Tom Smart, Deseret News
Jake Heaps and BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman talk during a practice. Heaps has left the BYU program.
PROVO — Perhaps nobody at BYU took the decision by sophomore Jake Heaps to transfer harder than offensive coordinator Brandon Doman.
Doman invested a lot of time recruiting Heaps, building a relationship with him, and developing him as a quarterback.
After the Cougars held their first practice Monday in preparation for the Armed Forces Bowl against Tulsa on Dec. 30 (10 a.m., MT, ESPN), both Doman and coach Bronco Mendenhall answered questions about Heaps' decision to leave the program.
Both said they wanted him to remain in Provo.
"It was hard to see him go, after spending three years being involved with his life and recruiting him," Doman said. "I think for him, and for me, it was a tough decision for him to make. I'll be rooting for him, but it's sad to see him go."
"I would much rather have had Jake stay. I wanted him to stay. I love him as a young man and he has such great football skill," Mendenhall said. "I've said many times that I believe he is an NFL quarterback. I thought he would have done a great job leading our football program here. I was hopeful that the hard, valuable lessons of watching another quarterback while biding your time through a redshirt year next year would have been what he chose. But I agreed to help him. That's what I've continued to do through the transfer process. I wish he would have chosen to be here."
Heaps informed the coaches that he had decided to transfer the day after BYU defeated Hawaii, 41-20, in Honolulu on Dec. 3. Mendenhall said he didn't necessarily try to convince Heaps to stay at BYU.
"I just made sure he knew what he was choosing," Mendenhall said. "That's all I ever do. I just made sure he knew what we were going to do with him, what the benefits I saw for that plan would be, and allowed him to make his choice."
Heaps started the first five games of the season before being replaced by junior Riley Nelson.
There have been reports that there was a falling out between Heaps and Doman during the season, but Doman refuted those.
"I've never been replaced (as a quarterback). I can't relate entirely to that experience. But I do know that it wasn't an easy thing for Jake," Doman said. "I think the transition from going from the starter to the backup, and the amount of volume of time that it is spent on the starter is hard. I don't blame him for not liking it very much. But as far as a falling out or a disconnect, I mean, I don't know. Maybe there was some frustration on his end. Gosh, I never experienced any disgruntled feelings or a falling out. I've heard 'lack of communication,' where he and I weren't talking. Heavens, no. That wasn't the case."
Doman wasn't surprised that Heaps ultimately decided to leave, explaining that the two talked extensively about Heaps' options.
"We've had at least three conversations leading up to him transferring. I let him know what I thought in relation to transferring," Doman said. "I went through all of the options available to him. I told him I'd support him in whatever he decided to do but then I voiced my opinion and concern for transferring, even up to the last day, trying to get him to stay … I wanted him to know I wanted him stay here, and if he wasn't going to stay, I wasn't going to have hard feelings and I'd help him in any way I could."
There were no restrictions placed by BYU on where Heaps could transfer, Doman said.
Last weekend, Heaps took a recruiting trip to Kansas. Other possible destinations include Cal and Washington State.
"There's a ton of options available to him," Doman said. "I don't know how solid or how concrete any of those are. I think he's got good choices."
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After news surfaced about Heaps transferring, there was speculation that other players whom Heaps helped recruit to BYU — like wide receiver Ross Apo and linebacker Kyle Van Noy — might transfer as well.
"I have no concern about that at all," Mendenhall said. "Those players, who were part of Jake's class, have come to me and said, 'We love it here and we're staying. This is (Jake's) decision only.'"
COUGARS AND GOLDEN HURRICANE ON THE AIR
Armed Forces Bowl
Tulsa (8-4) vs. BYU (9-3)
Dec. 30, 10 a.m., MT
Ford Stadium, Dallas
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM