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Jake Heaps transfer puts QB position in flux for 2013

Published: Thursday, Dec. 8 2011 1:01 p.m. MST

Alta team surrounded by quarterback Ammon Olsen (4) celebrate as Alta High School defeats Bingham High School 21-17 in the State 5A championship football game in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 21, 2008.

Tom Smart, Deseret News archives

PROVO — With the departure of Jake Heaps, the perceived future landscape of the quarterback position departs with him. Heaps was the future at the position, in most people’s minds, but now the future prospects at quarterback have to be re-evaluated.

Next season, Riley Nelson will obviously retain the reins as BYU’s starting quarterback. But what about in 2013? That was the year Heaps and all of his great potential was supposed to have blossomed in full, leading BYU to possibly its first-ever BCS bowl berth.

It was a perfect scenario, given what will likely prove to be BYU’s toughest schedule to date. Teams such as Georgia Tech, Texas, Boise State and Notre Dame are lined up on the Cougars' 2013 schedule, which was good timing assuming Heaps would reach his senior year or redshirt junior year.

The marquee name that pops up in most people’s minds to fill in for Nelson is Taysom Hill, who will be joining the program in January. He signed with Stanford, but never enrolled there before electing to serve an LDS Church mission right out of high school.

Hill’s future prospects at BYU have been tweaked by Heaps and his decision to transfer. While it was previously assumed that he’d ease into the position in 2014, he’ll be looked at as one of the top options for the 2013 season.

This isn’t the first time that Heaps has affected Hill and his future at BYU.

During an offseason camp in June 2008, Hill made the trip down from Pocatello, Idaho, very much interested in BYU as a potential suitor. What he found there was Heaps, and BYU coaches fawning all over him.

Heaps was very much the center of BYU’s attention, perceived as the future at the QB position. Hill likely didn’t feel wanted, didn’t perform all that well during that particular camp — according to observers — and opted to commit to Stanford just weeks after his BYU camp experience.

Hill was a three-star athlete, ranked 30th at the QB position by scout.com when he signed with Stanford in 2009. His offer list was impressive — Utah, Arizona, Boise State and Washington State all came forward with offers, along with his offers from BYU and Stanford.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall made the rare admission that they hadn’t recruited Hill well out of high school but will be gaining his services regardless.

“He’s a great athlete, a great leader,” said Mendenhall of Hill. “He’s very, very productive — super smart in terms of a student, and we really wanted him. We had gotten in late during the recruiting process and by then we really hadn’t done a nice job of finding and then building a relationship, so it was a too-little-too-late thing on why he went to Stanford.”

Hill is considered by most to be at least as good of an athlete as he is a quarterback — much like the quarterback he’ll be looking to succeed. Given his pedigree and the offense BYU is likely to come out of the 2012 season with, Hill should have a leg up on the competition.

With how Nelson plays, coupled with how offensive coordinator Brandon Doman played, add to that coach Joe DuPaix — who is joined at the hip with Doman — and his coaching background (Navy, Skyline High School) and what do you have? It would seem very likely that BYU will be moving toward a zone-read-option-type offense — at least for the near future.

It’s the best offense for Nelson and will likely prove to be the best offense for Hill. But there we go again, penciling in the future of the QB position, which almost never goes as planned.

Jason Munns is still around — remember him?

Munns signed with BYU as a four-star prospect with offers from Utah, Arizona State and Washington State before deciding on BYU. He’ll be a well-seasoned redshirt senior by the time 2013 rolls around.

Up to this point, Munns hasn’t shown all that much during practice sessions, but he hasn’t had much of a chance to show his abilities, given his paltry share of QB reps. The Kennewick, Wash., native presents a huge 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame that is surprisingly mobile for his size.

Munns will certainly get a look in 2013, along with other prospects such as Ammon Olsen.

Olsen played for Alta High and signed and played for Southern Utah in 2009, before opting to serve an LDS Church mission. He’ll join the program in January along with Hill and will immediately begin competing — hoping to earn the starting nod in 2013.

Olsen, like Hill, brings a mobile and athletic makeup to the QB position, which may serve him very well if Doman moves toward more of a read-option offense. He ran for 860 yards and 11 touchdowns his senior year at Alta while throwing for 3,209 more while earning 5A state MVP honors.

"Ammon is a big, strong athletic quarterback," said Doman. "He was not only an outstanding quarterback in high school but an exceptional basketball player as well. He helped his teams be very successful and we anticipate him doing the same for us as a Cougar."

So there you have it — the top three candidates to pencil in as BYU’s starting quarterback in 2013. Given the fact that almost no one had Riley Nelson penciled in as BYU’s starter for 2012, that list of three is very subject to change.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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