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How Jake Heaps' big spring game was different from Dayne Crist's in 2012

For the second year in a row, last Saturday's Kansas University football spring game featured a strong performance from a new quarterback to whom KU fans, coaches and players alike have tied their wagon for the upcoming season.

So, for the second year in a row, I wrote about the quarterback.

Last year it was Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist who looked sharp, decisive and, frankly, different, in leading the more talented Blue squad to a runaway victory over the White. And last Saturday, it was BYU transfer Jake Heaps who did the same.

As we all know, Crist's spring game performance turned out to be one of his few highlights during a disappointing season. I don't think we'll be saying the same thing about Heaps by December.

Here's why.

Throughout the spring, the one question I was asked more than any other was, 'How does Heaps look?' Each time I gave an answer that painted a picture of a talented QB who could make a difference for the KU offense.

That question, however, was surpassed by another during the couple of days since the spring game, with the more cynical but certainly understandable, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, but didn't we say the same thing last year?' becoming the more popular inquiry.

I'll be honest; I did. I even went back and read what I wrote about Crist after the 2012 spring game. Here's a taste:

More important than the final score (45-0) or the statistics (Crist was 11-of-19 passing for 156 yards, no interceptions and no TDs) was the fact that Crist showed everyone in attendance that the Jayhawks were running a different, more efficient offense. No play better illustrated that than sophomore running back Tony Pierson’s 88-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. As Crist walked to the line of scrimmage, he surveyed the defense and identified the middle linebacker, a staple of Weis’ offense. Not seeing the set he wanted, Crist called an audible and Pierson did the rest.

I don't remember much about last year's game — that's why I went back and read my story — but I do remember enough to know that what I saw from Heaps on Saturday was much different than what I saw from Crist 12 months ago.

From what I remember, Crist looked good — big, strong and smart, a far cry from anything KU had put under center for the previous few seasons. Heck, in many ways, Crist even looked better than Todd Reesing.

But Jake Heaps actually played good.

A year ago expectations were so low (at least from the realists) and the program was in such bad shape that even the mere presence of players who looked better on the field made it seem like things were headed in the right direction.

The eye test won't fly this time around. And that's why it's important to emphasize that what Heaps showed last Saturday was far more than the ability to be KU's quarterback. He showed he can play.

Even Heaps admitted that he was far from perfect during the spring game. He finished 20-of-28 for 257 yards and four touchdowns, but also took a couple of sacks, short-armed a throw or two and said there were moments that the tempo could have been better, which he put squarely on his shoulders.

But it's not fair to use Heaps' personal standards to judge his play in this one. We all saw his ability for ourselves and there was plenty to like.

In the past 16 months, I've probably seen Heaps throw 5-10 times, including once in last year's spring game, where he was 7-of-10 for 116 yards and the game's lone TD. Saturday's performance was by far — allow me to add a little emphasis to that, BY FAR — the most impressive I've seen him look.

Here's how:

• He threw with confidence. You can't get the ball out in less than three seconds on half of your plays without (a) knowing what you're doing or (b) believing that what you're doing is right.

• He threw lasers. Half the time Heaps threw he released the ball before his receivers (most often chemistry-compadre Justin McCay) had even come out of their breaks. Just about every time the ball was on a line and looked as if the receiver had no choice but to catch it.

• He showed decent mobility, proved he could throw on the run and was wildly accurate. That last one might be his biggest strength.

• And, most importantly, he carried himself the way any fan, coach or teammate would and should want a quarterback to carry himself — with fire, focus, purpose and fun.

See, Heaps is passionate playing the game of football and will do anything to make sure he can play it for as long as his body allows.

I enjoyed my year of covering Crist and think he's one of the better dudes to come through the KU football program. But I didn't always sense his love of the game the way I get it from Heaps. I think it was there, but it didn't always surface. Call it pressure, call it fear, call it a guarded personality or call it self-doubt. Whatever it was, I think it severely prevented Crist from lining up and letting it all hang out. That won't be a problem with Heaps.

So, if you want the truth, it wasn't so much Heaps' final numbers or the fact that he lit up KU's second string defense for four TDs and a 71 percent completion percentage that impressed me. It was the way he did it.

