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BYU football: 2nd year much different for cover-boy QB Heaps

BYU's Jake Heaps, right, graces the cover of Athlon with Stanford's Andrew Luck and Boise State's Kellen Moore.
BYU's Jake Heaps, right, graces the cover of Athlon with Stanford's Andrew Luck and Boise State's Kellen Moore.
Mark Malone, All

PROVO — What a difference a year makes.

Jake Heaps is on the cover of one of those preseason football magazines. He shares the cover with two other quarterbacks — all in the West — Stanford's Andrew Luck and Boise State's Kellen Moore.

Hype? Well, maybe not in the case of All-Americans Luck and Moore. And it might not be totally hype for Heaps because hype is an exercise he's been living with since his junior year in high school; yet, he piles up accolades.

It is a nice start to 2011 for the BYU sophomore.

This time last year, Jake Heaps finished BYU spring football "hopeful" after a learning-curve spring practice in which he impressed many and statistically stood above all others in camp.

Then summer started, two-a-days began and the Cougars played the two-headed QB game until the Florida State game in Tallahassee on Sept. 18, when Riley Nelson injured his shoulder and surgery sidelined him for the season.

Heaps' season ended with a BYU record-setting MVP performance in a win over UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl.

Now a magazine cover? It wasn't without a glitch, according to Mitch Light, managing editor of Athlon Sports College Football 2011.

"We misspelled Heaps' name. A BYU fan saw it on our website online story and called us. We made the correction (left the 's' off) in time for publication and corrected it on our site."

Light said five people proof-read the cover and story and missed Heap instead of Heaps — although the cover shows the correct spelling on the back of the Cougar player's jersey.

Still, it isn't easy to make a magazine cover unless you are Lindsay Lohan.

BYU quarterbacks historically have been a mainstay for Athlons over the decades since the late '70s. According to Light, back in the day, it was routine to see Cougar and Ute players on the cover when the magazine published a regional magazine that featured the WAC and MWC in a Western Edition.

That was back then.

"Now we don't have that Western cover anymore, but we still want to feature BYU because of its great fan base and the team has been good in recent years. Heaps had a pretty good freshman year and he's expected to be the guy and we went with him."

Light explained Heaps appearance on the cover.

"Let me put it this way," said Light. "On the cover, we put our preseason first-team All-American quarterback Andrew Luck and our preseason second-team All-American Kellen Moore — not so (such honors) for Heaps, but it is probably down the road?"

That cover with Heaps will make the Athlon national edition that will be distributed beginning June 2.

As a new independent football team with no conference affiliation in 2011, the editors of Athlon decided to put BYU in what they call the Pac-10 edition. The story will include a four-page spread on BYU, Heaps and BYU's independence, written by Salt Lake Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe.

The Pac-10 edition will cover the new Pac-12 and expanded teams — plus the Cougars. The national edition will cover all 120 teams.

This is one of the first inklings of how the national media perceive BYU as an independent.

Light is of the opinion the Mountain West really lost out with the defections of BYU, Utah and soon-to-leave TCU just when national power Boise State gained admittance.

"It's a league that could have rivaled many of the BCS conferences and been clearly superior to the Big East of late."

Light said BYU's move to independence was surprising to many. "But it seems to be a well-thought out decision. If they were able to get what they wanted from the Mountain West, they would have stayed."

Today, Heaps enters summer as BYU's starting quarterback. He plans to marry Brooke Shaw, daughter of former Cougar defensive back Gary Shaw, in the Seattle LDS Temple in late June.

The first two summers in Provo couldn't be more different for Heaps and the impending marriage is only part of picture.

Senior All-American candidate offensive tackle Matt Reynolds says BYU's team is behind their starter, Heaps, and he has their full attention. He's got a new offensive coordinator in Brandon Doman and reports from his receivers are that he's showing an elite arm they want showcased this fall.

"His velocity is the same, whether on the 10-, 15- or 25-yard out," said receiver Ross Apo.

"The offense is very confident. The rest of the moving parts are moving forward together," said another of his targets.

"There are no excuses tolerated; even seniors get called out if they use excuses," said a third.

The magazine cover? It's a starting spot for 2011. It's a line in the sand of where Heaps and independence begin.

It certainly can't hurt to be linked by Athlon with Luck and Moore.

Heaps couldn't be more lucky.


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