The Brigham Young Cougars started 2010 with a rotating quarterback system. They ended the year with a clear cut starter. While neither Riley Nelson nor Jake Heaps did anything in the first three games to lay claim to the job, Nelson’s season ended with shoulder surgery in September. Heaps capitalized on the opportunity and won the starting spot. His MVP performance in the New Mexico Bowl exemplified how the true freshman had won over the confidence of teammates and matured from a star studded high school prep to a legitimate FBS quarterback.
Heaps finished the year completing 219 of 383 passes for 2,316 yards with 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. It was the best freshman season by a BYU quarterback ever. Heaps looks to use the success of his freshman season as a launch pad for a super sophomore year. It is hard to find a reason why 2011 will be anything but super for Heaps.
BYU returns 6 of the 7 players who totaled over 100 receiving yards a year ago. The timing of the passing game is already there. The offensive line returns four starters, two of which are receiving significant national recognition this preseason. The run game will be strong, thus keeping defenses honest and taking pressure off of Heaps. Heaps now has full control and understanding of the playbook. He is much more comfortable with his reads and progression. By all accounts, Heaps has been working extremely hard. He is filled with a hunger that only winning can satisfy.
History is also on Heaps’ side. Gifford Nielsen, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer, John Walsh, and Brandon Doman all put up big numbers the year after they gained an appreciative amount of game experience.
At least one national entity agrees, as well. The Davey O'Brien Foundation included Heaps on its preseason watch list as a potential winner of the award recognizing the best quarterback in the nation.
Junior Riley Nelson has recovered from shoulder surgery and will serve as the backup. He has worked hard to better fit the BYU mold and run the same offense as Heaps. Nelson is left handed and can run the ball, if necessary. It is not certain whether the coaches will use Nelson situationally to take advantage of his running ability.
Junior James Lark saw time in four games serving in the backup role after Nelson went down. Early reports out of fall camp are that he has looked impressive and could challenge for the second string if his progress continues.
Sophomore Jason Munns and 2011 signee Alex Kuresa round out the depth chart. Kuresa has expressed that he plans to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following the season.
Other 2011 Previews: Season Preview, Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers, Running Backs, Offensive Line, Defensive Backs, Linebackers, Defensive Line, Special Teams
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