In 2012, Kansas' offense wasn't anywhere close to the offense that head coach Charlie Weis envisioned. He imagined fifth year transfer Dayne Crist could come in and write a happy ending to his up and down career that started at Notre Dame under Weis.
Instead, it was pretty close to a disaster, as Kansas finished 1-11 and Crist spent most of the second half of the season on the bench, backing up Michael Cummings. Weis' vision of a high flying aerial attack had morphed into a one-dimensional running attack with zone reads and options being called and those that know Weis offense, those two plays were rarely if ever called before. But, Weis did what he thought could give his team the best chance to win and he knew that massive improvement would be needed in 2013.
When the 2012 season ended, Weis assessed the season that had just mercifully ended and pointed to the emergence of the other transfer quarterback he brought in, a kid named Jake Heaps, who transferred in from BYU. Heaps had spent the 2012 season lighting it up on the scout team in practice and often Weis would talk about how he and fellow transfer Justin McCay, a receiver who joined the Jayhawks after a year at Oklahoma may have been the two best offensive players on the team, yet they couldn't play.
"I'm going to kind of group Jake and Justin McCay together. Justin transferred from Oklahoma back home to Kansas City, where he's from, and Jake came from when I had recruited him out of Skyline High School out in Seattle, Washington, where he was the top ranked player in the country, and he really wanted to come to that school I was at, but he thought I might get fired, and he forgot to tell me that he was going to be right. He had better foresight than I did," Weis said.
"With that being said, I was very fortunate last year for them, while they were going through a transfer year where they were ineligible, where they could establish a rapport, where they could be on that practice field every day throwing and catching."
Heaps wasn't just a star of the show team, but he became a student of the game and almost coachlike in how he thought. During road games, Heaps would take notes and make it a point to text or leave Weis a long detailed message on what he thought worked and didn't work and what needed to be done. Following the season ending loss to West Virginia, Heaps did just that and told Weis it was time to get to work, because once the season was over, he knew the team was his.
That's just what Heaps did, taking over the team in the spring and it showed on the field, especially in the Spring Game, where Heaps showcased some of what he could do and off the field, quickly emerged as the leader of the team.
"Heaps brings a lot to the table, his leadership and his work ethic," senior running back James Sims said. "His connection with the receivers and everything like that is just coming together and that's just going to help the offense and help us put points on the board."
You see it in practice everyday. Heaps is the most vocal guy during drills and is the man on the offense and throughout each session. To watch Jake Heaps is to watch a mature man, who has earned the trust and respect of his teammates.
Still, there is some trepidation among fans and media alike when it comes to what Heaps can do for the Jayhawks this season. Much of that is a sort of hangover from the failed Dayne Crist experiment, but Weis points to the fact that though both Heaps and Crist were transfers, the comparisons end there.
"Actually, they're totally different situations other than the fact that they're coming in new. Dayne was coming off the back to back ACLs. So you get your you tore your right ACL, then you get healthy, then you tear your left ACL. So as a quarterback, okay, you could simulate a lot of things, but the one thing you're not going to do is in training camp let your starting quarterback get hit a whole bunch of times.
So you don't know what's going to happen when the real bullets start flying, and I think that we all saw Dayne admittedly is too. He's one of my favorite people of all times. I mean, wasn't playing with a lot of confidence, wasn't playing with that air about him that "I'm not worrying about my knees, I'm just going to go ahead and let it go.
Jake has no physical issues. Jake just had to sit for a year while he was biding his time for his opportunity to play. So I think that Jake will come in with a lot more confidence than Dayne came in because I don't think that health issues are even in the back of his mind, knock on wood."
Heaps waited patiently, alright. He did anything within the rules to help the team as best as he could. He even served as a recruiter when a potential Jayhawk would visit. Heaps' job was to do his best to sell a recruit on Kansas and because of his magnetic personality, it worked more times that it didn't. Ass Weis pointed out, people gravitate towards him and make no mistake, the current players have bought in.
"He's definitely a leader on the field, he commands the huddle," junior tight end Jim May Mundine said. "He's a guy that can still make plays, even if the defense is in the perfect coverage, he can beat the coverage with his throw. He knows his assignment, he knows your assignment, there's just not a lot that confuses him. He's just a complete quarterback you want on your team that's just going to do his job and really is willing to do whatever it takes to win."
Wins where ultimately be where this story is judged. Kansas has been starved for them since the end of the Mark Mangino era. The program that had been built crumbled in the two years that followed his dismissal and today, Charlie Weis finds himself in the midst of a massive rebuilding project and if they are to take major steps forward, 2013 will be the year it takes flight and if so, it'll be on the wings of Jake Heaps, who could turn a one-dimensional, punchless offense and turn it into a machine that will add the passing game to arguably the best running game in the Big 12 and perhaps the nation.
"It's been well documented that anyone who watched us play last year, that although we had a pretty solid running game, we couldn't pass the ball, and we couldn't score points, and I think that that's what I'm counting on this year for us to be a more balanced team on offense. I think Jake can help provide that for us," Weis said.
As September begins, Jayhawk fans and football fans alike will finally get to see for themselves as Kansas hopes to be among the biggest surprises in college football this season and when it is all set and done, there will be many ways to judge and gauge success for Kansas and for Heaps. Ask him though and you will get a blunt and honest answer one would expect to find from his coach. Truth is, the answer is as simple as the question is.
"Wins, that's the only way you gauge success. It's not about how close you come to winning, that's not what we're about," Heaps said "We're about winning games and that's how I'm going to judge whether we're good or not and I expect us to win more game than you guys expects us to win."