Quarterback Jake Heaps, who spurned a football scholarship offer from the University of Washington two years ago and cast his lot with Brigham Young University, is leaving the Cougars effective Dec. 17 with the hopes of rejuvenating his career at another West Coast/Pac-12 school.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the 2009 Skyline High School (Issaquah) graduate, who threw for nearly 10,000 yards and 144 touchdowns as a prep while leading the Eagles to a pair of 4A state titles, likely transfer to one of four schools: Washington, Washington State, USC or California. Regardless of where Heaps winds up, the NCAA will require that he redshirt the 2012 season.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that former Seahawks’ head coach Jim L. Mora, who spent just one year with the franchise (2009) before he was fired and replaced by Pete Carroll, is on the short list to become head coach at UCLA, replacing Rick Neuheisel, fired last week.
Mora, whose father, Jim E. Mora, once served as an assistant at UCLA, had two years remaining on in Seahawks contract. He worked as an NFL television analyst the past two years while continuing to reside in Bellevue. The younger Mora, also a former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons (2004-06), has coached just one year at the collegiate level, as a defensive assistant at Washington, his alma mater, in 1984.
Heaps started 16 games and played in 22 overall during his freshman and sophomore seasons at BYU. Heaps set BYU freshman passing records for yards, touchdowns and wins while starting the final 10 games as a true freshman in 2010.
The highlight of his BYU career came in the 2010 New Mexico Bowl, where he passed for 264 yards and four touchdowns to earn offensive MVP honors in a 52-24 victory over UTEP, coached by former Washington State head coach Mike Price.
According to the Deseret News, Heaps fell victim to a changing system at BYU. Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman decided he wanted the Cougars to be directed by an active, mobile quarterback, not Heaps’ forte. Heaps also took criticism for being unable to react quickly enough to opponents’ schemes and pressure. One columnist even opined that Heaps “has a fragile psyche.”
As Heaps prepared to exit Skyline, he had five colleges in mind: BYU, Washington, California, Tennessee and LSU. It ultimately came down to BYU and Washington, and Steve Sarkisian, just hired by UW, made signing Heaps a priority, even visiting Heaps within hours of his own introductory news conference on Dec. 8, 2008.
But by that time, BYU already offered Heaps a scholarship. Sarkisian ultimately lost Heaps when Taylor Barton, a former UW quarterback and Heaps’ coaching guru, advised Heaps to sign with the Cougars instead of the Huskies.
“It was very, very close,” said Skyline coach Mat Taylor said after Heaps made it official that he would attend BYU. “It was a very difficult decision for him. If he attended UW he would have been able to play in front of the Skyline community and his family, and he grew up a Husky his whole life. It was a very difficult decision for him.”
Although Washington is reportedly on Heaps’ short list now, the Huskies may no longer be in the market for him, given both Heaps’ flop at BYU and the rise to prominence of Keith Price, who set several Husky passing records this season (including 29 touchdown passes) and has two years of eligibility remaining.
Beyond Price’s gaudy passing numbers, he demonstrated the value that a mobile quarterback can bring to an offense, which Heaps apparently could not bring to the Cougars.
The key for Heaps will be finding a system that suits his talents. Given the kind of pass-happy offense in which he excelled at Skyline, Heaps might find Washington State, soon to be coached by spread-offense wizard Mike Leach, and USC most to his liking. The question is whether Heaps has what it takes to succeed at the Pac-12 level. He may have already answered that question.
Observed Jason Franchuck of the Provo (UT.) Daily Herald: “If Heaps thinks he’ll get a fresh start anywhere he is sadly mistaken. Anywhere he goes will be a tough haul to find a clean slate. His results here (BYU) will be his starting point elsewhere. Not even the greatest Heaps admirers should really think a Pac-12 Conference locker room (or wherever he ends up) is really going to kowtow to a once-renowned Mormon kid who couldn’t even cut it at BYU, which isn’t exactly carrying a Southeastern Conference gridiron reputation these days.”