Sunday, April 14, 2013


Opinion: Jake Heaps instant upgrade


During a spring football game in which he threw accurate passes, long and short, Kansas University junior-to-be quarterback Jake Heaps eased anxiety in the minds of so many who hope he becomes the school’s first productive player since Todd Reesing at the most important position on the field.

Funny thing about all the worrying, though, is that none of it was inspired by anything Heaps ever did or didn’t do. It all stemmed from Dayne Crist’s disappointing one season at Kansas.

Crist fell far short of expectations, so many have had a difficult time investing their emotions in another highly ranked high school quarterback enticed to transfer to KU by Charlie Weis. But little about their stories intersects.

Even after Crist performed well in the 2012 spring game and even better in an open practice during summer camp, Weis subtly sounded a word of caution, saying the only remaining question was whether Crist would feel the aftershock of his latest knee surgery once real games that included blitzing maniacs hellbent on blasting the quarterback started. Clearly, Crist heard the thundering footsteps, and it greatly compromised his performance. He finished 116 out of 116 in quarterback rating among quarterbacks with enough throws to qualify. Crist performed well in two post-season all-star games, winning MVP honors in one. Look a little closer: Blitzing was forbidden in those games.

Heaps remained healthy in his two seasons at BYU, where his statistics were neither atrocious nor great. In the QB-rating stat, he ranked 98 of 116 as a freshman, 106 of 115 as a sophomore. He had reason to look over his shoulder then, when he and Riley Nelson played tug-of-war with the starting position. At KU, it’s Heaps’ job, and he’ll be in his fourth year of daily college football practices, whereas he was in his first and second during his BYU years.

Heaps can place the ball into the hands of more playmakers than could Crist, thanks to Weis’ decision to move Tony Pierson to receiver much of the time, the addition of physical possession receiver Justin McCay, the continued improvement of tight end Jimmay Mundine and the return of running back James Sims.

Heaps does not need to justify his No. 1 ranking among high school quarterbacks he received after leading Skyline High to a third consecutive 4A Washington state title to give Kansas a major upgrade at the position.


ahpersecoachingexperience 9 years, 4 months ago

Pretty sure I would be an upgrade at QB compared to Crist.

VailHawk 9 years, 4 months ago

I would pay to see that! Although I'd hope HCCW would allow you to to have your whale logo on your helmet and ahpersecoachingexperience on the back of your jersey.

squawkhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

So I guess we're looking at two or three wins this year? Hopefully one is a Big 12 win. Crist was so bad that just about anyone would be an upgrade.

Jim Erickson 9 years, 4 months ago

I'll man up and admit that I predicted the program would take "the jump" and I predicted 4 wins last year with a ceiling of 6. While there may have been an encouraging sign or two, last year was not a step forward.

This year I feel that our chances of taking the jump are a bit more realistic. The Weis system is complicated so having the majority of the team a bit more experienced with it will be nice. A lot of Juco talent will be injected into the team, specifically the DLine. That's all nice, but we need production out of the QB position. We have had one great QB in recent history and we won 20 games (and two bowl games) with him healthy.

Jim Erickson 9 years, 4 months ago

I agree with a lot of that. Substitute a healthy Todd Reesing for Dayne Crist and last year looks a whole lot different. Our Orange and Insight Bowl teams were much better all around, but last years team was a 4-6 win team with a good QB, and as you said, a good kicker.

I don't know if I would consider this team a "sleeping giant". Receivers look good but are unproven. The line lost a lot and the defence has yet to put it together. I am hopeful we will be significantly better but I can't forse a bowl caliber team unless some major things happen. Then again, that's why we play the game! Can't wait for this year.

Jeremy Hays 9 years, 4 months ago

I will agree with both of you with the exception that Reesing was throwing to 3 + good WR who made an appearance at the next level (compare Briscoe, Meier, Jonathan Wilson to Pick, Beshears and Turzilli).

