Jake Heaps is still a week away from his scheduled arrival at the University of Miami.
But for quite some time now, the 23-year-old quarterback has been envisioning what it’s going to be like to throw passes to Stacy Coley, hand the ball off to Duke Johnson and run the Hurricanes offense.
“They’re all great guys, highly motivated,” said Heaps, who signed a financial aid agreement last Sunday to transfer to UM after he graduates from the University of Kansas this week. “They have high aspirations for what they think they could be. It just makes me want to give everything I have to make this season a successful one.”
The Hurricanes, who immediately contacted Heaps once they received his release more than six weeks ago, could use a steady hand in what is essentially a shaky quarterback situation.
With fifth-year senior Ryan Williams recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen struggling through the spring, and two true freshman in Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier likely needing time to adjust to college and learn the playbook, the door is wide open for Heaps (6-1, 210 pounds) to come in and take job.
He believes his history with similar pro-style offenses at BYU and Kansas and experience should make him a quick study. He wouldn’t have picked Miami over a handful of other FBS and FCS programs if he didn’t.
On his recruiting visit, Heaps said he was only supposed to sit down with offensive coordinator James Coley for an hour to go over the team’s offense. The two got so worked up breaking things down on a grease board they ended up spending six hours together.
“The offense at UM is similar to different things I’ve done in the past,” Heaps said. “[It’s similar to] the offense I ran at BYU my first year and in some ways the offense I came to run at Kansas, as far as making protection calls and changes at the line.”
Given a choice, UM would prefer not to see the Heaps who left both of those programs. After all, his road here wasn’t pretty.
Tabbed the No. 1-ranked pro-style quarterback in 2010 by Rivals.com, Heaps broke Ty Detmer’s freshman record at BYU for touchdown passes in a season (15). But it has been all downhill since. He was the third-worst-rated FBS quarterback in the country a year ago and lost his starting job on a 3-9 Kansas team. He completed only 49 percent of his passes last season.
Taylor Barton, a former Washington Huskies quarterback who is now a coaching guru in the Pacific Northwest and runs the Barton Football Academy, believes Heaps can turn it around at UM and “have a monster year.”
“He’s not a guy who is going to blow you away with size or arm strength, but he does all the little things the right way, and that stuff adds up to big things,” Barton said. “He hasn’t been perfect. He’ll be the first to admit that. But for the most part I think he’s been put in some situations where the odds were stacked against him.”
Barton has coached Heaps since he was in the sixth grade. He has also tutored some of the best players to come out of the region, including Super Bowl-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Jake Locker and Joey Harrington among more than a dozen alumni who have reached the NFL.
“This is the first time he’s going to a program with superior talent, a tremendous coaching staff and a tremendous system,” Barton said. “He doesn’t have to be the featured guy — just get the ball in the athletes’ hands and let them make the plays.
“He hasn’t had that since he was in high school [at Skyline High in Seattle] where he won three state championships. And I think that’s why he’s going to end up having one of the biggest years and being one of the biggest surprises in the country next year.”