Monday, July 22, 2013

KU’s Jake Heaps out to prove he can be a top QB

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps conducts interviews during a breakout session at the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days Monday, July 22, 2013 in Dallas.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps conducts interviews during a breakout session at the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days Monday, July 22, 2013 in Dallas.


— Of the 34 players who made their way to the Omni Hotel for this year’s Big 12 media days, only Kansas University junior Jake Heaps and Texas sophomore David Ash were quarterbacks.


Associated Press

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps conducts interviews during a breakout session at the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days Monday, July 22, 2013 in Dallas.

For a league that has been known for names such as Vince Young, Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Robert Griffin III and dozens more, seeing the quarterback torch resting in the hands of a transfer from BYU and an often-criticized option in Austin, Texas, is a bit strange.

The SEC has Texas A&M;’s Johnny Manziel. The ACC has Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. The Pac-12 has Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Heck, even the newly formed American Athletic Conference has Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.

Although the Big 12’s top passers may not be as well-known as those talents, Heaps isn’t worried.

“I think it’s great,” he said Monday during a two-hour breakout session in the Omni Ballroom. “I think it’s an opportunity for a lot of unproven guys to go out there and show what they’re capable of. At the end of the season, I think you guys will see that there’s not a drop-off in talent, there’s just a lot of guys that need to go out there and play their first year.”

Heaps is one of those guys, and in many ways this is the moment he has been waiting for since his senior year at Skyline High near Seattle. Sure, back then he was a five-star prospect and pretty much had his choice of colleges. And, yeah, he did rewrite the freshman passing record book at BYU back in 2010. But even when things seemed to be going well on the field, Heaps was striving to be better. That’s why he studied game film of NFL stars Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and tried to model his game after Drew Brees. That’s why he soaked up every second he could with former BYU greats Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Robbie Bosco, Marc Wilson and Gifford Nielsen. And that’s why he still has relationships with many of those guys today. It all led to this point in time and this place and this responsibility in this conference.

“I think there’s different things you can take from a lot of quarterbacks, and I’ve taken the good and the bad from people,” Heaps said. “It’s just an honor to be in the Big 12 with these quarterbacks and with the expectation that, when you play quarterback in the Big 12, you must be one of the elite. That means a lot to me.”

Proving that he belongs with the best means so much to Heaps — because of the victories and feelings of accomplishment that come with them, not the ego boost — that he continues to strengthen his work ethic, which teammates have said is among the best on the team.

Heaps said Monday he never has put in the extra effort that he is these days. And that’s saying something considering he once spent every weekend of every offseason from 6th grade through 12th grade driving seven hours roundtrip from Seattle to Portland on the same day just to work out with a quarterback trainer.

“I just love the game that much,” he said. “And I want to be the best I can be and be the best quarterback, and I’m willing to work for it. In my time at Kansas so far, I’ve just worked so hard and I think that’s what’s going to lead me to be successful.”

Heaps isn’t alone in believing he can live up to the standard that comes with playing quarterback in the Big 12.

“Most definitely,” said KU senior tailback James Sims. “I think Jake will make a big impact in this conference.”

Added junior defensive back Cassius Sendish: “People will greatly appreciate Jake Heaps. I don’t want to make any predictions for him because he’s his own quarterback. But I’m really looking forward to watching him play and watching him blossom.”

If that does, in fact, happen, no one would be less surprised than KU coach Charlie Weis, who has believed in Heaps since he recruited him out of high school and is ready for him to step into a starring role at Kansas.

“At the quarterback position there’s really two major things, one off the field and one on the field,” Weis said. “The greatest physical attribute, by far, is accuracy. Off the field it’s leadership. And he’s got those two things. If you have those two things, everything else falls into place.”


actorman 4 years, 10 months ago

Is it September yet??? I am PSYCHED for the season to begin!

David Leathers 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm with you actorman. I can't wait to see this team play. They may not be a USC, or an Alabama, but they are my Jayhawks and seeing them improve will satisfy my greatly. Weis is a good coach with a plan the seems to be heading in the right direction, but soon (I hope) people will be calling this a great hire. I hope he stays around long enough for a sustained success to develop.

Steve Reigle 4 years, 10 months ago

He originally said five years. But I'm hoping he stays far longer than that and that he hand grooms his successor.

Matt Elliott 4 years, 10 months ago

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nuleafjhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

I apologize for not doing my homework, but how did this fellow go from being a five star high school prospect with his choice of colleges to playing at Kansas ? Was it injury? Attitude? I'm just curious.