I truly believe that the real difference between this team and what we hope is a perennial contender is WR play... We have possible All-conf, AA running backs, and when we could throw the ball last year, teams would load the box and we still ran the ball... I think if we can become balanced (better QB play but MUCH better separation by WR in route running) this team could push many of our upper ceilings of wins. IF not it could be another depressing fall.

Jim Erickson 9 years, 4 months ago

Great point on the receivers... Those guys were amazing!

Jim Erickson 9 years, 4 months ago

To summarize my previous statement: Unless Heaps is REALLY good, our chances of taking a big step forward as a program are small.

Brad Hall 9 years, 4 months ago

I don't think you should have summarized, you were good where you were. QB is certainly the most important piece where we can upgrade, but as Atl pointed out even a small upgrade at QB will reap dividends, as would an improved kicking game. It sounds like we've upgraded both of those aspects and also improved the defensive line so we might get a pass rush. We should be a much improved team this year.

Jim Erickson 9 years, 4 months ago

I agree but I still think we are naive if we think there was a total upgrade made this off season. There are still questions: Will we have a good offensive line after losing 3 good players? Are the receivers, who didn't do a whole lot last year, very good? Will we have a good defence? They were not great last year either. The kicking game was bad and there are no proven kickers on the roster.

I am a huge fan and am very optimistic, but the reality is the offseason press conferences mask problems. A year ago we were all drinking the punch (definitely me) and while I am optimistic this year I am more cautious.

As per my post, a good QB has a way of masking problems!

jhox 9 years, 4 months ago

We were in very close games with several pretty good teams last year. As someone pointed out above, with decent QB play and a field goal licker we could have won 4 or 5 games.

I do think 4 or 5 wins with an outside chance at 6 is a reasonable possibility. Think how difficult it is to run the ball when everyone knows your coach is afraid to throw a pass, yet we had decent success running. Now think about how good we might be if there was some fear we might actually throw a first down pass. I realize we lost key offensive linemen, but as good as those guys were run blocking, they were equally as bad pass blocking. We may take a step back in the running game but hopefully we can improve our pass blocking. By all accounts we've upgraded our defensive personnel, hopefully we'll find a pass rusher.

The Big 12 has been pretty mediocre the past couple of years, by normal standards. There are some beatable teams in the conference. I prefer to be somewhat optimistic that we'll be improved and have a decent year. I saw Heaps last year in the spring game and his arm strength was second to none. His accuracy remains to be seen.

CrystalJones 9 years, 4 months ago

I'm with ya jhox. Here's how I see it:

SD-W @Rice-W La TEch-W TTU-W @TCU-L OU-L Baylor-W @UT-L @OSU-L @ISU-L KSU-L

Andy Tweedy 9 years, 4 months ago

I have read 4-5 articles about the Spring game, and all I'm hearing about is the new quarteback, the lean tailback, the fast all-purpose back, the wide receivers catching touchdowns. What about the defense? There's been hardly a mention of it anywhere. We were TERRIBLE on defense most of last year. I wasn't at the game Saturday, I sure would like to know how the defense played.

kellerman411 9 years, 4 months ago

Welcome to KU football, your first game should be really fun. Our defense was the lone sign of hope last year and was no where near terrible. They were on the field virtually the entire game and still limited a lot of really good offenses. Ben Heeney literally was probably in the top 3 of linebackers in the conference... If they make another big improvement this year, they will be good, really good.

vd 9 years, 4 months ago

Our defense was the lone sign of hope last year and was no where near terrible. They were on the field virtually the entire game

Terrible defense is one that is on the field the entire game.

