Heaps: "It's Unbelievable...A Special Opportunity."

Heaps: "It's Unbelievable...A Special Opportunity."

Posted - Sep. 21, 2010 at 6:56 p.m.



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Newly-anointed starting QB Jake Heaps, his position coach Brandon Doman and head coach Bronco Mendenhall gave post-practice interviews on the day it was learned QB Riley Nelson was headed for season-ending shoulder surgery.

You can hear all three interviews by clicking the "Cougar Cuts" box below.

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Head Trainer Kevin Morris confirmed a "severe shoulder injury" that is both "labral" and involves "other pathology" that won't be fully determined until surgery is performed.

Mendenhall says he met with Nelson and the medical staff late this morning to discuss the injury and Nelson's options. The coach said a medical hardship waiver would likely be pursued, saying "I hope all that works... I think he has a great case. That's my hope is that we can get this year back."

Asked about Nelson's plans, Mendenhall said "I think he wants to come back, I think he wants to play here, and I think he wants to play quarterback, and that's what I hope as well."

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Nelson was hurt on BYU's third play from scrimmage at Florida State: a sack after which Nelson jogged to the sideline with his right arm hanging limply at his side. Mendenhall says it was a "re-injury" from fall camp.

QB Coach Brandon Doman said the initial thought was a stinger because of sensation loss in the shoulder, noting that Nelson returned to play, and would have continued "with a broken back." Doman says "we had made the decision to keep Jake in the game," and that the decision was not related to Nelson's injury.

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Heaps will become only the second ever BYU QB to go straight from high school one season to starting a game the next. The Skyline (WA) High School product called the starting assignment "unbelievable. It's a special opportunity and one that I'm so grateful for...I'm not going to take it very lightly at all. I'm going to give it everything I have and do the best I can. Really, this means a lot to me."

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More from Mendenhall--

On the Nelson injury: "(The shoulder) needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed right away. It's about a five to six month recovery process. Looking at the MRI, that he made it this long is pretty impressive, just because he's so dang tough."

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On what Nelson's role would have been going forward, without the injury: "We were going to continue to keep playing two (quarterbacks), and shift a lot more of the critical reps in the critical situations to Riley."

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On Nelson's reaction: "I think he's as disappointed as I am and our team is. He can't run any harder, he can't try any harder, there's just no way he could play any more."

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On rallying behind one QB: "We'll make it that way. We've always liked Jake's talent and the potebntial there. I liked two options and was hoping to continue a complement of some sort along the way, but now there us is one (QB), James Lark is the backup and now we move forward.

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On Heaps' preparation to start as a true freshman: "Who knows whether he's prepared or not? It's a freshman playing football. If there is anyone who is prepared, his experience to this point has led to me being very comfortable. I believe in his potential; it's just a matter of catching on experience and playing football. He's very capable, it's just going to be now decision-making, experience, execution and just playing ball."

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More from Doman--

On Nelson: "I'm just real proud of who he is and I love him, and I'm proud of what he has done for this football team up to this point, and I'm looking forward to getting him back."

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On Nelson's health: "As physical as he has been, that shoulder isn't the only thing; he's been banged up pretty good...that shoulder was kind of icing on the cake, and really a discouraging thing for him. If he could, and if it were the right thing to continue playing, he would certainly do it."

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On Heaps taking over: "He's our guy, and he's going to have be more mature than a 19 year-old true freshman. He's going to have to be, and I'm going to have to be a good football coach. There's a lot of potential there, but right now it's potential, and Jake and I recognize that and understand that, which is why you see him still working" (Heaps threw for an extra half-hour with receivers after practice).

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On Heaps' level of preparation: "He's definitely the most prepared freshman I've ever seen. The challenge to me right now is, as prepared as he is right now, 'how much better can Coach Doman and the football team make him?' He's really good right now, but if we can make him ten times better than he by by the time he's done, then we'll have done our job; that's the goal right now."

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Heaps called the Nelson injury "really unfortunate," adding that "it's a great opportunity; it's a time where I've got to step up and help this team out the best I can. These guys are rallying around me, and I couldn't ask to be around a better group of guys."

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More from Heaps on--

The pressure of being a starter at BYU: "That's why I came here. I didn't come here to take half of (the pressure), or to not be the guy. I came here to hopefully be the guy and when the time was right, to lead the team. Right now it happened and it was under unfortunate circumstances, but it's an exciting opportunity for me and I'm going to work as hard as I can."

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Asked whether his role was going to change regardless of the Nelson injury: "I knew there were going to be some changes, I didn't know exactly what they were going to be."

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Asked whether it is 'his team' now: "It's our team, it's not my team. It's not just about me, but I need to step up as a leader, step up and make plays."

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Besides the season-ending Nelson injury, BYU is dealing with a handful of other health issues heading into Saturday's home game with Nevada. Corner Brian Logan is the only player officially "questionable," with shoulder inflammation. OL Matt Reynolds is day-to-day and may be able to pracice tomorrow with a lower leg contusion suffered on a leg-whip at FSU, while trainer Kevin Morris said safety Andrew Rich is dealing with the tongue-in-cheek "full body contusion."

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