Heaps says he's happy splitting time with Nelson
Provo • This isn't exactly the way Jake Heaps pictured it would go more than a year ago when he announced at a news conference in downtown Salt Lake City that he was graduating from Washington's Skyline High School early and enrolling at BYU in time for spring football.
But the highly recruited freshman insists he is totally happy, nevertheless.
After battling junior Riley Nelson for the starting quarterback position at BYU all of fall camp, Heaps split time with Nelson in the Cougars' season-opener, a 23-17 win over Washington.
"I still would have made the same decision [to sign with BYU]," Heaps said Monday.
A ban on all BYU newcomers speaking to the media having been lifted after the Cougars' first game, Heaps talked after the game and again after Monday's practice about his first eight months at BYU and the situation he finds himself in as the Cougars prepare for Saturday's Mountain West Conference opener against Air Force.
Heaps also cleared up one question about his future at BYU, saying he is not planning on going on a two-year LDS Church mission when the season is over.
"As of right now, I am not going on a mission," he said. "At any point, it could hit me, saying, 'hey, I need to go on a mission.' But I am pretty sure that I will be staying here and playing football."
He also said he will be comfortable splitting time with Nelson the rest of this season, and next, if that's what coaches decide to do.
Referring to that June day in 2008 when he committed to BYU along with receiver Ross Apo and linebacker Zac Stout, Heaps said, "At that point I don't think I understood why [he would be happy not being the full-time quarterback] â¦ but going through here and being a part of BYU through this whole process, these coaches have had my best interest at heart.
"I trust 100 percent everything that they do and everything they feel is necessary for our team to win. That's what I am about. I just want our team to win. I just want to see [wins] on the board, so whatever that takes â¦ it doesn't matter. It just whatever this team needs to get the 'W.' "
Heaps characterized the BYU quarterbacking system as a partnership, the word having been suggested to him at Saturday's postgame news conference.
"Between me and Riley, there couldn't be more support between the two of us," Heaps said. "I don't know if you saw it out there, but when Riley made a good play, I was right there to congratulate him. When I made a good play, he was the first one there.
"For everybody that is doubting what this is all about, this is about what is best for the team, what is best for us winning. Whatever that is, me and Riley are going to accept our roles and we are going to do it the best we can, and support each other like crazy."
Nelson got the start and completed 11 of 17 passes for 131 yards and two TDs. He also rushed for 45 yards on eight attempts. Heaps was 13-for-23 for 131 yards and showed the ability to make more throws, but never got the Cougars into the end zone.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said again on Monday that the plan going forward would remain the same: Nelson will start, both will play.
"They both played well. I don't see any reason to change yet," he said Monday.
Both quarterbacks said it was not difficult to get into a rhythm, although they both struggled on third down. The Cougars led the nation in third-down conversion percentage last year, but were just 5-for-16 against the Huskies.
"We were just overall bad on third downs," Nelson said. "That's something where there's room for improvement. But we were good enough, obviously, to win the game. But I don't [attribute] that to anything but execution. That has nothing to do with the rotation or the alternating series."
Heaps said the system will work because of the unselfishness of both quarterbacks.
"If you are worried about how many series you are getting, and not worried about taking advantage of the opportunities you have, then that is when it gets hard," he said. "When you have two selfish people, then that's a problem. I think Riley has done a great job with it, and I feel like I am pretty comfortable with it. Our whole team has rallied around the both of us. So to answer your question [about trouble getting into a rhythm], no, not at all."
So where does Heaps go from here? Certainly, he didn't give up the last half of his senior year of high school and choose BYU so he could watch half the offensive plays from the sidelines.
"I am not worried about that," he said. "I am worried about playing the best that I can play right now, and hopefully Riley plays the best that he can play, so we can help our team win."
BYU Quarterbacks vs. Washington
Quarterback Attempts-Comp. Yds. TDs Ints Rushes Yds.
Riley Nelson 11-17 131 2 0 8 45
Jake Heaps 13-23 131 0 0 1 6