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Dick Harmon: Jake Heaps, Cougars couldn't make it work

Published: Monday, Dec. 5 2011 2:42 p.m. MST

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) as Brigham Young University plays New Mexico State University in football Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Provo, Utah.    (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) as Brigham Young University plays New Mexico State University in football Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Provo, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

PROVO — Two scenes tell the tale of the Jake Heaps saga in Provo.

There might be many other key anecdotes in the short career of the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit of 2010, but the following will suffice in wake of his announcement Monday that he'll transfer from BYU effective Dec. 17.

In June 2009, Heaps joined receiver Ross Apo and linebacker Zack Stout at Iggy's in Salt Lake City and announced their commitment to sign with BYU and their desire to win a national championship. It was staged, choreographed and arranged by a private public relations person.

Switch to the night of Sept. 30, 2011, in LaVell Edwards Stadium. Jake's wife Brooke watched her husband get benched as BYU trailed late against Utah State. As his replacement Riley Nelson sparked a Cougar comeback, several rows behind her, members of Nelson's family (not his mom and dad) were observed yelling down at Brooke, "Why aren't you cheering now?"

Brigham Young Cougar quarterback Jake Heaps (9)  poses  during media day in Provo  Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougar quarterback Jake Heaps (9) poses during media day in Provo Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

In tears, Brooke witnessed the victory but never attended another BYU game.

Folks will argue the bits and pieces of Heaps' departure for years to come. They'll debate why and question whether he was justified in leaving. They'll examine and scrutinize BYU's coaches, the culture on the team. Many will blame BYU's squad and coaches, others will say Heaps brought it on himself in his approach or eagerness to be No. 1.

Fact is, it doesn't matter. The divorce is final and it is over. Both are headed in different directions. In the end, collateral damage won out and Heaps believes it best to move elsewhere and start over; BYU likes its more mobile QB pipeline.

Weeks before Monday's announcement, Heaps had a third-party examine interest in his talents elsewhere. Taylor Barton, his QB guru since he was 9 years old, had been contacting potential suitors. It was Barton who advised Heaps to go to BYU.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) has the ball knocked loose by Utah Utes linebacker Trevor Reilly (49) as the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Nate Sorensen
 (Nate Sorensen, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) has the ball knocked loose by Utah Utes linebacker Trevor Reilly (49) as the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Nate Sorensen (Nate Sorensen, Deseret News)

It was Barton who is advising Heaps today and it was Barton who gave Mason Kelly of the Seattle Times the scoop on the Heaps transfer on Monday. Kelly covered Heaps in high school.

It is through Barton that Heaps is now being advised by a group of professionals who have counseled him not to comment — except through a released statement to ESPN — publicly. Advisors told Heaps he should avoid personal interviews with print and radio for at least a week.

As first reported in the Deseret News on Sunday, if Heaps did transfer, the machinery would kick into motion within 24 hours of the team plane touching down from the Hawaii game.

For at least a month, Heaps has told some team members it didn't look like he'd be at the bowl game Dec. 30 in Dallas. For more than a month — since the 54-10 loss to Utah — he and his quarterback coach Brandon Doman have had a falling out.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) celebrates  after the win   in Provo, Utah, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010.  Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) celebrates after the win in Provo, Utah, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Monday's move came as no surprise.

Heaps will be required to complete his winter semester work to be eligible at his new school. The NCAA requires he redshirt next season. Schools who have shown the most interest are USC of the Pac-12 and South Carolina of the SEC. If he stays in the West, California and Washington could become players. He will decide in the next two weeks.

Utah has never been an option.

"Jake has decided to leave the program in pursuit of a fresh start for he and his young family," Mendenhall said. "Jake is a great young man with tremendous potential and someone I deeply care about. I am sorry to see him leave this wonderful institution yet anxious to follow his future development and success."

For his BYU career, Heaps completed 363-of-635 passes for 3,768 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

BYU Quarterback #9 Jake Heaps watches from the sidelines as BYU and Utah State play Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 at Lavell Edwards Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) BYU Quarterback #9 Jake Heaps watches from the sidelines as BYU and Utah State play Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 at Lavell Edwards Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

A graduate of Skyline High in Issaquah, Wash., Heaps started 16 games and played in 22 overall during his freshman and sophomore seasons at BYU the past two seasons. Heaps set BYU freshman passing records for yards, touchdowns and wins while starting the final 10 games as a true freshman in 2010. The highlight of his season came in the 2010 New Mexico Bowl, where he passed for 264 yards and four touchdowns to earn offensive MVP honors in a 52-24 victory over UTEP.

One big part of Heaps' decision is BYU's change in philosophy since he was recruited. Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman likes a mobile quarterback as shown by the energy brought by Nelson.

BYU's future offenses will feature mobility at that position with Stanford transfer Tysom Hill expected to enroll in early 2012. Hill has been timed in 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, faster than either Doman or Nelson showed in college. Former Alta High QB Ammon Olsen, the 5A player of the year, will also join the program and is a passer/runner.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) celebrates the win after  the Cougar season opener with Ole Miss  in Oxford, Miss  Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. BYU won 14-13. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) celebrates the win after the Cougar season opener with Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. BYU won 14-13. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Doman and Mendenhall both like the added dimension of a dual threat at QB and what it forces defenses to do.

Both Doman and Mendenhall, according to informed sources, knew of Heaps' impending departure a long time ago and have been nothing but supportive in quotes given to the media, speaking of NFL potential and his high skill level.

Conversely, the Heaps camp wants to deal with the separation in a similar manner. Public statements about the BYU experience will be positive, that a change in direction was required to reach potential.

Barton posted the following on his website, a conversation with Heaps: "I want to thank everyone for the support they've given me. This has been an incredibly hard time for my wife and me, and she's been an absolute rock.

BYU's #9 Jake Heaps calls out a play at the line as BYU and Utah State play Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 at Lavell Edwards Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) BYU's #9 Jake Heaps calls out a play at the line as BYU and Utah State play Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 at Lavell Edwards Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

"I thought choosing a program when I was being recruited out of high school was hard, but it pales in comparison to making this decision. I have made many friends here, and not just on the football team. People that will be friends of mine for the rest of my life. I really respect and like Coach Mendenhall, he's a great man. I've learned a lot about football from Coach Doman.

"I have no idea where I'm going to end up and I have not talked to anyone."

Heaps said he is looking forward to doing research.

Why now, before the bowl game?

"Out of respect for the coaches and players, it wouldn't have been fair to them if I was going through meetings, practices and recruiting weekends knowing the whole time I wanted to and was going to transfer. I also can't do something half-hearted. If I'm somewhere, I want to be fully committed to it."

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall claims the Cougars' goal is to win another national championship. That lofty aspiration is shared by 2010 recruits Zac Stout, second from left, Ross Apo and Jake Heaps. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall claims the Cougars' goal is to win another national championship. That lofty aspiration is shared by 2010 recruits Zac Stout, second from left, Ross Apo and Jake Heaps. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

What do I think?

I think Heaps sitting out next year at BYU or another school is a push and, if he'd stayed, Doman's offense could have been tweaked to fit his talent. Going to a new place, with an established culture and pecking order and recruits onboard in the program, will present a huge challenge to a newcomer, as he found at BYU. It will start all over again and I think his camp has underestimated it.

With that said, it has been tough on Heaps. BYU's older, mature culture kind of chewed him up the past two years and it started with week No. 1. I saw the same thing happen to John Beck, and he'd already been on a mission; he struggled with the older, established players who wanted someone else — Matt Berry.

The BYU quarterback gig is a tough one.

email: dharmon@desnews.com

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