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Provo • In BYU football lore, Jake Heaps will forever be known as the quarterback who didn't live up to the hype, a five-star recruit from the Seattle area who was so ballyhooed out of high school by recruiting-based websites such as Scout.com that he couldn't possibly meet the lofty expectations heaped upon him.
Somewhat forgotten in the Heaps saga that took him from BYU to Kansas and then Miami before a training camp invite with the New York Jets and now a spot backing up Josh Freeman with the Brooklyn Bolts of the Fall Experimental Football League is that he actually had a decent freshman season for the Cougars in 2010 before everything came crashing down in 2011.
So this is a cautionary tale, perhaps, for those who have jumped feet first on the Tanner Mangum train, waved goodbye to the oft-injured Taysom Hill and believe the Cougars are set at the quarterbacking position for the next three years.
As Mangum and the Cougars prepare to take on San Jose State on Friday night (9:30 p.m. MT, CBS Sports Network) at 30,000-seat Spartan Stadium in front of the smallest crowd the Cougars will play in front of this season, it is clear that the freshman has more than lived up to the fanfare that accompanied him out of Idaho's Eagle High School. Since taking over for Hill and throwing the Hail Mary pass that beat Nebraska 33-28 in the season opener, Mangum has mostly excelled.
Actually, through eight games, Mangum has been better than anyone could have imagined. Aside from the disaster at Michigan when his offensive line faltered and his receivers failed to get even close to open, and his fourth-down failure in the fourth quarter against UCLA, Mangum's first two months were right out of Hollywood almost too good to be true.
"Way beyond expectations," acknowledged BYU quarterbacks coach Jason Beck last month. "Just phenomenal, really."
The praise for Heaps in 2010 wasn't as glorious, but it was there nevertheless. After getting the job full-time when Riley Nelson was injured in a 34-10 loss at Florida State, Heaps went 5-1 as a starter in the team's last six games and was the New Mexico Bowl MVP despite playing with a fractured rib. The only loss in that stretch was 17-16 at Utah when a Cougar field goal try was blocked in the final seconds after Heaps had driven BYU almost the length of the field.
The obvious difference between the two freshmen: Heaps was an 18-year-old boy who lost the respect of his teammates when he didn't work hard over the summer prior to his sophomore year, then made things worse when he didn't make a strong effort to tackle an Ole Miss defensive back when he threw an interception in the 2011 opener.
Mangum is a 22-year-old man, mature beyond his years, who has seemingly won over his teammates with his optimistic attitude and late-game heroics. He lacks that sense of entitlement that former teammates say caused Heaps to lose the team shortly after his big first year.
Mangum has also faced tougher opponents than Heaps did his first year.
Mangum has some good tests left three of BYU's final four regular-season games are on the road but should be able to break many of Heaps' freshman records (2,316 passing yards, 219 completions, 383 passing attempts, 15 touchdown passes and six wins as a starter) at least one as early as this weekend. He has thrown 14 touchdown passes and won five games, for instance. Mangum threw for 365 yards against UConn, breaking Matt Berry's record.
Beck said he and offensive coordinator Robert Anae used the bye week to "open up a few more concepts that we had to put on the shelf after Taysom got injured. And so we introduced a few more concepts back into the offense that he has been able to rep for two weeks now. Not a huge amount, but some key concepts that have really helped us in the past that we have wanted to get back into the offense."
Nobody associated with the team wants to talk about next year yet, but the question of whether Hill will return and possibly compete with Mangum for the starting job is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Hill's most recent public comments indicated that he hasn't decided; An interview request with the senior, made through BYU's sports information department earlier this week, was not granted.
Mangum said he hasn't spoken to Hill about it.
All he knows is that the hamstring pull that caused him to miss four series against East Carolina is mostly healed, and he's ready to finish out his freshman season as positively as possible.
"Three of our last four [games] are on the road," Mangum said. "That will be good for us. We started off with three of our first four on the road, against some tough opponents. I think that preparation will definitely come into play. And it doesn't change our mindset, doesn't change our game plan regardless of where we are playing, whether it is LaVell Edwards Stadium or on the road. We just have to go out and execute our game plan."
Twitter: @drewjay Comparing BYU freshman quarterbacks
Player Year Games Efficiency Comp-Att (Pct.) Yards TD INT Sacked
Jake Heaps 2010 13 116.2 219-383 (57.2) 2,316 15 9 18
Tanner Mangum 2015 8 142.9 156-245 (63.7) 1,905 14 6 17
Note: Mangum is 5-2 as a starter; Heaps was 6-4 as a starter in 2010 and the New Mexico Bowl MVP.
BYU at San Jose State
P At Spartan Stadium, San Jose, Calif.
Kickoff • Friday, 9:30 p.m.
TV • CBS Sports Network
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and Sirius XM 143
Records • BYU 6-2, San Jose State 4-4
Series history • SJSU leads 10-6
Last meeting • SJSU 20, BYU 14 (Nov. 17, 2012)
About the Cougars • They are 30-6 in the month of November under coach Bronco Mendenhall, who is 96-41 overall in his 11th season at BYU. … They are one of only two schools (Western Kentucky) with five receivers who have 300 or more receiving yards: Mitch Mathews, Devon Blackmon, Nick Kurtz, Mitchell Juergens and Terenn Houk. … They have 2,356 passing yards through eight games, the most through eight games since they threw for 2,442 in 2008.
About the Spartans • Cornerback Jimmy Pruitt, who has eight career interceptions, had his first in the 2012 game when the Spartans defeated BYU 20-14 in mid-November. … Running back Tyler Ervin is third nationally in rushing yards with 1,159 and third in rushing yards per game, 144.9. … They lead the nation in net punting, averaging 43.5 yards per game. Punter Michael Carrizosa leads the country in punting with a 49.0 average.