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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Trying times: Losses wearing on QB Heaps, KU offense

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps looks at the scoreboard after coming off the field against Texas Tech during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps looks at the scoreboard after coming off the field against Texas Tech during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

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If there’s such a thing as trying too hard, Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps may be doing it.

The former BYU quarterback, who took the reins of KU’s offense this offseason after sitting out 2012, has been up-and-down during his first five games as KU’s starter, a stretch in which the Kansas offense averaged 18 points and 305 yards per game.

Heaps’ numbers do not necessarily reflect his struggles, nor do they match the excitement that built around him throughout the offseason. He ranks fifth in the Big 12 in passing at 194.3 yards per game but, perhaps most telling, is nowhere to be found on the list of the Big 12’s 10 most efficient passers. Heaps has completed 55 percent of his passes (108-of-198) for 1,187 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Drops, a porous offensive line and an inconsistent running game have made life harder on Heaps than expected, and on Tuesday, quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus revealed that one of the things plaguing KU’s QB is an intense desire to get things going.

“That’s something that I’ve talked to him about, because he does strain,” Powlus said. “I mean the kid’s in tears after every game that we’re not winning. He’s straining so hard to make the offense work and to have success and to make our team win, and sometimes you try too hard. You lose your timing, you lose your sense of rhythm, you make a throw that maybe you shouldn’t have made.”

Heaps knows all of that. Partly because his coaches have pointed it out and partly because it jumps off the screen at him while watching film. The mistakes screamed louder after last week’s loss to TCU, but instead of getting down and adding stress, Heaps decided to approach this week with more of a free mind.

“Up until that point, vs. TCU, I think I’ve handled everything well and had a great approach,” Heaps said. “In the TCU game, I kind of let it get away from me a little bit as far as trying to be too perfect, worrying about the other things going on around me instead of just focusing on my job and what I can do to help the team.”

Wide receiver Josh Ford, said Heaps was not alone in pressing too much to get KU’s offense running smoothly.

“I think that’s kind of everybody’s problem, really,” Ford said. “We’re trying so hard sometimes or trying to be so perfect that we might mess up ourselves. It’s probably (tougher) on Jake because he touches the ball on every play. I can only imagine how frustrating that is, knowing the type of competitor he is.”

Ford said the 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior does an admirable job of remaining upbeat and strong in front of his teammates. And Heaps himself said Powlus’ read of him being in tears after losses was more about competitive frustration than heartbreak.

“I might be on the verge of tears at times,” Heaps said. “But that’s because I’m an emotional, passionate competitive guy. I hate to lose and I want to win every time we go out there and when that doesn’t happen, it’s tough.”

That’s why Ford believes it’s important for others to pick Heaps up and why he’s proud to be one of the guys who has done that so far.

“It’s probably been more the coaches than the players,” Ford said. “But me and a few other people have gone up to him (and said), ‘We got you,’ and stuff like that because he does it all the time for us. Every day, every play.”

So far this season, KU’s offense has scored more than 17 points just one time — 31 points in the season-opener against South Dakota. And as head coach Charlie Weis changes personnel, juggles coaching responsibilities and constantly searches for a fix — “My son sits next to me (on trips home) and I don’t think I say two words to him,” Weis said. “All I’m thinking is, ‘What can I do, what can I do, what can I do.’” — the quarterback position must be evaluated like all of the others. Proof of that is the first-time inclusion of true freshman Montell Cozart (6-2, 189) as a second-string QB option with sophomore Michael Cummings (5-10, 207) on this week’s depth chart. And even that is something Heaps is not afraid to face.

“Montell’s done a great job in game preparation,” Heaps said of the more-mobile, suddenly-popular quarterback. “All three of us have worked extremely hard throughout the season and continue to do that. This week, different opportunities presented themselves for Montell to get a look, and that’s been good to see. The thing I’ve been most impressed by with Montell is his ability to stay with it.”

The same could be said of Heaps.

“Sure there’s areas of improvement for everybody,” Powlus said. “And Jake isn’t immune to that. But Jake’s also done a lot of good things that we want to keep building on.”

Comments

Al Martin 9 months, 2 weeks ago

(JayhawkInAustin)

Wow. I mean, wow. One year ago, I read the exact same article about the KU quarterback freeing his mind. I know there are major differences between last year and this year, and the two players' performances are different as well, but, boy that sure is depressing.

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Jonathan Allison 9 months, 2 weeks ago

further evidence that it's a systemic issue and not a just a QB problem. However, Dayne and Jake have both thrown their share of bad passes. But I've been watching the Houston Texans, and it's amazing how one of the best QBs in the world can suddenly turn into a schmoe and the reasons aren't always obvious...