Matt Kenton 9 years, 4 months ago

A defense is on the field an entire game because their offense isn't.

squawkhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Combs is nothing but a big mouth with flapping lips. The kid hasn't even qualified yet and he is over Twitter ranting with other school's fans. Nothing like bulletin board material for our opponents from a kid who may never see the field. Charlie better put a lid on this kid ASAP.a

Jonathan Briles 9 years, 4 months ago

I think another reason for the lack of defensive coverage is that we are still missing a good number of our starters. We still have two defensive lineman, three linebackers, and three defensive backs yet to arrive. Three of them have more or less already been given starting roles before arriving and Weis said that all of them will more than likely be no worse than the two deep. AtlJaybird was right on what we did have saturday though. The defensive backs never got burned which is a great improvement from the last couple of years. The linebackers played well and hit hard and the defensive line looked very active. I do think it would be great to get a more in depth article on the defense though. I would like some more on some of the newer guys to the two deep that could make an impact like Courtney Arnick, Tyler Holmes, and others. Arnick while small looked great saturday in flashes. Very fast and great nose for the ball. I like his future with us.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 4 months ago

Add 2 fumbles of the hard hit variety (the desperation INT is irrelevant IMO) and there is more to be optimistic about.

rtwngr 9 years, 4 months ago

To answer the last, look at the numbers the offense put up. It won't matter how terrific our QB is if we can't keep the other team's offense off of the field. There's a lot to turning a program around and defense is huge. All of that being said, I think this team is far better than last year's.

Jayhawker111 9 years, 4 months ago

Mr Keegan:

Your opinion that Heaps is an instant upgrade is correct.

The fact is that anybody who can fog a mirror would be an instant upgrade over Crist.

116 out of 116 is last place and you cannot get any worse than that.

What is so disturbing is why Charlie Wies stuck with Crist - game after game, when you could see the guy was gun shy and never delivered.

Wies annointed Crist last year as the starter without competition and he has annointed Heaps this year without competition. I was surprised Cummings did not get a chance to work with both teams on Saturday.

We will see how year two pans out.

Jim Erickson 9 years, 4 months ago

I have to disagree... Crist wasn't very good, and did end up getting pulled, but there is no doubt that his ceiling was much higher than Cummings. Weis stuck it out in hopes of a "good Crist" which would have been huge for us. It's not like Cummings was really any better. We had 2 below average QBs so Weis went with the guy with a higher ceiling.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 4 months ago

and for less than half the season. The head coach has to give his starter some chance, and CW did appropriately.

Jayhawker111 9 years, 4 months ago

Crist - stared quarterback in seven games... Started first six contests and also at West Virginia... Played in 10 games.

Should have been benched, never to see the field again after 3 games, but Wies just kept playing him...

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

KGphoto 9 years, 4 months ago

"During a spring football game in which he threw accurate passes, long and short, Kansas University junior-to-be quarterback Jake Heaps eased anxiety in the minds of so many who hope he becomes the school’s first productive player since Todd Reesing at the most important position on the field.”

"Crist performed well in two post-season all-star games, winning MVP honors in one. Look a little closer: Blitzing was forbidden in those games.”

Yes, well the defense was not allowed to sack Heaps during the spring game either. Talk about being comfortable in the pocket. Crist was comfortable in the pocket for his spring game too. Put up some nice stats and had us ignoring any warnings, subtle as they be from Weis, about blitzing ghosts.

Heaps performance on Saturday means nothing. Heaps may not have the injury history, but I still can’t get over the fact that both these QBs were replaced by mediocre quarterbacks at their previous schools. And that they both had ratings in the bottom 10% when they were playing. I want to believe this is different, but I’m gonna wait til (real) game day.

Here’s a telling piece I found from back in October of 2011, about why Heaps lost his spot to Nelson. It focuses on his lack of leadership and his robotic way of running the offense. I saw signs of Heaps’ leadership from some spring practice quotes, let’s hope he has it figured out. The robotic part seems to still be in place.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 4 months ago

One thing not mentioned too often, is BYU switched from a Pro-Style offense, which is the forte of Heaps. Don't forget that Heaps broke Rookie records at BYU that had QBs like Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Robbie Boscoe, and Jim McMahon. I know a different era, but don't throw in the towel against Heaps. Heaps made the decision early when the coach switched the offensive play style, KU just had the timing (and the Coach to match).

KGphoto 9 years, 4 months ago

True, but the same thing could be said for Crist. They switched to a spread at ND and he couldn’t hang. Then he came back to Weis’ pro style, and he still couldn’t hang.

