Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall candidly told reporters this week that quarterback Jake Heaps is open to the possibility of redshirting next season.
But Heaps isn't as eager to discuss such issues, explaining that he's not concerned about the future.
"I'm just not worried about it right now," Heaps told the media after Wednesday's practice. "Everyone else shouldn't even think about whether I'm going to be here or not or whether I'm going to redshirt or not."
Many have speculated that Heaps could transfer after this season, but he isn't interested in talking about transferring or redshirting. He said that such speculation is "inappropriate" right now.
"We've got four weeks left in the season and I don't think that's something anyone should be talking about. I'm focused on being here at BYU and giving this team and this season the best that I have."
The sophomore QB, who entered the season with lofty expectations, started the first five games before being replaced by junior Riley Nelson in the third quarter against Utah State on Sept. 30. Nelson rallied the Cougars to a dramatic victory over the Aggies and has been the starter ever since.
The only playing time Heaps has had since his demotion came in the second half against Idaho State on Oct. 22, and he could see more action Saturday (7:15 p.m., MT, ESPN2) if BYU builds a comfortable lead against Idaho.
On Tuesday, Mendenhall said that redshirting Heaps "would probably be a wise thing to do to create separation between him and Riley and if Riley continues to play well. So it is an option we have talked about … he was actually excited about the possibility, but again, knowing that Riley still has to play well."
If Heaps redshirts in 2012, Nelson would be the undisputed starter as a senior. Then Heaps, with two years of eligibility remaining, could take over for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
But Heaps said that talking about the future right now is detrimental because "that's taking away from this team and what we have going on for us the rest of this season. All the guys are worried about, all I'm worried about, is coming to practice today, then tomorrow and the next day, then we play Idaho. I'm really just taking this day by day. I'm going to give my 100 percent commitment to this team and this program throughout the rest of this season. That's all I'm focused on."
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman said he is not looking at the long-term aspects of Heaps' situation.
"I just try not to get too far down the road with Jake. I just try to prepare him every day to prepare to be able to play on Saturday," he said. "He's got a great future ahead of him. A really bright future. The tough thing for him is now being in a backup role and dealing with that. It's difficult. But I'm excited to see how he progresses through this and what happens. We'll talk redshirt, if that even becomes an option, down the road."
Doman said that Heaps is adapting to his role as a backup and that "maturity" is one of the qualities that he's acquiring during this process.
"He's seen a lot now and he's experienced a lot. He's dealt with the emotions of not playing and coach Doman coaching another guy hard and him not getting quite the same amount of coaching," Doman explained. "Being in that role is unique. It provides him with an opportunity to learn. What he learns and how much he learns is entirely up to him. I've seen a lot of growth in him as a person. Whether he thinks he needs it or not, he needs it. We all need it. This is a chance for him to grow."
Though Heaps struggled as a starter this season, Mendenhall loves Heaps' upside, saying that he will be an NFL quarterback someday. Heaps started 10 games as a true freshman last season and broke every freshman quarterback record at BYU.
"What's easy to forget is that he was a true freshman last year. He's a kid that came in as a high school senior in January and then ended up starting for us as a true freshman," Mendenhall said. "He's young. There were a lot of expectations because of the way he played in his freshman year, and I think time and maturity and age will help him. It doesn't mean that anybody likes to wait or likes to exercise patience, and I'm not sure that (Heaps is) embracing it yet, but more maybe now than he did when we first made the decision to put Riley in."
Mendenhall said that he meets with Heaps weekly.
"That will be ongoing through the rest of the season and probably into the offseason," Mendenhall added. "We're trying to help him solidify where he is and how he needs to mature and where, and to help his game improve. We're talking about his future and all the things that might be significant about helping him."
"It's something both him and I have wanted to do," Heaps said of the weekly meetings. "More him, to make sure I'm doing okay and hanging in there. It's been good to meet with him and talk with him and go through this experience."
Heaps said that he's "just taking this (situation) in stride and trying to make the best of it. That's all I can do."
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