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Dillon Davis 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Personally, I'm just at the point where I'm like enough talk. I know Matt and Tom and all the other writers are trying to come up with something positive to write but for the last two years all we've heard is talk. Talk about how the guys are getting better, talk about how changes are being made, talk about how this team will improve. No results though. This team isn't getting better each week. The defense is playing hard and has a couple big playmakers in Isaiah Johnson, Dex McDonald, and Ben Heeney. But other than that where are the results to back up all the positive talk about Cassius Sendish, the rest of the secondary, and the DL that's made up of "promising Juco players". I mean I guess I'm glad to see that Heaps is hurting after losses instead of not instead of showing no emotion but that does us no good. That brings no comfort to us as fans. I'm glad Charlie's bringing down his ego but until some different results start happening on the field all this talk is for nothing.

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Jonathan Allison 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Sendish has played well... except on the one missed tackle against TCU. He's been a solid safety, a steady tackler. I think that he's really doing his job well... just hasn't been truly exceptional and stood out. We all expected him to be a big time playmaker, and really he's just held down the fort, not to let the big plays go for TDs and not to let the offense get past him.

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Matt Tait 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree. Sendish has been one of those guys who has been solid because you haven't noticed him (save for the first play of the 2nd half last week vs. TCU)... He's not Deion, Talib or Ed Reed, but he's often where he needs to be to help hold down KU's secondary and he's getting better by the week.

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Brett McCabe 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, the results on defense have actually been pretty well documented (b KU Sports). I believe that we are in the mid-50's defensively among all schools in the FBS whereas we were somewhere around 110-ish last year. The kicking game is greatly improved, too.

I'm not sure we should be so harsh on kids who are all more talented individually than the commenters here are collectively.

Last year, we were horrible on defense, horrible on offense and horrible on special teams. Let's at least give credit where credit is due.

And here's some unsolicited advice from a father to Jake: it's not worth that much agonizing. Work hard but stay loose. It'll come.

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Jonathan Allison 9 months, 2 weeks ago

exactly, we need to start by extending some drives. As a marathon runner you just think about the next mile, or the next half mile, or the next step if it comes to that. We need to see more 10+ play drives, even if they only lead to 3 points. Even if we can just show that we can consistently get into opponents territory, then we'll start winning the field position game, and start putting more points on the board.

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Joe Ross 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Even having Harwell on the field, the throws to him would have to be good ones. Last week Jake was all over the place. It's odd because QBs have been disappointing since Reesing, but I still have a lot of faith in Heaps. But that faith has to be justified by performance. He knows that.

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Aaron Paisley 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Last week was the first game where his accuracy was consistently off so I don't think that's something to worry about at this point.

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Chris Oestreich 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Lets all quit piling on the kid! The play calling and game plans haven't been exactly stellar and his protection is average at best. Yes, he has been off target some but a few of the interceptions belong to the recievers on balls that deflected off their hands. Give him time and give the new play calling situation time before we waste Cozarts red-shirt year. Its not like we didn't know that this was another rebuilding year anyway. By the way, next spring and summer expect a better football team but don't buy into all the hype like it seemed people did about this years team. Lets just hope for average and go from there as HCCW and staff work to put another solid recruiting class together.

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Andy Tweedy 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree about not piling on the kid, not many QBs get good results when their o-line can't protect them or get the running game going. That said, I also think people are putting too much on the play calling. What exactly is Weiss supposed to call when the o-line can't get much of anything to work? I'm not saying the play calling has been great, but who would know when we can't block...

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Aaron Paisley 9 months, 2 weeks ago

This pretty much confirms what I've been seeing and it's that the streak is getting to the offense. They need to forget about the streak and just go out and play. Don't worry about being perfect because it won't happen. Just have fun and play loose and let whatever happens happen.

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Brandon Correll 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I just hope he gets better by the end of the year. Remember that he is going to most likely be the QB next year.

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Andy Hess 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Next year he'll have T.J. Millweard and Montell Cozart with a year in the system, nipping at his heels. Don't anoint him next year's starter quite yet.

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Brandon Correll 9 months, 2 weeks ago

We heard great things about Christ and Heaps, now Cozart, so who knows if Cozart is actually any good.

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Bryce Landon 9 months, 2 weeks ago

They're trying too hard to be perfect because they've got it in their heads that their OC is some sort of offensive guru...

