College football • Big opportunity awaits former BYU quarterback.
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Lawrence, Kan. • He was a record-setting high school quarterback, pursued by just about every major college program. Once he settled on a school, he was quickly inserted in the starting lineup, and showed flashes of brilliance.
Then, things soured, and he started looking elsewhere to finish his career. His eyes finally settled on Kansas, a longtime football wasteland, and that's where he decided to transfer.
His name was Dayne Crist.
His name is also Jake Heaps.
A year ago, Crist struggled so mightily in that the former Notre Dame player was benched midway through a 1-11 season. He's gone now, and Heaps is getting his chance to show what he can do in his first season after transferring from BYU.
He'll be the No. 1 quarterback heading into Saturday's annual spring game.
"The biggest thing is you don't change who you are," said Heaps, who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules. "It's not like something where now you have an opportunity and now you're 'rah, rah,' and this that and the other. One of the things guys can relate to is I'm the same guy.
"When I got here I just continued to work and now I am in a leadership role and that requires me to step up and say things at times, and I am in the position to do that," he said. "These guys have gotten to know me and that has been the biggest key to this thing, letting them get to know me, who I am, as a person on and off the field. That has really helped me."
Like Crist, Heaps was among the nation's most coveted pro-style quarterbacks when he came out of Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline High School. He dazzled his freshman season for the Cougars in 2010, too, throwing for more than 2,300 yards with 15 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
But after starting as a sophomore, Heaps was benched midway through the season, and finished the year with just 1,452 yards and nine touchdowns against eight interceptions.
So like Crist, he chose to look elsewhere for playing time, and his gaze settled on coach Charlie Weis's rebuilding program at Kansas. Weis had recruited Heaps out of high school when he was coaching Notre Dame. After a year in the program, that relationship has only grown closer.
"We understand him a little bit better and he understands us," Heaps said. "Now that (the coaches) have gotten an opportunity to get to know us, and what our talents are, they've tailored the offense to us, and so far it's been really fun."
Heaps actually participated in last year's spring game, even though he was redshirting, because Weis wanted to get an idea of exactly what he had in a game setting. He wound up 7 of 10 for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Even though he's first on the depth chart, Heaps will be pushed this fall by Michael Cummings, who stepped in as a freshman starter last season when Crist ultimately proved ineffective.
"There are a lot of things he still needs to work on, but I think that the team views him as somebody they can win football games with," Weis said. "If they don't think you can win with you playing, then you don't really have a chance at that position."
Weis has split the roster into two teams, one of them (blue) leaning toward being a passing offense and the other (white) more of a rushing team. The defense has also been split up.
"The most important things is now, I expect our improvement on both sides of the ball to be drastic," Weis said. "I will be very disappointed if I don't see that, even in the spring game."
The Jayhawks' only win last season came in their opener against lower-division South Dakota State, so there is plenty of room for improvement. The last time they won a single game in a season was in 1988, their first season under coach Glen Mason.
"It's a new year, and you've got to take it as it is. New year and you just don't know what will happen," wide receiver Christian Matthews said. "You just want to start another season, because you hate how that season went. It is just more urgency. Ready to get out there and play."