Heaps is not Todd Reesing. He's not as exciting, not as electrifying and certainly not as much of a rebel gunslinger. But he can play. And for the first time since Reesing graduated, Jayhawk fans may find themselves falling in love with their quarterback again this fall.

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Comments

Randy Bombardier 11 months, 1 week ago

Once again I am optimistic. But at least I am learning. I think we can go 3-9 this year with Heaps at the helm and Weiss calling the plays.

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Dale Stringer 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm more interested in who our backup QB will be if Heaps goes down. What is the chance of one of the new guys passing Cummings (please use the word 'good' again). I still can't believe we benched a QB with an 96.5 rating for one that ended up with an 88.5.

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Terry N Tom Denner 12 months ago

One big difference between last year with Crist and this year with Heap is this year the Hawks have a lot better offensive line to give Heap a better look at not just one receiver like Crist did. The Defense will also put the hurt on some wish to be KST big boy QB and others like him. The blowout beatings end here, this year and beyond PERIOD !!! 8-4 season !!!

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Tony Bandle 12 months ago

Let me provide some future headlines for the LJW.

1] KANSAS IMPROVED BY HEAPS AND BOUNDS!!

2] AT KANSAS, 2013 WILL BE CELEBRATED AS A HEAPS YEAR WITH AN EXTRA DAY!

3] KU ABLE TO HEAPS OVER TALL BUILDINGS IN A SINGLE BOUND!!!

4] HEAPS KEEPS, LEAPS, GOES DEEP!!!!

5] HEAPS REAPS FOR KEEPS!!

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actorman 12 months ago

"He ... was wildly accurate."

Matt, you could have saved yourself a lot of work and written the shortest article in LJW history by just saying that. That alone would make Heaps MUCH better than Crist. If he can just hit a receiver who doesn't have a defender within five yards of him, that would be a significant improvement.

Seriously, I'm glad you addressed this topic, as it was clearly the perfect thing to write about after the spring game. And as much as I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much, I'm still excited for the season.

It's kind of amazing that any Jayhawk fan who has been watching the football team for nearly 40 years like I have could still get their hopes up, but somehow the magic of being a fan still applies, even after the endless disappointments that have been Jayhawk football over the years.

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Kevin Long 12 months ago

I swear most people on here focus more on grammar than on the articles themselves! Good lord people who cares how something is said. This is a damn sports page!

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notjustbread 12 months ago

3 or 4 wins this year....one of them will be a shock....

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hawkdds 12 months ago

If Heaps is the real deal, combined with Sims and Pierson we will win some games and that will be a start in the right direction.RCJH

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Jayhawker111 12 months ago

Two players that stuck out to me on Saturday.

93 --defensive tackle...... do not remember his name --but he hustled every play and made tackles..

Also #41 --Jimmie Mundine..... Big, strong and can catch --he is good.

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BayPark 12 months ago

The spring (practice) game provides a glimpse, and only a glimpse. It's scant evidence that all will be well in the fall. We're still in rebuilding mode. It's still going to take some time. It's a big jump from almost winning a few games to actually winning a few games. What Heaps saw and felt when he dropped back during the spring game bears little resemblance to what he'll see during the season. The predictions for 6-8 wins and how great Heaps, McCay, and the new Juco players will be is absurd. The only players we really know about are those returning from actual Big-12 play. Reynolds showing signs of greatness? Great-ness!? He didn't start and wasn't part of the regular d-line rotation on last year's team. Reading articles like the one above and then following the comments below is no different than this time last year. Let's temper the expectations a bit.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 12 months ago

Hey idiots!

Tait was using a journalistic device...correlating "Heaps played good" with "Crist looked good." It creates a quirky connection between the two ideas. He was basically saying, "Crist looked good, but Heaps PLAYED good." The alternative would be "Crist looked good, but Heaps played well." Not as much spice to it. And of course, he could have said, "Crist looked well, but Heaps played well," which is just stupid.

Read the article. He's a great writer and most you are too short-sighted to see the play in the phrases. Regardless, I would think you'd have a little more faith in the man than to assume he doesn't know the grammatical difference between the use of "good" and "well."

On another note, Heaps getting sacked three times by our second string scares me. Mobility is still a question, but to those of you who are confused as to why Cummings isn't in the "starter" discussion...I hate to break it to you, but Cummings isn't that fast either.