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Joe Ross 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The conversation about Heaps' performance (and more generally the whole football team) is really tricky business that forces a fan to walk a fine line delicately. On the one hand, there is the obligation to be good fans and support your team. To that end, one must acknowledge that these are good kids who are trying hard to succeed. None of them are purposely sabotaging the football team. Everyone who calls himself a fan should credit the efforts of these kids who are trying hard to make it in the classroom, on the field, and in society. It's a huge sacrifice to do everything they are doing, and sometimes we tend to judge these kids as if the sum of their value can be judged by wins and losses or their stat lines on Saturday afternoons. It can't be. Yet on the other hand, it is fair and even appropriate to separate the character of these kids from their performance, judging the latter in a vacuum as we realize that football is a revenue and interest-generating endeavour that has a real-world impact on the influence and standing of academic institutions. Kansas is no different. I feel badly for the kid who practices hard but doesn't see the field, for example, but the reason why he doesn't get the nod is because we recognize that there is importance attached to winning games, and because of that the best players are the ones who play. The quarterback is not an exception; rather, it fits the rule moreso than any other position. So while I recognize the quality of person that Heaps (or any other player) may be, it is fair to make the case for at least considering letting others play in front of him...without indicting his character! It is not casting aspersions to entertain the idea that he may not be the quarterback we thought him to be. It is also true that this has not been established as a fact. My point is that one should not jump to the conclusion that just because someone criticizes a player, he is a poor fan or is not supporting his team properly. This is complete nonsense.

Cozart should play if he is the better quarterback. Heaps should play if he is. The decision should be based on ability and not on passion or prejudice. It's not personal, it's just business...

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Savion Havon 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I long for the day when there will be a true competition at the qb position. Heaps like Crist as well as millweard are at ku because they couldn't and didn't cut the mustard bottom line. Know we have Jake running a variation of a offense he left Byu because of hmmm not rocket science doomed to fail. I understand peoples infatuation with Cozart he's from Kansas played close etc. The fact that we are being force fed what the qb's strengths and weaknesses are is where I draw the line. The beginning assessment of Cummings was he wasn't mobile and a pocket passer with a cannon. This year he's a option qb best pass of the year came with him dropping back and hitting Turzilli yet all of a sudden he can't throw. I look forward to the spin put on the game after this weekend. Jake heaps flustered Last year we had article Cummings cool under pressure which one do you want out there leading your players?

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Joe Ross 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Savion. First off, I feel your frustration. I dont know if you have correctly pinned the tail on the donkey (I dont know that you havent either, for that matter), but I share the headache of deferred expectation. Part of this year's problem has been the departure of a lot of good offensive linemen, and a lot of inexperienced ones taking their place. I tease myself with the question of what our team would look like this year if we simply had last year's line? Would the run blocking be better? Would the pass protection be better? Would Jake Heaps be more comfortable by virtue of the protection and would he then make better passes? Would better passes help the receivers? The answer to all of these, seemingly, is "yes". I'm hoping that offensive linemen are the number one priority in recruiting this offseason. Until then, lets hope the changes that are being talked about now show some positive results, although admittedly that may be hard to determine given the level of competition that is upon us in this part of the schedule. The sacrilegious admission for which some would label me an heretic: it is %$&* frustrating to be a KU football fan.

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Joe Ross 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Suggestion for new title to article: "Trying times: Losses wearing on QB Heaps, KU offense, and Kansas fans everywhere."

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Brett McCabe 9 months, 2 weeks ago

You watched Cummings last year, right? How many wins?

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Savion Havon 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The team was more competitive less potent tech team this year blows us out where as last yr double ot. 12 seconds from beating UT if not for conservative play calling that game was a win as well. Our defense gas improved but the major upgrade skill set etc heaps supposedly had us not evident by any stretch of thought. You have to have a gamer pulling the trigger one not scared to lose with a will to win

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Savion Havon 9 months, 2 weeks ago

When watching the game you have to think if your offense is on field your defense is resting

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Brandon Mahon 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I just want people to play like 07-09 god those were the good years. We had attitude, we played hard every game and every play. Idk how they did it but these guys need to have a chip on their shoulders, need to play like they have something to prove and nothing to lose. These guys (other than heaps) are not 5 star guys they have to prove something if they want to go anywhere... They need to start playing like it, its not only on the coaches, but on the players just as well. Every single player needs to look at themselves and figure out what they really want. We didnt have as good as facilities and training areas in 07-09 like we do now, so them not having the equipment to be great is a terrible excuse. My high school's weight room could only fit 2 squat racks, 4 benches, dumbbell rack, sled, and hang clean pad, one of the smallest in our class and we had 7 straight playoff apperances and were always 1-2 in our district. Its about the heart in the player. Weis is building an attitude but they have to get that chip/attitude back.

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