Not throwing in the towel by any means. I think he has an advantage by being here the extra year to absorb the complicated offense, and to build chemistry with the receivers. He could be serviceable this year, and could even be great next year.

Fingers crossed.

optimist 9 years, 4 months ago

I think Crist is the easy guy to blame but neither quarterback threw a touchdown pass last season. Receivers looked confused at times resulting in protection breakdowns. Crist being a pocket passer, he wasn't a guy that could extend plays with his feet. Only after a more mobile quarterback comes in does that change. I saw Crist throw a lot of good passes that were dropped by receivers or receivers ran wrong routes. Now that the receiving corps has a year under their belts I expect we'll see better but I think we it is misguided to blame all of the woes on Crist alone.

kellerman411 9 years, 4 months ago

Touche. Why do people keep talking about the blitz on Crist? I never once saw him back down or get scared. In fact, I saw several instances where he hung tough and got a throw off. He simply wasn't athletic enough to play quarterback on a bad team.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

I don't mean this as a personal attack on him, but in my opinion, he wasn't accurate enough to play quarterback even on a good team. I guess it could be that he didn't have enough time .......?

CrystalJones 9 years, 4 months ago

Are you kidding? He collapsed like a ton of bricks when he saw pressure coming.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 4 months ago

I'll be the first to admit that the Spring game doesn't tell you much. The first string offense scored at will against the second string defense (that isn't considered a top defense). The first string defense basically shutdown the second string offense.

I would have expected about the same.

The one thing I would say, is that McCay seems to have great hands and not afraid to block. Heaps and McCay have started out with good chemistry (again without a press).

kellerman411 9 years, 4 months ago

The Crist hate needs to stop. He was a pocket passer. What we needed was a smaller, scramble type QB like Todd Reesing. We needed someone who could create offense in non-typical ways. We had a slightly below average pass-blocking offensive line and some of the worst receivers to ever wear the Kansas uniform. You could have put Tom Brady in that offense and you would be surprised how much he would have struggled. I truly was confused from the get go as to why he believed KU was a good fit for his senior year other than coach Weis was there.

justanotherfan 9 years, 4 months ago

If we need a smaller, scramble type QB like Reesing then Cummings should be the starter over Heaps. That's not going to happen. We are going to play Heaps and, unless he is mobile, that could be trouble again.

This should be an interesting year for KU football.

KGphoto 9 years, 4 months ago

I’m not hating on Crist but he was terrible, and throwing the WRs under the bus is even worse. They may not have been great, but you have no basis to call them the worst ever. They had good, athletic, playmaking ability, and were consistently over and under-thrown while open. Crist was indecisive, he didn’t have good pocket presence, and he took too long to get rid of the ball, resulting in bad throws and sacks.

Tom Brady would’ve been driving Patterson, Pick and Turzilli up and down the field like a Ferrari (from the pocket). He’s proven that it all starts with the QB. He’s done it with has beens and never beens. Look what he did with Randy Moss! Jamarcus Russell got it to Moss 42 times for 500 yards and 3 TDs in 2006. Prompting talk that Moss had lost a step. The next season Brady hit Moss 98 times for 1,500 yards and 23 TDs. Moss continues to produce for the next 2 years with Brady at QB. Over his first 3 years in New England he posts 250 receptions for 3,700 yards and 47 TDs. Now was Moss terrible in Oakland, or was Russell?

The QB is responsible for getting the most out of his WRs. It does not work the other way around. You can’t give me one example of a WR showing up and turning a losing QB into a winner.

AZJHWK 9 years, 4 months ago

I am concerned with the O-line. It starts with the QB, but if he is running for his life he has to be an RGIII to be successful. I didn't see much from the available video that the O-line is where it is going to need to be for us to be successful.

Robert Brown 9 years, 4 months ago

A couple of things bother me about this article. 1. The same thing that is being said about Heaps this year was said after last year's Spring game about Crist.
2. The rules for the Spring game were set up to limit pressure and contact (which is should), so this is hardly a simulation for a Big 12 game and I would think hard to make assessments 3. Finally, this article hints that Crist was slowed by a recovery from knee surgery. I don't remember that being discussed a lot last year (it may have), but if he was hobbled, why take so long to make a switch at QB.

