There’s a reason BYU was once called Quarterback U.
Well, a handful of reasons:Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, and Ty Detmer, just to name a few.
The post-Detmer era has been largely devoid of such household names. There have been some standouts: Steve Sarkisian, Brandon Doman, John Beck, and most recently Max Hall, now the winningest signal caller in BYU history.
These, however, have been mingled with the forgettable likes of Ryan Hancock, Charlie Peterson, Bret Engemann, and Matt Berry.
Now that recruiting has ended and spring football is around the corner, one question permeates Cougar Nation: Which category will highly-touted quarterback Jake Heaps play his way into?
While any look into the future must be taken with a grain of salt, the following prediction is not out of the realm of possibility: Jake Heaps will become the greatest quarterback in BYU history.
A tall order? Absolutely.
An impossible one? Not in the least.
The key is for Heaps to win the starting job as soon as possible. After all, that’s the reason Heaps enrolled early: to participate in spring ball and compete for the starting job.
Heaps’ stiffest competition will be Riley Nelson, but the freshman may have the edge despite Nelson’s experience. Turing the keys over to Nelson may cause the Cougars to re-tool their entire offense to accommodate the dual-threat quarterback.
With Harvey Unga coming back for his senior season, there is no reason to tweak BYU’s attack. If anything, his return benefits Heaps—having a perpetual safety valve in Unga means that Heaps can ease his way into the pro-style offense without having to make plays to win every game.
In other words, Jake Heaps and Mark Sanchez will have something in common. Who knew?
No BYU quarterback has been a full-time four-year starter. Heaps has the ability to become the first—barring injury, of course. The sheer number of games Heaps would play under such a scenario gives him a great chance to rewrite the BYU record books.
Assuming the Cougars play 12 regular season games and a bowl game in each of Heaps’ four years, the total comes to 52 games. Even if Heaps lost 19 of those games, he could still pass Max Hall’s career wins record of 32.
The last time BYU lost at least 19 games in a four-year stretch was 2003-2006. Keep in mind that only eight of those losses came under Bronco Mendenhall.
Despite Hall’s ascent up the career wins list, Ty Detmer is still the gold standard for career statistical dominance at BYU: 1,530 pass attempts, 958 completions, 15,031 yards, and 121 touchdowns in 46 games.
Here’s about what Heaps would have to average over 52 games to pass the Heisman Trophy winner: 29.5 attempts, 18.5 completions, 289.1 yards, and 2.4 touchdowns.
Seems pretty reachable, doesn’t it?
Heaps will need plenty of help from his receivers, of course, but his ability to grow a rapport with them has already shone through. Talented freshman wideout Ross Apo would not have de-committed from Texas if not for Heaps’ influence.
The Heaps-Apo connection has the chance to become as potent as Colt McCoy to Jordan Shipley or Tony Romo to Jason Witten—two close friends who know how to pace a successful offensive attack.
Even while Apo gets his feet wet, plenty of Cougar receivers have shown the ability to make big plays, including McKay Jacobson, O’Neill Chambers, Spencer Hafoka, and Luke Ashworth.
Some will say Heaps needs a National Championship to become BYU’s greatest. Good thing he and his fellow recruits have made it known they have the crystal football in their sights.
Does Heaps need a Heisman to cement his legacy? Not necessarily, but it clearly wouldn’t hurt. Being in the BYU system will almost always cause some voters to discredit him, but perhaps increased national attention on the Cougars can open some eyes and soften some hearts.
Again, speculation is an inexact science, and a curveball or two is nearly inevitable. As it stands now, however, the future could not be any brighter for Jake Heaps or BYU football.