Boouk 4 years, 10 months ago

He broke some of Steve Young's passing records at BYU as a freshman, then got benched in the middle of his Sophmore year after their coaching staff switched from a pro-style to a spread offense.

KGphoto 4 years, 10 months ago

He got benched, plain and simple. As far as I can tell he was having a pretty bad sophomore slump and Riley Nelson was getting the ball down the field better.

If I have a conspiracy theory though, it’s that BYU was going through a lot of changes in 2011. They became independent and Mendenhall had just cleaned house. The newly appointed offensive coordinator in 2011, former QB coach Brandon Doman, didn’t jive with Heaps for whatever reason, and that he may have had a little crush on Riley Nelson. Riley is a tough kid and maybe that was it. I don’t know. Maybe, just maybe, he sabotaged Heaps’ career to make way for Nelson!! It’s a stretch, I know.

I’ll remain cautiously optimistic about Jake. With all the talk of BYU freshman passing records, his big arm and his accuracy, he has yet to complete more than 58% of his passes in college. He could very well be another Crist, in that he looks great in practice, but struggles to actually lead a team in games.

Mike Barnhart 4 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if Charlie will lets him takes some big hits prior to the first game. QB's are usually off limits in practice but Heaps hasn't taken a hit in two years!

Matt Tait 4 years, 10 months ago

One of the things Weis pointed out yesterday when explaining why Heaps is different than Crist was that, with Crist, he couldn't really let him take any live hits in the preseason because he was still worried about back-to-back ACL injuries.

With Jake, injury concerns aren't as great, so he'll be able to go live for at least some of camp.

One other thing worth pointing out is the fact that Jake is a much bigger and stronger version of himself than he was at BYU. Credit both Jake and Holsopple for that.

manaen 4 years, 10 months ago

Lack of heart and grandiose view of himself. After this game, he said he tried to make a heads-up play when he jumped over his own fumble into the end zone instead of covering it or at least kicking it out of the end zone for a safety instead of a defensive touchdown.

In another game, he also infamously watched a defender run by him for a pick-6 instead of actually participating in the play.

Good luck with him.

manaen 4 years, 10 months ago

Well said. In one sentence, we finally understood at BYU that Heaps wanted football be a non-contact sport -- for him. He's more of an artillery man or a bombardier than a warrior.

Here's a better view of that play:

KGphoto 4 years, 10 months ago

Don’t know how the “jump” part got in there. He simply scooped it up and tried to throw it away. Problem was he never had a good grip on it. He had plenty of room, plenty of time, and didn’t need to jump on it to cover it. It just slipped through his hands on the throw.

Trying to kick it out of bounds from the 7 yard line would’ve been a monumentally stupid play.

manaen 4 years, 10 months ago

He put the jump part in there when he decided NOT to cover the ball in the end zone. At least kicking it out the back of the end zone -- while he was headed that direction anyway -- would have been a monumentally better play than leaving the ball behind for the defense to cover for the TD.

shelleysue 4 years, 10 months ago

Stupid things happen to the best of players.

jhox 4 years, 10 months ago

I noticed the arm strength and accuracy, immediately, at the spring game two years ago, and I've been excited to see him play in a real game since then. You never know how a guy will play when it is "for real", but there was no mistaking the natural ability he has. I had NFL season tickets for 17 years, and I'm not sure I saw anyone who could get a ball to a sideline receiver with the zip Heaps had that day. I don't think we'll see many corners jumping routes on this guy. Lets just hope the line can give him a little more protection than last year's line gave our QB's.

Randy Bombardier 4 years, 10 months ago

I agree. We had so many close games last year and this team is most likely going to be way better. With great QB play we will be in nearly every game. With McCay and possibly the kid from Miami things will open up for Pierson. We will have three top notch targets. A couple of other guys didn't look too shabby in the Spring game either. I think it is possible that we will end up well over .500. I hope so.

Chris Bailey 4 years, 10 months ago

Ash is a Junior as well. Just sayin. He was the MVP of the 2011 Holiday bowl and started most of last season.

CrystalJones 4 years, 10 months ago

"When you play quarterback in the Big 12, you must be one of the elite."

I LOVE that he already considers himself to be elite. It shows that he's got the kind of swagger that all great quarterbacks have. Call it arrogance if you want, but the fact is that KU has a 5-STAR QUARTERBACK who already thinks he's one of the best, if not THE best. This guy will be in the NFL...maybe sooner that we want him to be.

asilva94 4 years, 10 months ago

I didn't read that as him considering himself to be elite, but rather recognizing that the expectations in the league are such that he wants to rise to the occasion. Either way I agree it's a good thing.

