Is it Riley Nelson or Jake Heaps? Jake Heaps or Riley Nelson. The numbers are there. Jake Heaps completed 11 out of 25 for 107 yards, and rushed for five yards. Riley Nelson completed 10 of 14 for 144 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 62 yards. When you use the stat of yards per pass attempt, Heaps had 4.28 yards per attempt, and Nelson had 10.3 yards per pass attempt, not counting sacks or scrambles.
On the surface, it would appear that Nelson is a runaway choice to be the starter for next week. However, there is a lot more to picking a starting QB than what is on the surface.
This happens a lot more in college than the NFL, because over half of the teams in the NFL run the same exact offense with different terminology. So, in the NFL, the skill set for a starting QB is extremely narrow opposed to the skill set for a college QB. Consequently, the NFL keeps QB’s who fit a narrow prototype, and it is usually easier to quantify who is the best for the team.
In college, though, it’s different. Teams run different variations and combine a lot of different offenses. The game is slow enough that some things that wouldn’t work in the NFL work great in college. Also, coaches run different defenses in college. There are so many different personnel packages and schemes on both sides of the ball that you never know what offense will work against what defense.
What does this have to do with Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson? Everything. It is difficult to build a team exactly like you want to in college. Unlike the NFL, players choose where they want to play. In the NFL, most teams don’t have one or two glaring weak spots. In college, almost every team has one or many weak spots that can be exploited by a savvy coach.
Even though Riley Nelson had much better passing stats than Jake Heaps, Nelson is a QB whose strength is that he is a threat to run. It forces the opposing team to alter their defense. A disciplined NFL team with no weak spots would simply cover gaps and refuse to break contain. A college team usually has to have a player “spy” on a running QB. This can be a very fast LB or an extra DB. Either way, it takes one man out of coverage and can create mismatches in the secondary.
Jake Heaps failed to get the job done in the first half, and bringing in Riley Nelson was the correct move. He was a “change of pace” when the Cougars needed it, and he did a great job. Remember, though, that USU practiced all week for Jake Heaps. If they had practiced for Riley Nelson, the outcome might have been different.
It is often said that backup QB is the best position on the team, because you never do anything wrong. Whenever the starter fails to perform, the fans and media clamor for the backup. Now, it appears that most of the fanbase wants to see Nelson as the starter until further notice. The media may or may not want Nelson to start. Usually, they just want controversy because it gives them something more compelling to report.
Ultimately, though, the responsibility falls on the coaching staff. Riley Nelson did his job as a backup QB; he came in, performed admirably, and won the game for the Cougars. That is great, but the sample size is too small. Coaches see the players six days a week in practice. They know who is capable of doing what.
As fans, all we see are the games. All we know is what we see on Saturday (or, in the Cougars’ case, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday). If the decision was being made solely on what happened during those three hours, Nelson would be a runaway pick as the starter.
The coaches, though, have access to a lot more information, and make their decisions accordingly. The coaches will make their decision based on what they see in practice. Really, though, we expect to see Jake Heaps start against San Jose State this week.
This year’s schedule has been tough. The Cougars have played against much better competition than they did last year. To their credit, they are 1-1 in intrastate rivalries this year, where they were 0-2 last year. No games are “easy,” but it would be nice to see what Jake Heaps can do against an average team that doesn’t have a “rivalry game” with BYU. Remember the UTEP game?
Sometimes, it does a QB good to sit on the bench and watch the action. Jake Heaps has a lot of talent, but he needed a pattern interrupt. He got one big time on Friday. Jake Heaps took his lumps during the toughest part of the schedule. He deserves to have a chance to see what he can do against the less difficult part.
Besides, the Cougars are in a perfect position right now. They have a starting QB with a lot of talent and potential, and a higher upside. If what he is doing doesn’t work, they have a backup QB who can come in and totally disrupt everything the opponents have practiced for all week.
Make no mistake about it. Jake Heaps has NFL potential. He is still young, too: only a true sophomore. In a more ideal situation, he could have had a redshirt year to sit on the bench. When Nelson was injured last season, that was no longer an option.
Also, Nelson was playing against his old team and had a lot to prove. Once again, the sample size is too small to make a judgment.
The bottom line is that, until further notice, Jake Heaps is still the starting QB. If Riley Nelson outperforms him in practice, he will become the starter. Either way, we are more than willing to trust whatever the coaches decide to do.
Ultimately, it is the coaches whose reputations are on the line here, and it is they who have the most information to make a decision. As far as we are concerned, there is no controversy. We trust that whatever decision Bronco Mendenhall makes will be the correct one.
On a less serious note, here’s a pretty funny video a fan made about Riley Nelson’s hair:
|DATE||OPPONENT||PLACE & TIME||CHANNEL||FINAL SCORE|
|9/12||Tulane||New Orleans, LA
|9/19||Florida State||PROVO, UT
|VERSUS HD||LOSS 54-28|
|9/26||Colorado State||PROVO, UT
|10/2||Utah State||PROVO, UT
|10/10||UNLV||Las Vegas, NV
|10/17||SDSU||San Diego, CA
|VERSUS HD||LOSS 38-7|
|11/14||New Mexico||Albuquerque, NM
|11/21||Air Force||Provo, UT
|CBS C – HD||WIN 38-21|
|CBS C/MTN||WIN 26-23|
Last updated byat .