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Archive for Sunday, April 14, 2013

Opinion: Jake Heaps instant upgrade

April 14, 2013

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During a spring football game in which he threw accurate passes, long and short, Kansas University junior-to-be quarterback Jake Heaps eased anxiety in the minds of so many who hope he becomes the school’s first productive player since Todd Reesing at the most important position on the field.

Funny thing about all the worrying, though, is that none of it was inspired by anything Heaps ever did or didn’t do. It all stemmed from Dayne Crist’s disappointing one season at Kansas.

Crist fell far short of expectations, so many have had a difficult time investing their emotions in another highly ranked high school quarterback enticed to transfer to KU by Charlie Weis. But little about their stories intersects.

Even after Crist performed well in the 2012 spring game and even better in an open practice during summer camp, Weis subtly sounded a word of caution, saying the only remaining question was whether Crist would feel the aftershock of his latest knee surgery once real games that included blitzing maniacs hellbent on blasting the quarterback started. Clearly, Crist heard the thundering footsteps, and it greatly compromised his performance. He finished 116 out of 116 in quarterback rating among quarterbacks with enough throws to qualify. Crist performed well in two post-season all-star games, winning MVP honors in one. Look a little closer: Blitzing was forbidden in those games.

Heaps remained healthy in his two seasons at BYU, where his statistics were neither atrocious nor great. In the QB-rating stat, he ranked 98 of 116 as a freshman, 106 of 115 as a sophomore. He had reason to look over his shoulder then, when he and Riley Nelson played tug-of-war with the starting position. At KU, it’s Heaps’ job, and he’ll be in his fourth year of daily college football practices, whereas he was in his first and second during his BYU years.

Heaps can place the ball into the hands of more playmakers than could Crist, thanks to Weis’ decision to move Tony Pierson to receiver much of the time, the addition of physical possession receiver Justin McCay, the continued improvement of tight end Jimmay Mundine and the return of running back James Sims.

Heaps does not need to justify his No. 1 ranking among high school quarterbacks he received after leading Skyline High to a third consecutive 4A Washington state title to give Kansas a major upgrade at the position.

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