Matthew Pyle 4 years, 10 months ago

Crist was just awful. He single handedly lost us two conference games. If Heaps is half as good as the hype we will surprise some teams.

jbh4 4 years, 10 months ago

I am a big BYU fan and have followed Heaps career for some time now. He handled everything very professionally and hasn't spoken negatively about BYU since leaving. I truly hope he has a great career at Kansas and is able to make the transition to the next level. Atljaybird is 100% correct in relation to the attitude, mental and fear issues.. There were rumors that he wouldn't work out with the team in the summer and just wasn't a leader.. Players began to lose respect, then the performance faltered, and he was on the way out. He needed a new start and I believe he's grown up a lot and he'll succeed at Kansas. Don't judge him in practice and spring games when he knows he's not going to get hit... Heaps looked like the second coming of Elway in practice... Unbelievable arm strength, can make all the throws, says all the right things, etc. If you look back at his stats he had great games against the new mexico's, San Jose state's, etc but when there was a big game (with the exception of utah his freshman year) he played scared. He was jumpy, wouldn't stand in the pocket, got rid of the ball so fast receivers didn't have a chance to get downfield, and was quite honestly inaccurate. He seemed scared to get hit.. (Watch highlights of the Utah game his sophomore year).. Nelson came in mid year and played tough, stood in the pocket, took hits and won games. Nelson was nowhere near the talent of Heaps, but he played with heart. Heaps didn't handle that too well given his pedigree, there were some words with coaches and I believe his mind was made up. I hope he has overcome the fear issue and is able to showcase his talent. You'll know quickly if he takes a few hits and is willing to stay in the pocket than he's overcome it.. I expect him to play good/great your first 4 games but you'll know after the TCU game if he's the same guy.. I'll be watching. Good luck!

KGphoto 4 years, 10 months ago

The toughness thing scares me. I don’t think you can grow toughness over the span of a year or two. Nelson played with a broken back, broken ribs, etc. You need to be tough to be a Big 12 QB, and you can’t teach that.

KGphoto 4 years, 10 months ago

Ha! Well let’s hope Holsopple (we gotta get that guy a nickname) body slammed him a few times a day this summer. Punched him in the face. Elbows to the chest, knees to the gut and so on. He needs to not care about that stuff. I want him all Patrick-Swayze-in-Road-House-tough. “Pain don’t hurt”.

KGphoto 4 years, 10 months ago

One thing I’m not worried about is that arm. Check out the 2:15 mark of the spring game highlights. I don’t remember seeing this before. but he flipped a pass about 50 yards on the money to Justin McCay. He looked like he was tossing a 15 yard fade to the corner of the end zone. Completely effortless, and with nice touch.

I’m betting he could put it 70 yards down the field without a problem. And I’d like to see Pierson running under a few of those.

Dale Stringer 4 years, 10 months ago

Ok, all the anti-Crist people need to pull back and take another look. Yes, he made plenty of boneheaded throws. He also made some exceptional ones where any receiver with opposable thumbs could have caught, but didn't somehow. There were plenty of reasons that none of the WRs didn't catch a TD pass; eye-hand coordination being a big one of them. I still agonize over the beautiful pass Crist threw to a WR, over the inside shoulder of one defender and over the outside shoulder of another and the WR (Turelli??) watched the ball all the way into his facemask without putting a hand up.

Hopefully, both QB and WR positions are upgraded. It looks that way, but we won't know until game time.

shelleysue 4 years, 10 months ago

I think for most of us it's pretty difficult to get overly excited considering what happened with Crist. He looked great on paper, Weis had the utmost confidence in him, and he was a team leader. And then a total letdown. I really hate to take that out on Heaps though, because he's not Crist. I remain cautiously optimistic and hope for the best. Last year we only had one win but for me at least, there were a lot of fun moments. Great plays, close games, more excitement. I've said this before - during the Gill years I was depressed on the drive TO Lawrence pretty much every week. At least last year I felt some level of hope every week. One thing about this team is the over abundance of bulletin board material. I sure hope they use it for motivation and shut all the critics the hell up. Rock Chalk!!

CrystalJones 4 years, 10 months ago

Jake Heaps is NOT Dayne Crist. Trust me, this guy can flat throw the ball. The Big 12 is in for a big, big surprise.

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