It was just about a year ago that Cougar fans were virtually tearing their hair out with all the rumors of Bronco Mendenhall deciding to use a two-quarterback system with Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps. Cougar fans everywhere were trying to grasp the idea of using both players.
A few losses, a season-ending injury to Nelson, some interceptions and a strong end to the season have helped BYU fans forget all about last year. Cougars fans are ready for 2011 and looking forward to a big year.
Expectations for the Cougars are very high this year. There have been multiple articles, including articles published on Bleacher Report, that predict BYU to go 10-2, 11-1 or even 12-0.
BYU fan Chase Allen said, "The sky is the limit for the 2011 Cougs. The have players returning at virtually every position and are deep after that. With a year of experience under his belt, I expect big things from Jake Heaps. My honest expectations for BYU is a BCS bowl appearance in their first year of independence. Watch out college football!"
Fans everywhere are expecting BYU to get back to the 10-win mark that they were so accustomed to before last year.
Obviously, the biggest component to the Cougars' success in 2011 is the play of Jake Heaps. The two-quarterback system is a distant memory and Heaps is the clear-cut starter. If the Cougars hope to reach the expectations of their fans, Heaps will need to play really well.
The quarterback set freshman records last season at BYU and finished the season really strong. Perhaps Heaps' best performance came in the New Mexico Bowl against UTEP. Heaps threw for 264 yards and four TDs.
Heaps played great against UTEP, but UTEP isn't Texas.
Are BYU fans expecting too much from the true sophomore heading into 2011?
The Cougars return all but one starter on offense and have talent across the board. On paper, they could very well reach a BCS game like some Cougar fans expect. But on paper, Alabama was the runaway favorite to win the National Championship last year.
New offensive coordinator Brandon Doman helped ground my lofty expectations for BYU this year when he said, "People think Jake's better than Jake is right now." In the same Salt Lake Tribune interview, he said that if Heaps continues to work hard "then he will become the best quarterback in the nation. I don't shy away from saying that."
Heaps is talented enough to go down as a Cougar legend. But is expecting 10, 11 or 12 wins from the 20-year-old too much? Especially given all of the national exposure that is coming the Cougars' way this season.
If Heaps plays poorly against Ole Miss in the season opener, how will the fan base react? How will they respond if he throws an interception against rival Utah late in the fourth quarter? How will Jake Heaps respond?
As the Cougars head into independence, all the pressure in on Heaps to play well. He has talent around him, trust from his coaching staff and high expectations from Cougar Nation.
For Heaps' sake, I hope he has a strong back.