Few dispute that quarterbacks benefit from waiting years to get on the field, whether it's in college or the NFL (think: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Kurt Warner, Steve Young), even though there are exceptions. Starting a quarterback prematurely can be detrimental to their development (there are numerous examples at the college and pro level).
So why the trend of starting quarterbacks as freshmen and sophomores?
First, high school quarterbacks are showing up on college campuses more prepared, thanks to better coaching, private tutors, camps, etc. Second, prep players are being recruited early — as juniors and sophomores, if not earlier. The best prospects have the luxury of shopping schools.
"What happens is these kids who are so heavily recruited are now looking for places they can play right away," says Doman. "And then there are recruiters who are promising them starting positions to get them to sign with their schools."
That causes other problems for any school trying to maintain an orderly ascension to the starting quarterback job. A school's existing quarterbacks tend to flee to other schools when the starting job is given to younger players. The situation is even trickier for BYU, with more quarterbacks leaving school to serve two-year missions and then returning two years later (Young, McMahon, Nielsen, Wilson and Bosco did not serve missions).
With Heaps sharing the starting job and then taking sole ownership of it with the injury to Riley Nelson, BYU's quarterback depth has been jeopardized again. Doman is holding his breath that his other three scholarship quarterbacks — sophomore James Lark, redshirt freshman Jason Munns and the junior, Nelson — remain at BYU.
"We had it mapped out well; it ended up Jake came in and made a run at the starting position," says Doman. "You have to recruit a quarterback every year that you believe can be your starter and compete against your current quarterback. You try to spread them out by age so that you don't drive them away.
"I've had four quarterbacks transfer since I've been here. If I don't lose any this off-season, it will be the first year I haven't had a quarterback transfer. It's the test of all tests for veterans to see if they stay true to coming to BYU and believe they'll eventually get an opportunity."
Like his Utah counterpart, Heaps' on-the-job training has been bumpy. He threw just one touchdown pass in the first seven games, only two of which were wins. He has thrown nine touchdown passes in the last four games — all wins – albeit against weaker conference opponents.
"We're finally starting to see a productive quarterback in Jake," says Doman. "It's taken time."
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