Jake Heaps can still recoup his college football career. And make history. By leaving the Y for the U.
The Utah football team is in a jam and so is Jake Heaps.
They say politics, and I'd add sports, make strange bedfellows.
A couple weeks ago, my buddy and former Utah All-American Bryan Rowley and I drove to Pittsburgh to watch the Utes play Pitt. We stayed in the team hotel and had breakfast with team physician Dave Detron. We also visited with Utah athletics director Chris Hill, Norm and Diane Chow, Kyle Whittingham, Kalani Sitake and former Ute QB and radio color man Frank Dolce.
As we stood on the sideline watching the Utes struggle offensively, I said to Bryan, "You know who could help the Utes? Jake Heaps."
Before you dismiss this as heresy, hear me out.
In the two weeks since I made that offhanded comment, I'm even more convinced.
Jake Heaps is done at BYU. It's over. The ship has sailed. Once your replacement is compared to Tim Tebow, you can stick a fork in Heaps, as they say.
Bronco Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Brandon Doman won't tell him in so many words because having an experienced quarterback on the staff isn't a bad thing, but the reality is they can't give him back the keys. Not now. It belongs to Riley Nelson. Of course, Nelson could always give it back, but I think the odds are in Nelson's favor.
Here's why: schedule and circumstance.
Tonight's game against TCU seems to be the only possible roadblock for Nelson as the Frogs are still a formidable foe. But even if Nelson doesn't play well, he's earned the right to hang onto the keys, just as Heaps did after ineffective starts in the first five games. Since his heroic effort against Utah State, Nelson has simply outperformed Heaps, and with Idaho, New Mexico State and Hawaii remaining on the schedule after TCU, he's bound to get better. And as Nelson improves, so does his street cred in the locker room.
Players respond to playmakers. Heaps can't win back the clubhouse carrying a clipboard. Beyond that, Nelson is a junior so he's positioned to be THE man for another year while Heaps' skills atrophy.
Heaps is only a sophomore and hasn't been redshirted. Given Utah's QB situation, Heaps would be an improvement. Obviously, he'd have to sit a year, but that's OK.
I'm convinced Utah's QB of the future is at Lone Peak High. In conversations with Whittingham, I've shared with him my opinion that the BEST quarterback in the state of Utah — at any level — is Chase Hansen. That's right. High school senior Chase Hansen is better than Riley Nelson, Jake Heaps, Jon Hays, Jordan Wynn and Chuckie Keaton — right NOW. Kid is a flat-out stud.
Heaps is just a quarterback but Hansen is a football player. He could probably play linebacker in college, as his dad and my former teammate Brian did.
Hansen is going on his mission after graduation so it'll be 2014 before he's a factor. If Heaps transfers, that would be his senior season. In baseball terms, Heaps is the set-up guy. Hansen is the closer.
I think the only way Heaps salvages his college career is to transfer.
And if I'm him, I'd transfer to Utah.
Here's why: schedule and circumstance.
If he's to restore his promise, why not do it in the Pac-12? Plus, he'll have the added bonus of playing in his hometown of Seattle, not to mention home games just up the road from LaVell Edwards Stadium, where your success would be chronicled in the same newspaper space with your old team. The best antidote when your heart is broken is to rebound with a really cute girlfriend and you're all in the same student ward.
The one guy who can fix what ails Jake Heaps just happens to be in Salt Lake — the guru of quarterbacks and arguably the greatest college offensive coordinator in NCAA history, Norm Chow. Does anyone remember that before Chow arrived at USC, Carson Palmer was considered a bust?
What I saw of Utah's quarterbacks from the sidelines at Pitt, even Chow can't fix. But he might be able to help Heaps. If I'm Jake, I wouldn't even wait until next fall. I'd transfer in January to participate in spring drills and get a jump on in-coming freshman Travis Wilson from San Clemente, Calif., who could conceivably start as a freshman in 2012, when Heaps would have to sit.
There's another reason I don't mind advocating my position: Heaps recently married. My wife is the best thing that happened to me at BYU — not the national championship, not the degree, not even the mission, which wouldn't have happened without BYU, as important as all of those things are.
My deal with my own kids is this: When you find your spouse at BYU, you can go anywhere you want for grad school or even transfer before graduation if you wish, although why would you with tuition so low? But you get my point. Ideally, they'll find a spouse and leave with a degree. If you can't get both, I'd rather they leave with the spouse. I did. Came back 22 years later for the degree. I'm a slow learner.
Heaps is married and his football career is floundering. If he was my kid, I'd counsel him to consider transferring.
In 2004, an obscure BYU QB named Todd Mortensen was buried on the depth chart as a senior so he transferred to the University of San Diego just so he could play — for the sheer fun of it. His head coach was Jim Harbaugh, who helped him get a tryout with Detroit. The Lions kept Mortensen on the practice squad for a year before he got picked up by the Patriots, who assigned him to Hamburg, Germany in NFL Europe. He never made an NFL roster but survived on practice squads in Detroit, New England and the Canadian Football League long enough to earn a couple hundred thousand dollars, which is coming in handy now that he's in Philly attending Wharton for an MBA/JD.
Todd Mortensen did all that with 77 passing attempts, completing 14 of those for one TD and two interceptions in his Cougar career. Know what allowed him to make the leap of faith to leave BYU? His wife Lori. My point is, being married just makes it easier, whether you transfer to San Diego or Utah.
Interestingly, QBs have transferred between BYU and Utah State — a former BYU teammate of mine, Gym Kimball, transferred and started for the Aggies and everyone knows Riley Nelson's story. Certainly, players have transferred between BYU and Utah — Jake Murphy and Travis Uale are current examples. But never a QB between Happy Valley and The Hill.
Jake Heaps can still recoup his college football career. And make history.
By leaving the Y for the U.