Whether it’s fate, coincidence, accident, or what have you, BYU can finally settle on a starter at QB.
Riley Nelson is out for the season after opting for surgery to repair a shoulder injury. The injury, to his non-throwing arm, was sustained at the end of his first series against Florida State last weekend. He was tackled at the end of the play, and while the hit does not look like a season ending hit (see Sam Bradford via Coleby Clawson), it aggravated an injury that coaches say was sustained during fall camp. You can see KSL’s video of Nelson jogging off the field after the play, here. The broadcaster notices Nelson’s arm immediately…I apparently missed that while I was watching.
Nelson will be out 4-5 months, which effectively does end his season. If there is something lucky about this for him, the injury happened during the third game of the season, so he can apply for a medical waiver from the NCAA and get another year of eligibility after he returns.
So what now for Jake Heaps? This season is now his. For better or for worse, he joins only a handful of freshmen (RM, RS, or otherwise) to ever start a game at QB for BYU. Jake will now have every rep in practice, and by so doing will hopefully be able to establish better chemistry with his receivers and really take control of the game.
Heaps really does have a rocket arm. He reminds me of Brett Favre the way he delivers the ball. It’s an NFL ball that flies straight like a bullet, and nearly as fast. It is a huge change-up from other quarterbacks in the BYU system of late, but it will be a great weapon once the receivers are used to it.
This will be crucial – as I’ve mentioned before, FSU had 8 sacks in the game against BYU. Coach Mendenhall has attributed the high number to the QB not getting rid of the ball quickly enough, and to the receivers not getting open quickly enough. BYU (and Heaps) is now operating without the safety net of a second starting QB in the stable, so protecting Heaps is now more important than ever.
Jake Heaps can take comfort in this: Dick Harmon reminded me this week of John Beck’s first series as a Freshman. 1st and 10: Sacked for a ten yard loss. 2nd and 20 – QB fumbled, team recovered for a five yard loss. 3rd and 25: Beck completes his first pass, which was an interception. Beck ended his career at BYU as one of the best in recent memory, with incredible accuracy numbers (around 70% if I remember right) and at the time ranked second all time in passing yards (later surpassed by Max Hall). An inauspicious beginning isn’t necessarily a good indication of the future.
So Jake, take a deep breath and get out there – you’re up.