BYU banks on Heaps’ development

If history repeats itself, Brigham Young should have a pretty good football season.

The Cougars return 19 starters from a 7-6 team, but none more important than sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps.

The highly touted prospect from Issaquah, Wash., struggled early last season. But after a 1-4 start, Heaps regrouped and his teammates followed. The Cougars won five of their last six games, including a 52-24 victory over Texas-El Paso in the New Mexico Bowl.

Now comes Year 2, and history is on Heaps’ side. Second-year starters at BYU have flourished. Mark Wilson went 11-1 during his second year in 1979, and others followed suit: Jim McMahon 11-2 (1981), Steve Young 11-1 (1983), Ty Detmer 10-3 (1989), Steve Sarkisian 14-1 (1996) and Max Hall 10-3 (2008).

“(Heaps) has got more wisdom. He has more experience,” Cougars offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman said. “He certainly knows how to handle being a BYU quarterback at a higher level.”

Heaps is surrounded by returning starters at nearly every position.

“I feel lucky to be in this situation,” he said. “There is so much excitement around here. To be the quarterback at BYU right now is humbling. Trust me, I’m working my tail off to make sure there are no disappointments.”

Heaps and the Cougars open the season Sept. 3 at Mississippi. The game will be carried locally on ESPN (Cox Cable 30) and KSHP-AM (1400).

■ CFL STAR RETURNS — First-year receivers coach Ben Cahoon knows all about catching footballs. The former BYU star retired from the Canadian Football League last year as its career receptions leader (1,017) after 13 seasons with the Montreal Alouettes, with whom he won three Grey Cup titles.

Now he’s making an immediate impression on the Cougars.

“He teaches them very elementary and specifically on how to catch the football and how much it means,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “They are making hard catches more consistently.”

Cahoon said Cody Hoffman (6 feet 4 inches) and Ross Apo (6-3) give BYU’s receiving corps a “different” look.

“They are not the typical receivers we have had at BYU,” Cahoon said. “We’ve got to do a good job of maximizing their talents and let them run. They are big, tall and they are fast.”

■ McMAHON TO UNLV? — Jim McMahon is arguably the greatest quarterback to play at BYU, but he writes in Duff Tittle’s book “What It Means to Be a Cougar” that he really wanted to be a Rebel.

“Coming out of high school in Roy, Utah, I really wanted to go to UNLV, but my dad said, ‘No, you’re not going there. The school’s not big enough.’ ” McMahon wrote. “Eventually, I chose BYU.”

McMahon gave UNLV a taste of what could have been when BYU beat the Rebels 54-14 in Las Vegas in 1980. He went on to set 75 NCAA records and later lead the Chicago Bears to the 1986 Super Bowl championship.

Dave McCann is a morning news anchor on KLAS-TV (Channel 8). He also hosts “True Blue” at 5 p.m. Monday on BYUTV, is the play-by-play voice for BYUTV and hosts “Cougar Countdown” at noon Wednesday on KSHP Radio (1400 AM). He can be reached at dmccann@8newsnow.com.

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