The time has come for Jake Heaps to be given the reins of the BYU offense.
Riley Nelson is an excellent athlete but, in regards to his passing ability, he is not a Division 1 quarterback.
He would be a great fit for one of the service academies or Georgia Tech, but success at BYU is predicated on having a quarterback that can stand in the pocket, make the proper reads and deliver the ball when and where it needs to be.
By the time the Falcons and Cougars reached the second half on Saturday, the Air Force coaching staff realized that Nelson could not hurt them through the air.
The Falcons simply played man coverage on the outside and put eight men in the box to defend against Nelson beating them with his feet. The result was the Cougars amassing just 88 yards through the air for the game and getting shut out on the scoreboard in the second half.
What we saw in Colorado Springs on Saturday was an offense that appeared to be out of sync, confused and quite frankly giving less than their best effort.
With the two quarterback approach, neither signal caller has gotten the reps needed to be fully prepared to lead the offense.
As I have mentioned before, I believe that Heaps should have been receiving starter reps since the end of spring camp. It doesn’t take a football genius to look at the skill sets of the two quarterbacks and know which player is a BYU-type quarterback.
There is no doubt that Heaps will take his share of lumps this season while he grows into the position and assumes leadership of the offense, but in the long run for this season and beyond, making the true freshman the starter now is the right move.
Heaps needs to be given the opportunity to struggle, make mistakes and fight through some adversity. The kid is fully capable of taking his knocks and working through it.
I believe that a major reason for involving Riley in the starting rotation has been an effort to maintain the team culture of seniority and paying dues as a player. However, as the program brings in more gifted athletes in an effort to play a beefed up schedule as an independent, the culture will need to evolve.
The move was also made in hopes of avoiding a significant drop off from the past four years. Four straight double-digit win seasons has created some pretty lofty expectations in Provo.
The reality is, with all the new faces on both sides of the ball at key positions, this team isn’t likely to win 10 games no matter who the quarterback is. With that reality check in place, it just makes sense to get your young guy with the golden arm the experience needed to take your program into the era of independence.
Nelson and the Cougar offense would be far more effective with Riley having limited situational snaps in games, forcing defenses to adjust to the change in pace he creates. The guy is tough, he’s gritty, he’s a leader – he just can’t throw the football effectively at this level.
The Cougars best chance this week against Florida State is to go with the guy that can air it out and presents an opportunity to make some things happen in the passing game. The Seminoles have struggled with their pass defense in recent years. They gave up nearly 400 yards through the air against Oklahoma on Saturday.
Playing Nelson will play right into the hands of FSU, by not challenging their secondary and allowing their athletes in the front seven to control the game.
Yes, Heaps may make some mistakes playing a big name school in Doak-Campbell, one of those storied stadiums the Cougars hope to play more games at in the future. He could also emerge as a star. We will never know unless he gets his chance.