Before all the staunch Heaps supporters stop reading, let’s make one thing certain. The fact that this question can even be asked about Heaps is a tremendous compliment to the kid. Rarely does a quarterback come to campus, grasp the offense, and have his skills developed to a point that he can even see significant time on the field as a freshman.
A quarterback cannot be judged on just touchdowns and interceptions, or yards passing. Therefore, before jumping to any conclusions or getting upset. Let’s conduct a proper analysis.
Since 1973, when BYU fully adopted the forward pass, Jake Heaps is just the fifth freshman quarterback to log significant minutes during meaningful moments of games. Ty Detmer (1988), Drew Miller (1997), Matt Berry (2002), and John Beck (2003) are the others. Although comparing statistics is never a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, looking at each quarterbacks’ stats is a good starting point. Following their stats is a little more background information about how those stats were accumulated, which should give us sufficient understanding to rank these five signal callers.
83 completions, 153 attempts (54.2%), 1,252 yards, 13 TD, 10 Int., 138.0 Efficiency
Notes: Detmer threw the most TD passes, has the highest efficiency, however, he also threw the most interceptions. He was 1-0 as a starter, a 65-0 blowout of New Mexico (2-10). He threw for 333 yards and 5 TDs. Detmer came off the bench to win 3 other games, including the Freedom Bowl.
37-67 (55.2%), 430 yards, 3 TD, 4 Int., 112.0 Efficiency
Notes: Miller has the least completions, attempts, and yards. He also had the least interceptions. He was 0-1 as a starter in a ugly loss to UTEP (14-3) when he threw three of his interceptions (one a pick six). He came off the bench to throw 3 TDs and win the TCU game. TCU was 1-10 that year.
108-184 (58.7%), 1,309 yards, 7 TD, 9 Int., 121.2 Efficiency
Notes: Berry has the highest completion percentage, and the most passing yards. He was 2-4 as a starter. In his best game he threw for 360 yards against Wyoming (2-11).
73-145 (50.3%), 864 yards, 5 TD, 5 Int., 104.9 Efficiency
Notes: Beck has the lowest completion percentage. He was just 1-3 as a starter. One of those losses was a direct result of a Beck interception. BYU was leading Stanford 14-12 with 4:20 to play. Beck threw an interception and Stanford promptly scored the winning points. He also came off the bench against Wyoming and threw a pick six that gave Wyoming a 13-0 lead. BYU lost 13-10.
JAKE HEAPS (through 8 games)
120-229 (52.4%), 1,057 yards, 2 TD, 7 Int., 87.9 Efficiency
Notes: Heaps has the most completions and attempts, yet he has the least TD passes. He also has the worst efficiency. Heaps is 2-3 as a starter. He played well off the bench in the only other win of the season (Washington).
Using just the stats and the notes, I would put Jake right in the middle at number 3. However, I have some serious reservations.
- Yards per attempt. Heaps averages 4.62 yards per attempt. Anything less than 8 isn’t very good.
- Very few touchdown passes. With 45 more throws and 12 more completions than the next closest QB, Heaps should have much more than two touchdown passes. Yes, some passes have been dropped in the end zone, but even with all the drops, you would think Heaps would have at least 5 TD passes. As it is, it takes 115 throws to get one caught in the end zone.
- The coaches have consciously decided to emphasize the run. That hurts any quarterback’s case.
Beck’s numbers are not much better than Heaps’ numbers. His yards per attempt is just 6.0. Beck also saw his passes reduced from 45 to 35 to 26, while BYU increased its rushes to 45 in the only game Beck won as a starter. Beck bests Heaps in touchdown passes, but Beck definitely had costlier interceptions. He cost BYU two games in 2003. Thus far, I can’t point at one of BYU’s five losses this year and say that Heaps lost that game.
That makes the final ranking of freshman quarterbacks as:
1. Ty Detmer
2. Matt Berry
3. Jake Heaps
4. John Beck
5. Drew Miller
Jake Heaps’ freshman season is not over yet. With four, maybe five, games left, he could still move ahead of Berry, or drop below Beck. Heaps has shown glimpse of his potential. One particular drive in the first quarter against Washington was very impressive. Heaps connected on back to back passes to McKay Jacobson for 13 and 17 yards. A 16 yarder to J.J. Di Luigi followed, which took BYU to the Washington four-yard line. Heaps looked poised and comfortable against Florida State running the two minute offense just before the half on a drive that ended in a touchdown pass. Heaps has demonstrated that he has the tools and the potential. When he starts using those tools to consistently play to his potential will determine where he sits on this list at the end of the year.
As for his sophomore-senior years, the results of the other four give Heaps a 50/50 chance at being the next great BYU quarterback. He also has a 50% chance to be the one who kept the seat warm before the next great QB came along. Detmer and Beck are legends. Miller transferred and Berry lost the job to Beck. For Heaps' sake and the sake of BYU football, I hope he joins Detmer and Beck as BYU quarterback greats.
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