Heaps transferred from BYU for a reason. He was remarkably inadequate his sophomore year.

And once again, we're trying to believe something we know is false. If anything, we KU football fans are guilty of denial; not bandwagon fandom.

I hope I'm wrong. Believe me. I'm not jumping ship, but I have to start calling my love for KU football by what it truly is....habit. I can no longer keep up the illusion of believing this team is capable of anything more than making it to a mediocre bowl game once a decade.

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BillSelf4Prez 1 year, 5 months ago

Sorry i couldn't win the election last night guys!

But on another note. I'm not to hyped about the QB we have coming in from SME next year. His team got beat my Olathe East Hawks in the playoffs (who aren't very good this year) And Darling only scored one touchdown on us and didn't do very good in the Sunflower league. Don't expect too much.

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AzHawk97 1 year, 5 months ago

Is this the same "hope and change" we were sold last year with Crist?

While it will be nice to hear "Heaps to McCray" next season. All I really need to hear is "Heaps hands off to Sims" over and over.

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Jim Jackson 1 year, 5 months ago

I think a big problem was the fact that Crist just has no mobility whatsoever. After his knee corrections, he literally looks like a statue. Thank God Heaps has no knee issues and has quick feet.

The team, although does not refelct in win column, is certainly improved.

I look for this coaching staff to hit the JUCOs hard and get us better talent.

Rock Chalk!

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 5 months ago

Coaching + Effort + Talent = Success.

I think you can all pretty much guess which factor of this equation will need to be drastically improved for Kansas football to become competitive. [Hint..it begins with the letter "T".]

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who_said_it 1 year, 5 months ago

We're always a "next year" team

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master16 1 year, 5 months ago

well he's either excited and determined to help KU football next season, or he's watching Crist crash and burn in front of him and thinking what the heck he got himself into. at least he'll have a 5 star WR to throw to next year.

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TopCityBob 1 year, 5 months ago

Watched every snap of every game in person and on TV. Anyone that thinks this team isn't vastly improved from last year is just looking at the win total. Fundamentals of the game are so much improved from the past 2 years. Tell me when was the last time you were on the edge of your seat thinking we had a shot to beat Texas and OSU in the same season? Maybe the wins are not there, but seriously what is the difference between 1 win and 3 or 4? If we were talking about a team that should have had 8-10 wins it would be different. The effort is there, just not the speed to compete with the spread offenses right now. Charlie showed a lot to me this year by putting in Cummings and adjusting the offense to give him a chance to succeed. I still have faith in the coaching staff. I think they are building the team the right way. Yeah, we shouldn't be talking about next year yet, but next year will be a better test of the coaching staff and the player development. Weis has not even been around the players a full year yet.

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ccarp 1 year, 5 months ago

While this article is about preparing for next year, I do appreciate learning how development for the future is progressing this season. It sounds like Heaps is doing exactly what we would need him to be doing for the Hawks this season. I am not putting as much expectations on Heaps as I did Crist, but I do appreciate the professionalism and the football awareness of both Heaps and Crist. I think they have both contributed significantly to the improved culture of the team. All of the additions have resulted in a better product on the field, that hasn't shown on the scoreboard. Not accepting moral victories, but it is much better to watch than what we've seen the past 2 years. I hope to hear more about matchups in the future, at the moment I appreciate articles on development this season.

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Boouk 1 year, 5 months ago

If we have him at QB this year we probably beat Rice, NIU, OSU, and Texas. 1 more win, probably ISU at home, and we're a bowl team.

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James Naismith 1 year, 5 months ago

"show team" player of the week every week??

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gdkadjayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

I will not allow myself any positive emotions about former 5-star quarterbacks anymore until I see results on the field. Period. Go Jayhawks.

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nuleafjhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

I hope Jake lives up to the 5 star hype. Not everyone does.....

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Jim Erickson 1 year, 5 months ago

Good article but it's disappointing that we are already looking to next year. I don't like it when I read comments that imply this season was somehow destined to be this way. It was not. We had an inept set of coaches that led us to two wins a year ago. To fix the problem we hired an experienced coach who happens to be a pretty good OC, a good DC, and a good strength coach. We brought in a a big name QB and reconstructed our defensive line. Coaching, QB, and DLine were our biggest problems and we solved them... On paper.

I said before the season that this was a 4-5 win team and to be honest, I don't think I was crazy for thinking that. I think the problem is that we underachieved in nearly every aspect. Rice and Northern Illinois were massive losses. Overall, the program does not get a passing grade for this year.

I am not hopping off the Weis bandwagon at all. He definitely deserves time to build this thing. I am just very disappointed that the team has made no real progress.

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Max Ledom 1 year, 5 months ago

Did anyone else have a small heart attack when you glanced at the head line and saw "Heaps" and "Transfer" in the same story title?

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