Of all the positives you pointed out, Tait, the only one that people should truly take out of this deal is Heaps' release. I will say this for the kid, he does release that thing quick. That is a vast improvement from Crist. Even on the bomb to McCay (who made a spectacular catch by the way), he released it in two seconds.

I would like to see how he handles forced check-downs though. Not much on Saturday proved that he knows what to do when his primary receiver isn't open. That's why a go-to outlet probably needs to be established. I hope on any given play that outlet is Tony Pierson.

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741hawk 12 months ago

Matt, I can't believe that the grammatical error has not been corrected. My Mother was an English teacher. I can hear her now! (She was a Jayhawk, too.)

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lv_jhwk 12 months ago

Matt: if, by your comparative estimate, Heaps was BY FAR better than any other time you'd seen him, wouldn't that serve to temper expectations since most of your observations were less impressive?

To be fair, perhaps the drills he was involved in at practices provided the defense a better chance of contesting the passes. But even if that's the case, I'll still stay grounded with my beliefs and hope that a pleasant surprise awaits.

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rtwngr 12 months ago

The receivers will need to get separation from the first team defenders of our Big XII opponents or it will be deja vu all over again. We can't misunderestimate anyone.

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Andrew Cox 12 months ago

Heap played WELL not good

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jhox 12 months ago

I saw him in last year's spring game and while both he and Crist looked good, there was definitely a lot more juice on the ball coming out of Heaps' hand. When he threw a sideline pass to the wide side of the field I recall thinking that I'd never seen a ball get to a receiver that far away, that quickly. You won't see corners jumping those routs and intercepting those. Matt's description of him throwing a laser, that's exactly what I was thinking. I went back to work the next Monday excited about Crist, but told my buddies the best would come in year two when Heaps got the keys to the car. I can't vouch for how accurate he's going to be, but there is no question about his arm strength. And he did look accurate the one time I saw him.

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doolindalton 12 months ago

Heaps was also "sacked" three times by the backup defensive line. Though Heaps was very good about throwing to a spot, like Crist he had difficulty finding secondary receivers when his primary receiver was covered. There are no NFL receivers lining up for KU and that could make life especially difficult for the offense against B12 competition, He also had a couple of passes knocked down by rushing linemen, which would suggest Weis needs to get him out of the pocket to make his throws.

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Phil Leister 12 months ago

Come on Matt, he played "good"? Yikes.

And, it's not a good idea to admit "I don't remember much about last year's game" when you're writing about why this year's game was different than last year's.

OK sorry, I'm going back to bed now, hopefully I'll wake up on the right side.

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Wickedson 12 months ago

oh god Crist was awful. Let this be the last column he's ever mentioned in again!

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ArgyleJayhawks 12 months ago

Coming soon: How Michael Cummings' Big Spring Game was different than Jake Heaps' in 2013.

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PSM 12 months ago

Will we every truly understand why Reesing was so good? Still can't believe he couldn't even crack it in the CFL.

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Boouk 12 months ago

Crist was timid and hesitant last season in games, sometimes even when he had all day to throw. With better players around him, I expect the more mobile and confident Jake Heaps to be a big upgrade.

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AzHawk97 12 months ago

What about Cummings? After last season it would be foolish for us to put all our eggs into the" Heaps is our guy" basket, so how did Cummings look? Too bad like last year there is not a true compettion for the QB spot.

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KGphoto 12 months ago

Very interesting read. So crazy that Crist completed just over 50% of his passes for about 150 yards and no TDs, his best play was an audible to a big Pierson run, and everybody was talking like he was the next Jim Kelly because of his stature. (Me included)

Nice detailed analysis Matt, and nice job of putting the differences in perspective.

I’m gaining confidence.

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Andy Tweedy 12 months ago

Matt, "played good?" Don't you mean "played well?" Just giving you a hard time!

If this dude is half as exciting as Todd Reesing, I already love him!!! If the O line is good, we simply have GOT to be better offensively, don't we?

I still haven't heard much about the defense though...do we have any hope on that side of the ball?

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pepper_bar 12 months ago

Good column. KU gets two years of Heaps, right?

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