At this point, we all have to take a wait and see approach. We have 41/2 long months to pontificate.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 4 months ago

I don't think the article was saying Crist was still injured, just that the earlier injuries had made him so spooky that he couldn't or wouldn't hold his ground when he needed to because he was "hearing the footsteps" of another injury coming his way.

Mike Barnhart 9 years, 4 months ago

Rank of KU passing attack: 117th in 2012, 101st in 2011 and 103rd in 2010. How good can we possibly be in 2013?

Well, four years ago, in 2009, our passing game was 7th best in the country ...I'm saying there's hope!

Theonlythingthatexceedsyourbad 9 years, 4 months ago

Keegan - A word of advice. Take out some the commas and prepositional phrases and replace them with periods. Then you can elaborate on your good ideas and not have run on sentences like the first three of this article. Your ideas are good and mostly sound however they are often clouded by a mist unnecessary analogies and ambiguities. These often take the place where there should be a period.

That being said - Heaps should be better than Crist because;
1. It's pretty hard to be worse.
2. The wide receivers weren't open last year. This year more separation should be expected. Problem was, when they were open Crist couldn't deliver, let's hope Heaps can.
3. Heaps has a year of practice, weight training, etc. at KU that Crist didn't. 4. No injury fear in QB in Heaps - ie. Rice interception from Crist last year . . . .

Bville Hawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Why should Keegan take advice from you? Are you an English or Journalism professor? How many years have you written professionally? How many books have you had published?

mahkmood 9 years, 4 months ago

This article is fine for the football fans that don't understand the game well. Heaps will be in a heap on the ground if the offensive line (inexperienced newbies) doesn't perform well. No mention of them in the article. Pierson at wide-receiver should be a red flag (i.e., Weis was unable to recruit a good WR, so shift a running back). Guys from Mangino era will be completely gone - further loss of toughness? Defensive line still a question mark?

Look, I'm not trying to be so negative, but I'm sick and tired of articles about KU's "upgrades" every off season (last 4 years). FB means cash for KU and Lawrence, so gotta sell tickets... remember that when you're reading these articles. Do you really expect to see articles titled, "Hopes for KU Football Next Season Looking Very Suspect (Think Twice Before Buying Season Tickets)"?

KU will probably win 2 or 3 games next season. I hope I'm wrong, but unfortunately the schedule is full of established programs, and KU is not that.

CrystalJones 9 years, 4 months ago

Wow. You succeeded at being negative while not trying. In fact, your negativity is over the top. Look, we all know what the record was last year, the year before that, the year before that and the year before that. We've stunk, like we almost always do in football. It's a sport that we don't win championships in and probably never will. We're just not a football school, and I can live with that.

But that doesn't mean we can't get better or that we shouldn't have hope and perhaps even some optimism. Charlie and his coaching staff have only been on campus for a year. These guys know what they're doing. In fact, a few months ago I was even predicting some major success within two or three years. I've tempered my enthusiasm a bit since then, but, good grief, you shouldn't be throwing in the towel in April.

Yes, the schedule is full of established programs, but after a couple of years of Charlie, Dave and the rest, we can BECOME an established program.

BringBackMark 9 years, 4 months ago

The article below pretty well sums up why our football program is where it's at. Zenger is going to look like an idiot if this experiment fails. Weis is going to have to quit worrying about "quick fix" transfers and start developing talent. That's how Snyder really does it.

trueblue68 9 years, 4 months ago

Heaps could be the 2nd coming of Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana, but if we don't improve our defense a 1,000% we will still not win much.

7th in the Country in passing in 2009, & we lost our last 7 straight games, & finished last in the North Division, because we had a horrendous defense. Thus Mangino fired.

With a decent defense in 2007 with 2 AAs, we won 12 games.

So why no discussion about the defense??? A good defense also gets Heaps & company several more opportunities too.

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