Not the way it was supposed to end

BYU took team photos on Wednesday with the players wearing their bowl jerseys. One player that won't be in any of those photos is Jake Heaps. His once-ultra-promising career at BYU ended not with broken records, All-American honors, prominent bowl victories or national glory, but with a simple press release issued by the school a few weeks ago announcing he was transferring.

Where Jake Heaps will transfer is still a mystery at this point, but one thing is certain: the sophomore has played his last game as a BYU Cougar. He had a 10-6 record as a starter.

With the team preparing this week for the Armed Forces Bowl, it was the first time for the media to talk to coaches and players about the situation.

"It's sad to see him go, but we wish him the best," said quarterback Riley Nelson, who understands what it's like to transfer from one university to another, having left Utah State for BYU. "I'm confident that he can find success wherever he decides to land for the rest of his career."

Ultimately, it was being benched this season in favor of Nelson, his primary competitor, that started the chain of events that lead to Heaps deciding to transfer.

Meanwhile, teammates such as Ross Apo and Kyle Van Noy, who both became friends with Heaps during the recruiting process (Apo himself decommitted from the University of Texas so he could play with Heaps), wished Heaps well but stated they had no intention of leaving BYU.

Regarding Heaps, Coach Mendenhall said, "I would much rather have had Jake stay. I wanted him to stay, love him as a young man, and he has such great football skill and I've said many times I believe he's an NFL quarterback, and I thought he would have done a great job leading our program here."

Quarterback coach and offensive coordinator Brandon Doman was also disappointed in the news.

"It was hard to see him go after a span of… I don't know how much time – probably three years being involved in his life and recruiting him – and I think both for him and for me it was a tough decision for him to make, and I'll be rooting for him, but it's sad to see him go."

Mendenhall and Doman both learned of Heaps' decision on Sunday, December 4, the day after the Hawaii game. Mendenhall said it wasn't necessarily a surprise, although he was hopeful that Heaps would decide to stay.

Mendenhall said he had hoped that Heaps would have chosen to learn some hard yet valuable lessons by watching another quarterback – Nelson – play next season while he redshirted.

Both coaches had meetings with Heaps prior to his decision. Mendenhall said he didn't necessarily try to talk him out of transferring, but just made sure Heaps knew what he was choosing. The Cougar head coach said he conveyed to Heaps what their plan for him was and what the benefits of that plan were.

Doman, meanwhile, said he had at least three conversations with Heaps leading up to him transferring, as well as one meeting after Heaps announced his decision. During these meetings they went through all options. Doman said he voiced his opinion and fought to get his protégé to finish, to stick around and see his BYU career to the end, although he also let him know that he wouldn't have any hard feelings and would help him in any way he could.

Ultimately, Heaps was apparently not satisfied with his options at BYU and was set on getting a fresh start elsewhere.

Doman and Heaps, prior to the change in starting quarterback this season, seemed to have a great relationship. They spoke glowingly about each other, and could be seen kidding around and enjoying their time together. But, there were persistent rumors that the two had a falling out after Heaps lost the starting job.

A former Cougar quarterback himself, Doman admitted that the quarterback switch was a difficult situation to deal with.

"I've never been – I don't know if benched is the right word – but I've never been replaced, and so I can't relate entirely to that experience, but I do know that it wasn't an easy thing for Jake."

Doman added that he didn't blame Heaps for not liking the situation.

As for the rumored falling out that took place between mentor and student, Doman said, "Maybe for [Heaps] there was some frustration on his end, but gosh, I never experienced any disgruntled feelings or falling out or [lack of communication]."

Doman heard the rumors himself, including the rumor that he and Heaps weren't talking.

"Heavens no, that wasn't the case," he said.

The Cougars will play the Armed Forces Bowl on December 30 without Heaps as an available backup. Doman said he didn't blame Heaps for leaving prior to the bowl game.

"He wanted it done. He just didn't feel it fair to the team, once he decided he was gonna transfer and he knew he was gonna go, to hang around and be with the football team and serve any type of a role."

Probably the biggest disappointment in the whole situation, Doman said, was that it didn't go the way that everyone wanted it to go.

As the nation's top quarterback recruit in his class, Heaps arrived at BYU with no shortage of hype or expectations, something that he himself embraced. There was talk of competing for national championships, among other things.

Heaps played right away as a true freshman, rotating with Nelson. He ended up starting most of the season – a very rare feat for a freshman quarterback at BYU – after Nelson went down with an injury in the third game of 2010.

Doman admitted there are things he would like to have gone back and done differently.

"I won't comment on that exactly, other than there's certain things I think I would like to have seen happen different that we didn't do, and that's all hindsight. At the time we thought we were doing the right things, and it's just hard for any young player with that level of expectation that all of us placed on him, and he himself included, to then not have it go exactly – I don't know how it could have gone exactly the way we all planned it was gonna go. It was just unrealistic and probably unfair to Jake more than anybody."

Ultimately, the situation has been a learning experience for the first-year offensive coordinator, who struggled with an anemic Cougar offense early in the season until Nelson took over.

"There's a lot that I've learned in that regard and will certainly handle things better in the future, but as far as how things have transpired this year, it's been quite a year as a coordinator."

Doman ended that statement with a slight laugh, seemingly acknowledging the challenges he's had over the course of this eventful season in a self-deprecating manner, but it's clear that the Jake Heaps saga is ultimately disappointing to all.


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