More than a year ago, I started the the project of ranking every BYU QB season since 1977. With 2011 now complete, I have ranked the seasons of Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson and placed them in their proper places. (You can access the entire list of rankings here.) Here is where Jake Heaps's 2011 campaign ranks among his historical counterparts.
It’s hard to judge college QB seasons over time. I started with Gary Sheide’s 1974 season and moved forward. The offense changed a lot during the LaVell era, changed even more during the Crowton era, and has morphed even more under Bronco Mendenhall. It’s also hard to get stats for the seasons back in the day; I primarily used the wonderful Cougar Stats website in my research.
My criteria were as follows, with certainly a high level of subjectivity:
- Minimum 1000 yards passing, which means some years have two QB seasons
- Yards per pass attempt
- Completion percentage
- TD-to-INT ratio
- Total TD passes
- Season results
I wrote the following at the end of Jake’s 2010 season, which ranked No. 31 when I ranked it last year: "In the future maybe we’ll be talking about Heaps’ 2011 or 2012 or 2013 as one of the best QB seasons in BYU history." That, of course, is not going to happen; 2011 was an awful year for Heaps, and with his transfer to Kansas, there will be no 2012 or 2013 seasons for Heaps in a Cougar uniform.
I am not going to break down the possible causes of Heaps’ demise; good hypotheses exist elsewhere. What I will discuss is his lousy season. And if you don’t think his season was terrible, then you’re the BYU football fan version of the guy who doesn’t think we landed a man on the moon.
Where Does Heaps’ 2011 Season Rank
Before you pro-Jake folks get too revved up, this wasn’t the worse season in BYU history. But, ranked by passing efficiency it was the 3rd worst since 1977. That is bad. And his 5.76 YPA is the worst in that same time frame.
What Heaps had going for him was that he played against some elite defenses (Texas and Utah) and some of the others that will end up below him on this list put up similarly crummy numbers against inferior competition. But playing good teams is not a free pass for poor play. Heaps was surrounded by more talent at the skill positions than some of those near him on the bottom of the list, especially at the WR position.
There is a theme with Heaps and two other QBs who have seasons near the bottom of this list: Brett Engemann, Matt Berry and Heaps were all thrown into the starting job before they were ready, and they were yanked around as part of QB platoons. But Heaps’ 2011 is not as bad as those Berry and Engemann years, and it is ‘good enough’ to rank at No. 39 (out of 44), just behind Charlie Peterson in 2000, and just ahead of Bob Jensen in 1987.
Historically, Heaps’ 2011 (and his 2-season BYU career) will likely become a footnote -- not unlike Engemann or Ben Olsen. If he has a stellar couple of seasons at Kansas, the revisionists will point to a failure by Brandon Doman and the BYU coaching staff to properly develop Heaps (which may be accurate). If he plays poorly for the Jayhawks, he will disappear from most conversation about BYU QBs, left as only a cautionary tale and a trivia answer, similar to Olsen.
But none of that changes the fact that Heaps delivered a very poor performance in 2011. He was bad statistically; his desire to not throw into tight coverage made it difficult for the Cougars to move the ball; and his poor play, whatever the cause, was the ultimate reason he lost his job to Riley Nelson and then left the program.
The complete QB Season Rankings are here