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Former BYU QB Jake Heaps 'chomping at the bit' to get back in a real-game situation

Published: Monday, July 22 2013 1:35 p.m. MDT

Kanas quarterback Jake Heaps conducts interviews during a breakout session at the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days Monday, July 22, 2013 in Dallas.

TIM SHARP, AP

By the time the Kansas Jayhawks football team opens its 2013 season, the countdown will have hit 643 days.

Six hundred and forty-three days since former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps has played in a college football game, dating back to the Cougars' win over Hawaii on Dec. 3, 2011. That day, Heaps threw just one pass in BYU's 41-20 victory.

It probably doesn't help that Kansas will start its 2013 season a week later than most, with its season opener on Sept. 7 against North Dakota.

"On my phone, I have a countdown. I can't wait. I'm chomping at the bit to get out there," Heaps, who is expected to start at quarterback for the Jayhawks, told Big 12 Insider's Wendell Barnhouse during the Big 12 Football Media Days in downtown Dallas. "I'm so excited, it's been long overdue. And I can't wait to put on the Kansas Jayhawks uniform and run out there as a Kansas Jayhawk."

This will be the second straight season the Jayhawks start a transfer quarterback. Last year, Dayne Crist went to Kansas after three previous seasons at Notre Dame and he struggled. While playing in 10 games and starting seven, Crist completed just 47.7 percent of his passes and threw for 1,313 yards, four touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The situation this year with Heaps is different, though.

"Dayne was coming in off back-to-back ACLs (knee injuries)," Kansas second-year coach Charlie Weis told media members during a question-and-answer session at the Big 12 Football Media Days. "As a quarterback you can simulate a lot of things but the one thing you are not going to do is in training camp let your starting quarterback get hit a whole bunch of times. So you don't know what's going to happen when the real bullets start flying. We all saw ... he wasn't playing with a lot of confidence. He wasn't playing with that air about him that, 'I'm not worrying about my knees. I'm just going to go ahead and let it go.'

"Jake has no physical issues. Jake just had to sit for a year while he was biding his time for his opportunity to play. So I think that Jake will come in with a lot more confidence than Dayne came in because health issues are not even in the back of his mind — knock on wood."

Sitting out the past year due to transfer rules after spending two years at BYU has been tough for Heaps, one he called "excruciating." But he said it has helped him gain a different perspective "on not only how to play the game but just what I could do to help my team get better in this offseason, and that's been really helpful for our team."

"I never changed my mode as far as how I prepared. The moment I got there at Kansas I prepared like I was going to be the starter, I practiced like I was going to be the starter in spring ball and I've always been that way," Heaps said. "I just put my best foot forward and have really worked hard and have done it on a consistent basis every day and I think that has gone a long ways with my teammates."

Following a 1-11 season in 2012, Kansas was picked to finish last in the Big 12 in this year's preseason media poll.

"If I were you, I'd pick us in the same spot," Weis said.

Combining those struggles to win with the fact Kansas ended the 2012 season ranked 117th in the country in passing offense, averaging 148.7 yards per game, means there will be plenty of uphill struggles for Heaps and the Kansas offense to overcome.

On the positive side, the Jayhawks rushed for 211.67 yards per game last year, good enough for 22nd nationally. They will also benefit from the return of James Sims for his senior season after he rushed for 1,103 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago.

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