by Brett Hein
With BYU rolling into independence, all eyes have been on Jake Heaps. Columnists inside and outside of Utah are saying he will have a huge year. Radio personalities are citing statistics that historically, every quarterback has a breakout season in his second season. With Heaps ending 2010 on a hot streak, and with a new offense expected to be more dynamic, and with the addition of Ross Apo to the receiver corp — all this has some prognosticating an all-time season for Heaps.
In addition to talk about Heaps, many are also saying the future of independence is banking on this season (our Adam Mangum disagrees).
All this means Jake Heaps is under the gun to make this season special.
Jake Heaps is a stud, and he will be great for as long as he is in Provo. But are we sure Heaps is going to be awesome right away in 2011?
It’s no secret Heaps struggled in the early part of the season — although his receivers’ inability to catch hurt as much as any mistakes Heaps was making. Heaps’s breakout came in the last five games starting in November. He averaged 252 yards in each game, with 13 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions and a 64% completion rate.
But, those games came against the following defenses:
UNLV: 77th pass defense, 109th total defense
CSU: 74th pass defense, 96th total defense
UNM: 57th pass defense, 119th total defense
Utah: 73rd pass defense, 27th total defense
UTEP: 80th pass defense, 91st total defense
A rough average of those numbers is 72nd pass defense, 88th total defense.
Some would say this means Heaps is unproven; others might say he did what any good quarterback would do against these defenses.
While Heaps is relatively unproven, remember that he was a true freshman last year, a kid leading men. While the last five games don’t prove Heaps is an all-time great, they do prove that he is good. This matters more to Heaps himself, who was able to build both his own confidence and that of his fellow offensive players. The biggest indicator of his coming-of-age is the Utah game. In a game when BYU couldn’t run the ball a lick, Heaps played for 3 quarters with cracked ribs and led two impressive drives to win the game. Unfortunately, Robert Anae took the ball out of Heaps’s hands at the end, settling for piddly runs and a field goal attempt. How much differently would everyone think of Heaps if BYU wins that game? (Especially if Anae lets Heaps keep rolling and gets the ball in the endzone?)
While BYU opens with Ole Miss, who ranked 103rd in pass defense last season, posting a solid game will say a lot for Heaps and the BYU offense. Winning road games against BCS opponents is not in BYU’s repertoire.
Ultimately, why I think Heaps will be just fine is his drive. While he’s good, and he knows he’s good, he expects perfection out of himself. He’s not a diva. Heaps wants as much as fans do to see BYU’s offense become a feared juggernaut.
All this assumes BYU’s fate is entirely on Heaps arm, which isn’t true. The run game will be solid, with a good, experienced offensive line and some talented-enough backs (although I don’t want to sell Quezada short, I think he will prove to be very good for the Cougars). On top of that, the defense will give Heaps some room to work in most games. The front seven should make running against BYU almost impossible, I fully expect that out of that group.
Ultimately, while Heaps isn’t exactly proven, I think at the end of the season we will see that he has become the quarterback many think he already is. Heaps will be good.