Jake Heaps has one last chance to make an impact in his college career. Last month, the former BYU and Kansas quarterback opted to make Miami the home for that last chance.
Since Heaps is a graduate student, he will be able to play immediately.
Graduate quarterback transfers have become en vogue over the past few years. Jacob Coker (Florida State to Alabama), Michael Brewer (Texas Tech to Virginia Tech) and Garrett Gilbert (Texas to SMU) are just a few examples of quarterbacks who wanted to start anew right away.
Programs on the receiving end of those transfers have the opportunity to bridge the gap, so to speak, from one quarterback to another if depth and/or talent is an issue.
No other quarterback transfer in recent years was more high-profile than Russell Wilson, who in 2011 transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin. Wilson led the Badgers to an 11-3 record that season, capped off by a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance.
In a recent teleconference, Heaps said he wants to have a similar experience with the Hurricanes (via Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald):
I didn’t come here to be the backup. I made this decision for a reason. I came here to play, but you have to earn that. No one is going to give that to you, and that’s what I knew coming into this situation and that’s what I wanted.
It wouldn't be the first time Heaps has earned the starting job as a transfer. The former 4-star recruit left BYU for Kansas after his sophomore year in 2011. That was the first sign that Heaps' college career may not live up to the hype. After sitting out a year per NCAA rules, Heaps began the '13 season as the Jayhawks' starting quarterback, but he was benched late in the year in favor of freshman Montell Cozart.
Heaps wasn't efficient at Kansas, that much is undeniable. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But he had no help from the offensive line—the team finished last in the Big 12 in first downs, per CFBStats.com—or his receivers, none of whom caught more than one touchdown pass. Head coach Charlie Weis explained this at Big 12 media days:
With the nature of the offense we've been running from the last couple of years, I think the true dropback quarterbacks have been exposed. When you're playing with marginal offensive line, playing with marginal wide receivers, when you're playing marginal every position except for running back, you get exposed. Changing the mentality on offense, going to a more spread out, wide‐open offense with an athletic quarterback, hides a lot of sins.
Weis has traditionally coached dropback passers, but Cozart is more mobile. There was no future for Heaps at Kansas if Weis was changing his offensive philosophy.
At Miami, Heaps will have an offense that's more suited to his skill set. The Hurricanes have an experienced and large offensive line, a dynamic playmaker in running back Duke Johnson and speedy wide receiver Stacy Coley. It doesn't take a lot of analysis to know the Hurricanes, the preseason pick to win the ACC Coastal, are a far better team talent-wise than the Jayhawks.
Any quarterback can look good with a solid running game and time to throw. That goes for Heaps or anyone else who starts for the 'Canes. For as underwhelming as Heaps' college career has been, it's possible he can still be an effective piece of the offense. He's been playing off and on since he was a freshman in 2010. Experience in all kinds of situations, good and bad, is one thing he definitely has.
The rest of the situation, as Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports tweets, is a little odd:
If Heaps doesn't win the starting job (a possibility) or play well (also a possibility), it's not clear which direction Miami would go. Ryan Williams, the presumed starter before tearing his ACL in the spring, is out indefinitely. Kevin Olsen and Brad Kaaya are the other options.
Certainly, Heaps seems like an early favorite. However, what he won't be is the true difference-maker that elevates Miami's offense to another level. When Wilson went to Wisconsin, he brought another dimension to what had been solely a ground-and-pound offense. Wilson was pass-first quarterback, but his athleticism allowed the Badgers to extend plays and open up the playbook.
Heaps simply doesn't give those same options to Miami. By his own admission, he said on the teleconference that he won't be “taking off for 80-yard touchdowns running." That doesn't mean that he can't be the starter or play well in 2014. It means that opposing defenses won't have to account for him in the same way.
As long as Miami wins, though, it won't matter.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com.