Is Heaps’ Ceiling Limited by His Supporting Cast?

Photo by Craig Hall,
I'll admit that I've been on the Jake Heaps bandwagon for a long time. He should have been the starter from day 1. Riley Nelson is a good quarterback, but unfortunately for him, Jake Heaps is better. The Heaps/Nelson debate is a discussion for another day; let's not digress.
Photo by Craig Hall,click on photo to see original photo

I’ll admit that I’ve been on the Jake Heaps bandwagon for a long time. He should have been the starter from day 1. Riley Nelson is a good quarterback, but unfortunately for him, Jake Heaps is better. The Heaps/Nelson debate is a discussion for another day; let’s not digress.

Soon after Heaps committed to BYU, a certain Seattle sports writer said Heaps would have had a better chance to make it to the NFL if he had chosen the University of Washington. At the time I thought that was probably the stupidest thing I had ever heard (right up there with this certain sport writer’s nickname) and I almost took it personally. It’s not like UW has been a breeding ground for NFL quarterbacks: Mark Brunell, and, um, Mark Brunell. Now heading in to week eight and four Jake Heaps starts at QB, the scary thing is, I’m starting to agree with our favorite Seattle sports writer, for two primary reasons.

Max Hall will be invited back to BYU the next time the Cougars hold their quarterback legends weekend. Let’s establish that fact right now. Say what you want about his weaknesses, he led BYU to three straight 10-win seasons, capping it off with a TD pass to Andrew George (his only TD pass against Utah in three years, by the way) and a spanking of Oregon State in the Las Vegas bowl. But was it really all Max? BYU had never seen a tight end like Dennis Pitta, who would catch and hold on to any ball thrown to his zip code. Add his clone Andrew George, Austin Collie for two years, and, you see where I’m going here. Jake Heaps is currently completing 50% of his passes, with 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions. BYU’s current stable of butter-fingered receivers have probably shaved 10% off his completion percentage and a couple touchdowns off his stats. Project that over 4 years and they’re significantly lowering Jake’s ceiling. I keep thinking that Heaps has to be better than Jordan Wynn, right? Wynn had his freshman moments, but his teammates bailed him out and they ended up with a winning season his first year, and undefeated so far this year. It comes down to receivers who catch the ball and make plays, and BYU has none this year.

The other supporting cast member that will keep Heaps from hitting the moon is Robert Anae. We’ve seen glimpses of this in the past, especially in BYU losses (when they don’t execute): Robert Anae puts together the most predictable offensive game plan in the country. Reach back in your memory and remind me of anything creative that Anae has called, or any game when you were surprised by his strategy. If Anae keeps calling the same gameplan, BYU’s and Heaps’ potential will be severely limited.  I know TCU’s defense is good, but if he can only manage to score 17 points in three years then he needs to change his approach or be replaced.  He has a future star at quarterback and he can’t even figure out his own offense, let alone how to score on opposing defenses.  The problem I see with BYU’s offense is the inability or the reluctance to make real-time adjustments to the game plan and I lay that responsibility solely on the shoulders of the offensive coordinator.  That is why BYU’s offense is so predicable—the opposing defensive coordinator only has to plan on stopping the pass.  TCU has done it to them three years in a row.  Utah did it 2008, even though Harvey Unga averaged over 5 yards / carry when Max starting throwing to the other team.  BYU’s passing game is suffering this season, and it’s not because there’s a freshman at the helm.  It’s time for a change.

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  • Andrew

    Possible, but I think people at BYU are too fast to turn on their team. Let’s not forget that Anae was also there for the three straight 10 win seasons, calling plays and running the offense. Heaps is a true freshman, and we can’t expect too much of him. Let him grow, let BYU grow, and accept the fact that its’s not that BYU has bad personel or coaching, but that it is just a rebuilding year. BYU will be fine.

  • Ben

    It’s easy to say it’s a rebuilding year, but on the flip side, shouldn’t that be something Bronco was prepared for? He keeps hammering on the fact that BYU is one of the select few schools who has had four 10 win seasons in a row. Then this year, they jump off a cliff?

    I’m piggybacking Kyle Whittingham who mentioned that every year guys leave and new guys come in. It’s something that has to be accounted for.

    With all that said, it doesn’t happen often that 3+ year starters at QB, RB, and two TE’s leave in the same year.

  • Grant

    You bring up adjustments. Bronco doesn’t make any in game adjustments either. Why get mad about Anae when his boss doesn’t make adjustments either.

  • I hope Heaps becomes successful at BYU. As a Ute fan, I actually want BYU to be good…

  • Scott

    I didn’t mean it to sound that I was turning on my team, only to point out a trend that I had noticed in BYU’s losses over the past few years, one that has beomce very prevalent this year with so many losses. I didn’t bring Bronco into this discussion, because based on some of his recent comments, I have no idea how involved he is in calling any of the offense (especially now that he is calling the defense). The only way I like to use the word ‘rebuilding’ is if we’re talking about certain positions. This year BYU is rebuilding at QB, so Anae should abandon BYU’s pass-first tradition and stick to the run until Jake gets his feet under him. If a team wants to be taken seriously it cannot have ‘rebuilding’ years.

    That was almost as long as a blog post. Sorry!

    • Grant

      BYU doesn’t need to abandon the pass because of Heaps, but because the wide receivers can’t make a catch.