Brad Rock: BYU football: Jake Heaps, Bronco Mendenhall should check out their options

Published: Thursday, Dec. 1 2011 1:31 p.m. MST

Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall watches his team warm up before the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. At left is BYU quarterback Jake Heaps.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY – There's a decent chance Jake Heaps will transfer from BYU, sometime after this month's Armed Forces Bowl. He hasn't said so, but he'd be crazy not to look around.

While he's at it, maybe he should invite Bronco Mendenhall to do the same.

That would make two guys who could get a lot of love someplace besides BYU.

As speculation continues that the Cougar quarterback will leave after this season, there is also the matter of his coach. Mendenhall has built a 64-24 record in seven seasons at BYU, been to a bowl game every time. The man is as consistent as fast food.

Yet he is nearing the end of another season, knowing he's playing in the low-rung Armed Forces Bowl. If BYU qualifies for bowl status in coming years, the next two stops will likely be the Poinsettia and the Kraft Fight Hunger bowls.

I know. Hold on to your hat.

So Mendenhall's immediate future looks a lot like Heaps' — pretty limited. Which makes for an interesting irony. It was Mendenhall who benched Heaps in favor of Riley Nelson. Yet in a way, Mendenhall and Heaps are in the same canoe.

Neither is getting what, or where, he should.

Mendenhall has been a nice fit for BYU. He's pleasant, successful and measured. In other words, he's glad to take the party line. So when BYU announced it was going independent, he was, to borrow a phrase, fully invested.

But thanks to TV considerations, BYU has now missed chances to play in the Big 12 and Big East conferences. That bothers a lot of people and deep inside, Mendenhall has to be among them. BYU wanted exposure and it's getting quite a bit. But competition? He can't be pleased with a schedule that includes Idaho, New Mexico State, Hawaii, Idaho State and San Jose State.

What, was Cornell booked?

Thanks to his winning percentage, Mendenhall's name is bound to get mentioned around the country. UCLA, Arizona State, Illinois and Kansas have fired their coaches. Mendenhall could help any of them. If Washington State can hire Mike Leach at an exorbitant salary, after he was fired at Texas Tech, plenty of schools could use a scandal-free, winning coach such as Mendenhall. At least some of them have to be looking his way.

And he has to be looking back.

Whether he would do as well in a place where he couldn't have Friday night firesides is debatable. But if I were Mendenhall, and I knew that for the foreseeable future BYU is limited in scheduling and bowl opportunities, I'd consider leaving.

The advantages of big conference affiliation became obvious this year when Utah came one win from playing for a Rose Bowl berth, despite losing four previous conference games. But BYU has known since April that shy of a perfect season it was going no further than Fort Worth for its postseason.

The Armed Forces Bowl payout is $600,000 compared to $2 million for the Sun Bowl, where Utah is expected to play.

So it might be moving season in Provo. In Heaps' case, transferring only makes sense. Mendenhall has called him an NFL-type talent. In that case, he shouldn't be carrying a clipboard on Saturday.

You think Washington doesn't still want him? Alabama? USC? Oklahoma? Florida? Georgia? Tennessee? LSU?

There are a hundred Division I colleges that would invite him to come, and most of them would give him the keys to the bus. Does he have an attitude? Could be, though I've never seen it. He has been remarkably mature about the whole backup thing. But I can see why he would be baffled.

If I were Heaps, I'd use his wonderful right arm to hail a cab.

In Mendenhall's case, I'd weigh whether I was content to stay in Provo, playing the schedule BYU has, plus the bowls it currently engages. If I wanted more, I wouldn't wait for BYU to change.

I'd ask Heaps if he wanted to split the taxi fare to the airport.

email: rock@desnews.com

Twitter: therockmonster

Facebook: rockmonsterunplugged

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