Quarterback Jay Heaps gets second chance at Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Charlie Weis is following a familiar game plan and hoping for different results.
One year ago he entered his first season at Kansas with high-profile transfer Dayne Crist under center.
Crist played for Weis at Notre Dame and expectations were high that Crist would lead the Jayhawks to a dramatic turnaround. Instead he wound up getting benched during a miserable 1-11 season.
Now, Weis has another high-profile transfer in Jake Heaps, the former BYU quarterback whom Weis recruited while he was with the Fighting Irish. While the comparisons to Crist are inevitable, Weis and Heaps are confident the results will be different.
“Dayne was coming off a couple injuries and a bit beat down,” Weis said. “That’s really not been the case with Jake.”
So far, Heaps has impressed his teammates with his knowledge, ability to analyze defenses and grasp of Weis’ complex offense.
“I look at Jake like a second coach on the football field,” flanker Tony Pierson said. “He tells you what’s right and what’s wrong. He knows what they’re doing, every position.”
That Heaps landed in Lawrence is surprising even to the quarterback.
Recruited by just about everyone in high school, he settled on BYU, where he became the first freshman to start at QB in more than a decade. He wound up setting school records for a freshman quarterback in yards passing, touchdowns and wins in 2010.
Things began to sour, though, and Heaps was unseated by Riley Nelson during his sophomore season. When he started to look for a new home, Weis was more than happy to reunite with him.
Now, Heaps is trying to help the Jayhawks — who have won just 11 games the past four seasons — become more like BYU, which won 17 during his two seasons in Provo, Utah.
“Wins. That’s the only way you gauge success,” the quarterback said. “It’s not how close we come to winning. That’s not what we’re about. We’re about winning games and that’s how I’m going to judge whether we’re good or not; and I expect us to win more games than you guys expect us to win.”
He should have a little more help than the Jayhawks’ quarterbacks had last season.
Pierson switched to flanker in the offseason because of depth at running back, and Weis hopes he can be used similar to West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, a first-round draft pick. Former Oklahoma wide receiver Justin McCay also is eligible after sitting out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. He was among the nation’s most highly regarded prep recruits.
Heaps said it was “excruciating” to sit on the sidelines with McCay last season, but that it also let him step back and get a different perspective on where the Jayhawks needed to improve.
One area he pointed to was mental toughness, which became evident in a game against Texas.
The Jayhawks led most of the way only for Longhorns quarterback Case McCoy to throw a go-ahead touchdown pass with 12 seconds left. It was one of four games in which Kansas led in the fourth quarter or overtime and wound up losing.
“When we were up versus Texas, we were on the sidelines and guys were looking around like, ‘Man, we might win this game,’ instead of like, ‘We got this,’” Heaps said. “I couldn’t believe we were like that. How could we think like that? We’ve been beating these guys all game long.”
It’s that winning attitude that may prove most invaluable to Heaps this season.
The Jayhawks haven’t won a conference game the last two seasons, and will carry an 11-game skid into their season opener Sept. 7 against South Dakota.
“If what we’ve seen so far is what we get, I think we’re all going to be happy,” Weis said of Heaps, who hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 3, 2011. “It’s going to be a little different now. The whole tempo changes now. This isn’t spring ball anymore.”