Jake Heaps ready, eager to take over under center for Jayhawks

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DALLAS – Unlike most of the other teams in the Big 12, Kansas did not have a potent passing attack last season. The Jayhaws were one of three FBS teams to complete fewer than half of their throws in 2012, the others being Southern Miss and Army.

First-year head coach Charlie Weis brought in Dayne Crist, who transferred from Notre Dame, where Weis originally recruited him as the Jayhawks limped to a 1-11 record. They beat FCS squad South Dakota State in the season opener and lost their final 11 games, following up their lone win by falling victim to a game-winning field goal in a loss to Rice the next week.

Crist and backup Michael Cummings combined to throw seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions. An effective running game spearheaded by James Sims and Tony Pierson wasn’t enough.

“Last year, every team we played knew we were going to run the ball,” linebacker Ben Heeney said. “They knew that’s what we were going to do because we couldn’t pass it last year.”

All Jake Heaps could do was watch.

“It was excruciating,” Heaps, who transferred to Kansas from BYU in 2011, said. “It was really hard to not be able to help my teammates out and battle with them. As a competitor and a guy that loves the game of football, it was hard for me… It was the best and worst thing for me. It was the best thing to happen for me but the worst thing in the moment.

While sitting out in 2012, Heaps couldn’t contribute on Saturdays but helped Kansas prepare for opponents by torching the first-team defense as the scout-team quarterback. Now the Jayhawks are hoping Heaps will have similar success against opponents this upcoming season.

“He was tearing us up sometimes,” Heeney admitted. “He would make a walk-on freshman receiver look like a Heisman Trophy candidate. He would just put the ball right on the money. Guys would catch the ball. Jake last year would tear our defense apart, using scout team receivers. I’m just excited to see what he’ll do in real games now.”

Heaps was the top quarterback coming out of high school in 2010, according to rivals.com, He passed for 3,768 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 57 percent of his passes in two seasons with BYU before being replaced as the team’s starting quarterback and deciding to transfer to Kansas. He was forced to sit out in 2012, per NCAA transfer rules.

“You can either take it easy because you know you’re not going to play that year or you can get better. That’s what I chose to do,” Heaps said. “The moment I set foot on campus I just approached myself like I was the starting quarterback.”

One of two quarterbacks representing their teams at Big 12 Media Days, the other being  Texas’ David Ash, Heaps will finally get that chance to be a starting quarterback again.