Quarterback Timeshare is Over

In was an unfortunate way of resolving the quarterback timeshare at BYU, but due to Riley Nelson having season-ending surgery, BYU now has a clear starter. Jake Heaps now has the opportunity to be what he came to BYU to be: the sole starting quarterback. Time will tell how he fares with that opportunity.

"Being the quarterback at BYU is a special opportunity," said Jake Heaps following Tuesday's practice session. "It means a lot to me, so I'm going to work as hard as I can to do this thing right. I didn't come here to take half of it or to not be the guy. I came here to be the guy and, when the time was right, to lead the team."

What is unfortunate is how Heaps being named the starter came about with Riley Nelson getting season-ending surgery.

"It was under unfortunate circumstances," Heaps said. "It's a tough situation, but Riley is going to take care of his business and I'm going to be with him every step of the way. Our relationship has been really close and it will continue to stay that way."

Heaps got all the starting reps during Tuesday's practice session and will likely continue to get those reps for the rest of the year, which will hopefully work to help an ailing offense. After Tuesday's practice, reporters were left to wait as Heaps took extra time to throw the ball to his receivers much like both John Beck and Max Hall did throughout their careers.

"It's been tremendous for my opportunity to grow," Heaps said of the opportunity to get starting reps during practice sessions. "I can already feel myself getting better as each rep goes. We have a lot of improvements to make, so I need to improve here quick."

The injury Nelson sustained to his non-throwing shoulder happened during fall camp, but was aggravated during the Florida State game. Being the competitor that he is, Nelson tried to gut it out , but after the Florida State game it was determined that he'd have to end his season with surgery and a five-to-six month recovery.

"Looking at the MRI, it's impressive that he's made it this long," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "He's just so dang tough, but that's where it stands."

Mendenhall went on to mention that the biggest loss with Nelson not being available for the rest of the year is the loss of his leadership and experience, as well as the loss of another option at the quarterback position. Mendenhall said that the coaching staff was going to still play Nelson prior to the decision to have surgery.

The backup duties now belong to James Lark, who is ready to take on that challenge. "I prepare myself to be ready to play every game no matter what, so I don't plan on changing anything," said Lark.

As of the end of Tuesday's practice, Mendenhall had yet to talk to Heaps about becoming the starter, although he's certainly had conversations with quarterback coach Brandon Doman.

"I'm not sure if it relaxes him of if now he feels more excitement," said Mendenhall about how Heaps will take the starting quarterback mantle. "He'll get the majority of the reps now, but I think he's very confident and that he's looking forward to the chance to get a ton of work. Whatever elements Riley was contributing, we'll try to run some elements of what we were doing in combination to what Jake is able to do because I think our running game will still need a few options."

Mendenhall again wasn't specific about how he'll manage those options during games, but it has to be assumed that the sole starting responsibilities will belong to Heaps. The hope is that with just one quarterback and one quarterback's tendencies, the offense will rebound and begin to look at it has looked since Mendenhall became head coach.

"It's my turn to step up and make plays and we're all excited about this week and this week of practice," said Heaps. "I feel that there's a greater opportunity for me to go out there and show what I'm capable of."

"Who knows if he's prepared or not?", asked Mendenhall rhetorically about Heaps assuming the starting role. "It's a freshman playing football. If there is anyone that is prepared, his (Heaps') experience to this point makes me comfortable. I believe in his potential, it's just a matter of him catching up on experience and playing football. He's very capable."

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