Vai's View: Vai's View: Jake Heaps situation, Part II

Published: Friday, Nov. 4 2011 10:00 a.m. MDT

In this file photo taken Sept. 23, 2011, BYU Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) throws against UCF in Provo. BYU won 24-17.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News archives) In this file photo taken Sept. 23, 2011, BYU Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) throws against UCF in Provo. BYU won 24-17. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News archives)

"There are no original ideas."

— Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

I try to read three newspapers online every day — The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News for work and the Deseret News for pleasure. In writing last week's column, I did not know that the Salt Lake Tribune's Gordon Monson had written and was the first to suggest that Jake Heaps transfer to Utah. I consider Gordon a friend who grew up in the East near where I now live, so I want to acknowledge his column. I read Gordon's column after mine was posted and while we agree on the basic premise, I do feel I added a little more to make my argument.

Sorry to disappoint those of you looking for a retraction or an apology.

The person owed one is Gordon, whom I called and offered a personal apology this week. I also make it publicly here. Sorry, Gordon. It was an honest mistake that I didn't acknowledge your column.

Gordon was a gentleman and waived it off. He wasn't even aware of my column. I suppose it could have easily been Gordon making the same mistake since he didn't read my piece and I wouldn't have been offended any more than he was. Besides, who's to say two columnists can't share similar opinions on similar issues?

Having said all that, I stand by my column and my opinion.

A few posted righteous indignation that I'm advocating quitting, cutting bait and running, or not staying to see something through to the end. Worse, that somehow my position is at the heart of Occupy Wall Street and the high divorce rate. That's jumping the shark, don'tcha think? Relax, folks.

To those, it seems they've conveniently overlooked the fact that four current BYU starters, quarterback Riley Nelson, linebacker Uona Kavenga, safety Travis Uale and defensive tackle Loni Fangupo all transferred from other places for a variety of reasons, including a log jam at their position at their first choice. There are a handful of others on the team who transferred to BYU for a host of reasons but aren't yet playing. And every year, a handful transfer away for some of the same reasons.

I'd be hard-pressed to call any of them "quitters." They came to BYU seeking opportunities to maximize their talents because for whatever reason, their previous schools weren't the right fit. It's the same reason some guys leave BYU. It was that way when I was there and will continue to be that way as long as BYU is involved in college sports.

Two summers ago, BYU senior Loni Fangupo married my first cousin, Rebekah Wolfgramm. Loni's grandfather and my dad were boyhood friends in Tonga, so I'm close to bride and groom. At the wedding, I kidded Loni that it was a shame he wasn't a Cougar because they could really use him. We shared a good laugh, but he was surrounded by a bunch of his USC teammates, which is why I made my comment in Tongan.

Fangupo only played sporadically at USC, but it was an attempted burglary at his apartment while Rebekah was home alone that compelled him to transfer to BYU. I suspect he's playing more at BYU than he would have at SC. His former Trojan teammate, Uona Kavenga, is also making an impact at BYU that he didn't at USC. No one's complaining that we've taken on USC transfers who quit on the Trojans — because they didn't.

Coaches make mistakes on players every year and in fact, occasionally encourage and even help players transfer to other places because it doesn't work out. The vast majority of college athletes find the transition from high school star to D1 more difficult than they ever imagined.

Once reality sets in and they're resigned to that fact, most are happy just to be a part of the program and if wise, take full advantage of being on a "full-ride." But there's always a small group of players who, frankly, would be better off taking their talents to a school where they might flourish.

I continue to believe that given the situation at BYU, Heaps will never resume the starting job unless Nelson gets hurt. Nelson has done what Heaps didn't: win the hearts and minds of his teammates.

I think Heaps can play somewhere, just not at BYU. Transferring should be a last resort. But there's also a relatively short window to do it if you're to capitalize on it. Who knows if Utah would even want Heaps, but their QB problems may not be solved in the next year or two so it might be a good fit. My guess is Heaps will be asked to redshirt at season's end.

I arrived at BYU just as Jim McMahon was coming off his redshirt year. Difference is, McMahon was better than Marc Wilson, so Jim never lost the faith of his coaches and teammates. Heaps doesn't have that luxury.

Heaps certainly isn't better than Nelson right now. I'm not sure that even after redshirting Heaps would be the guy. I think he's in that tight of a predicament.

Earlier this week, I exchanged emails with former BYU quarterback Todd Mortensen, now a Wharton MBA/JD candidate here in Philly, who I cited in my story last week. To recap, Mortensen was buried on the depth chart at BYU back in '04 so he transferred his senior year to the University of San Diego just so he could play. He played one year at USD then enjoyed a short-lived pro career on two NFL teams and one in the CFL. He read my column and while he was careful that he didn't advocate for Heaps to transfer, his perspective is nonetheless interesting.

"Your assessment of my situation was pretty accurate," Mortensen wrote. "I went to San Diego because I really wanted to have the chance to be a starter and know that I would be playing every Saturday. Having met Lori and gotten married made the move a little easier. Another big part of the decision for me to transfer was that I had already graduated with my degree by my junior year of eligibility. So, I had accomplished just about everything that I had hoped to do in deciding to come to BYU at that point. I had met my spouse and finished up my degree; the only thing that I hadn't done yet was have the chance to be a starting quarterback in college."

He went on to share his observation that transferring has produced mixed results among those who have left BYU for other places, such as Ben Olson to UCLA and Drew Miller going to Montana. It worked out splendidly for Miller, not so much for Olson. Mortensen added that transferring is a drastic measure and though it worked out swimmingly for him, it doesn't always shake out that way.

Bottom line? It's a crapshoot. I suggested last week that given the Utes' dire QB situation it may be an ideal landing spot for Heaps if he were to decide to leave. Utah may or may not be a possibility — that's up to them. But if I'm Jake, I would keep my options open. It's a fluid situation and based on what I'm seeing, BYU is not going to be good scenario for him.

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