Jake Heaps won’t let a little thing like timing preclude him from playing football at Tennessee.
At first glance, Heaps’ timeline and the Vols’ might not match. The standout quarterback from Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash., is all but determined to make his decision before his senior season.
“Unless something crazy happens, that’s what I’m going to do,” the 6-foot-1½, 195-pounder said.
By doing so, Heaps would choose his college destination before UT’s new offense under head coach Lane Kiffin hits the field.
“It really isn’t a big deal,” Heaps said. “I know what Coach Kiffin’s offense is. I’ve seen it almost every week over here on the west coast at USC (Southern California). I know what he wants to accomplish.”
Kiffin wants to accomplish a pro-style offense. That could be a perfect fit for Heaps, who will be rated among the top pro-style quarterbacks in the nation.
Heaps has upwards of 25 scholarship offers.
Heaps pared his list to 10: BYU, California, Colorado, North Carolina, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Tennessee, UCLA and Washington.
Then, a couple more heavyweights (Georgia and Florida State) came calling, meaning Heaps’ list is growing despite his best efforts to control it. Southern California is thought to be close to offering Heaps a scholarship.
The Vols appear to be in solid shape. Of the seven schools Heaps has visited, UT is the only one east of the Rocky Mountains.
“Overall, it was a fantastic visit,” Heaps said. “I had a blast down there, getting to meet the dream team (coaching) staff. The staff that they put together is amazing.”
Heaps has been busy this winter. He’s also visited Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, USC and BYU.
As for the Vols, Heaps’ conversation with Kiffin and quarterback coach David Reaves, his lead recruiter, stood out.
“We really got down to talking football philosophy,” Heaps said. “It was great. I was very impressed with all the coaches.
“Coach Kiffin is just a fantastic teacher. They are great communicators and know where they expect this program to go and where I could fit in.”
Heaps certainly appreciates being taught. Skyline head coach Mat Taylor makes Heaps sound like the football junkie one would expect from a top-flight prospect.
“A lot of recruiters say he’s as fundamentally sound as they’ve seen,” Taylor said. “He would go to (football) camps every weekend if he could.”
Heaps has the statistics to underscore his athletic prowess. In two seasons as a starter, he has thrown for more than 6,000 yards and close to 80 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions in Skyline’s pass-happy, four-wide receiver, no-huddle offense.
Yet Taylor points to two other of Heaps’ stats: 28-0 and two state titles as a starter.
“The No. 1 thing is the kid is a winner,” Taylor said.
A career 62.5 percent passer, accuracy has helped Heaps to such a gaudy win-loss record.
“He just doesn’t make the bad throw,” Taylor said.
There are limitations to Heaps’ game — only because they’ve been placed on him by Taylor. Heaps can run, Taylor maintains, but he’s too valuable to be allowed to do so.
“He’ll scramble to stay behind the line of scrimmage and throw,” Taylor said. “He’s not looking to run.”
Taylor and Heaps both want his highly anticipated decision to be made as soon as possible so both can focus on the 2009 season.
To find out more, Heaps said he’d like to take more visits this spring and, possibly, another trip to see the Vols’ summer camp in June. However, such travel aspirations have their limits.
“It’s definitely difficult with the financial times and the economy,” Heaps said. “We’ll do the best we can.”
UT can live without a summer visit from Heaps. Its coaches are hoping for Heaps’ signature on National Signing Day 2010.
Say this for the Vols, they’ve already overcome the most difficult hurdle: distance.
“Of course, in a perfect world, you’d love to be close to home but I’m going to go to the place that I think is best for me — scholastically, athletically and the overall environment — wherever that may be,” Heaps said.
“If that’s over here on the West Coast or at Tennessee, that’s where I’m going to be.”