University of Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman recently described quarterback transfer Jake Heaps as “pretty good under pressure,” initially demonstrated after Perryman spewed “a lot of trash” at Heaps the first time they met this summer during 7-on-7 workouts.
“This ain’t Kansas, you know!” Perryman yelled. “You’re not a Jayhawk anymore. You’re a Cane!”
Heaps, a 23-year-old married graduate student about to begin his final year of college football, did what any prideful quarterback would do.
“He threw a touchdown,” Perryman said, laughing, “so I felt pretty stupid. Then he came and shook my hand and was like, ‘Keep it up.’ ”
Heaps did equally well Monday during his first mass interview with the Miami media, a 26-minute teleconference in which he made it clear that “it is absolutely vital” that he wins the starting quarterback job.
“I didn’t come here to be the backup,” he said. “I made this decision for a reason. I came here to play, but you have to earn that. No one is going to give that to you, and that’s what I knew coming into this situation and that’s what I wanted.
“… That’s the only way you’re going to earn your teammates’ respect and gain their confidence. So for me, I’m very excited about this opportunity. This is my last year. I’ve given everything I have at this thing, and it’s extremely important for me to perform well — not only to win the job but for my goals and aspirations down the line as well.”
Heaps, listed as 6-1 and 210 pounds, came out of Skyline High in Sammamish, Washington, as a Parade All-American ranked the nation’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com. He spent two seasons at BYU, his first one magical. He completed 219 of 383 passes in all 13 games his freshman season, good for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns, with nine interceptions. He set nearly every BYU freshman quarterback record.
But his sophomore year was not nearly as good, and he was benched for the backup and a new system. Heaps transferred to Kansas, sat out in 2012 to comply with NCAA transfer rules, then played as a redshirt junior last season. He started nine of 11 games but completed only 49 percent of his passes for 1,414 yards, with more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (8).
After Kansas hired a new offensive coordinator with a new philosophy, Heaps transferred again. He arrived at Miami in late June with a Kansas degree and one last chance to achieve his dreams, this time as a Hurricane graduate student eligible to play immediately. He has been afforded this opportunity because formerly declared starter Ryan Williams, a fifth-year backup who waited patiently behind graduated starter Stephen Morris, is rehabbing a reconstructed ACL that he tore in April.
With his competitors — redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and incoming freshmen Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier — never having played a down of college football, Heaps seems as likely as anyone to win the job, at least until Williams returns during the season.
He said there has been no dissension among the quarterbacks or any of his teammates since his arrival.
“Many times you’re in a situation with quarterback battles, [and] it’s very easy to find a team that has a divided locker room, that in a lot of situations don’t handle this situation very well,” he said. “It’s a testament to the group of guys in this quarterback room that there hasn’t been any division.”
Tailback Duke Johnson said Heaps needs to “learn the playbook” but has the most experience and “probably reads coverages best” out of the current contenders.
“He’s just in rhythm with every throw,” Johnson said.
A pure drop-back passer, Heaps said he won’t be “taking off for 80-yard touchdowns running,” but “will definitely be distributing the football. I feel very confident in my abilities as a passer.”
Heaps said he’s “loving’’ the Miami culture. A Mormon, he went to church his first Sunday in Miami and “had to wear headphones” to translate the service. “It was very cool. I enjoyed the mix of cultures and the diversity.”
For the past month he has been living in a dorm, but when his wife Brooke arrives Wednesday, they’ll move into their apartment — until fall camp opens Aug. 5 and Heaps temporarily returns to dorm life.
“I’ve tried to come in and be nobody but myself and show these guys how much I love the game of football,” he said. “It has gone extremely well. These guys are great.
“They embraced me and welcomed me in, and I’m very grateful for that.”