Ranking the best of the BYU quarterbacks that left the program

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 13 2011 9:00 p.m. MST

Ralph Martini

So Jake Heaps is leaving BYU and headed to a school to be named later. What else is new. He's not the first backup or demoted quarterback to hit the road at BYU. Ty Detmer alone sent more players to the bus station than the honor code.

Quarterbacks flock to BYU like violinists to Juilliard, but only one plays and the rest sit or leave to find another place to play. BYU has lost more good quarterbacks than most schools have signed.

Below is a list of a baker's dozen of the best BYU quarterbacks who transferred to other schools — and, in many cases, transferred again and again — to find starting jobs.

"I can't remember trying to keep any of them from leaving," says former BYU head coach LaVell Edwards. "They were good players, but they could see they weren't going to get the opportunity to play. In most cases we'd help them find a school, or, if they had some place in mind, we'd call that school."

If BYU could claim a mulligan, which quarterback would they try again? Here's a highly subjective rating of the quarterbacks who got away.

1. Drew Miller

Miller is arguably the best quarterback to leave the Cougars. His career at BYU paralleled Heaps' stay there. Both were from Washington. Both threw for more than 9,000 yards and 100 touchdowns. Both earned All-America honors. Both were thrown into action early. Both were required to split time with veteran players. Both stayed two seasons.

Miller planned to redshirt his freshman season, but after an injury to starter Kevin Feterik he was called into mop-up duty and later became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for BYU.

He shared the job with Paul Shoemaker and played in four games. In one of those games, he threw three second-half TD passes to beat TCU. A year later, he shared playing time with Feterik before an injury sidelined Miller.

In a total of 11 games at BYU, Miller completed 60 of 112 passes for 762 yards, five TDs and six interceptions. Stuck behind Feterik and sour about losing his redshirt year for little playing time, he transferred to the University of Montana, where he became a star.

Miller led Division I-AA in pass efficiency as a junior in 1999 and guided the Grizzlies to a 9-2 regular-season record and a conference title while throwing for 3,461 yards and 32 TDs. As a senior he started 12 games (he missed three starts with injuries) and threw for 2,439 yards and 14 touchdowns. Another injury sidelined him in the early going of the I-AA championship game, and the Grizzlies lost 27-25. Miller, who set a Big Sky Conference record for passing yards per game, played briefly in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League.

"He went on to have a great career," says Edwards.

It's tempting to wonder what he would have done if he had remained at BYU.

2. Ralph Martini

When the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Martini arrived at BYU in 1986, there was a crowd of quarterbacks and a dearth of tight ends, so Martini was moved to tight end for a season. He caught two passes, both for touchdowns. He returned to quarterback as a sophomore, but the position was still loaded and he didn't want to play the tight end position again. He transferred to San Jose State in 1988 and started at quarterback in 1989 and 1990, passing for 3,897 yards, 30 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The Cougars, meanwhile, had to make do with a kid named Ty Detmer.

"He's another one who came along when we had a lot of good ones at the position," says Edwards.

3. Todd Mortensen

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