By Shane Bacon
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona sophomore Kris Heavner has emerged as the true No. 1 quarterback to start the 2004 season after impressing coaches during off-season workouts. Heavner started eight games a year ago, throwing eight touchdowns in the process.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 2, 2004
UA's offensive hope rests on right arm of second-year QB
At the start of the 2003 season, two quarterbacks rose above the ranks, battling to be the main guy taking the snaps.
One was a redshirt sophomore southpaw who intended to show critics that you didn't have to be taller than six feet to be the brains behind the offense.
The other was a tall, lanky redshirt freshman that just wanted to make a name for himself before breaking out as top dog.
Neither of these men were Kris Heavner - Arizona's true sophomore starting quarterback - who will take the whole town of Tucson on his back come Saturday against the Lumberjacks.
Heavner was a relative nobody last year, coming straight from Johnson City, Texas. Not only did he eventually accept the third-string duties of toting the clipboards and becoming best friends with the right shoulder of the offense coordinator, but he wasn't even the most publicized quarterback the UA signed that year.
A year sure can change a lot.
After three games last season, then-head coach John Mackovic threw Heaver into the starting rotation, only to see him throw a 58-yard touchdown to senior tight end Steve Fleming when Arizona fell to then-No. 19 Texas Christian 13-10 in overtime.
A touchdown then was something he would never have imagined.
Nowadays it is something Wildcat fans will be expecting.
"He's worked extremely hard and he's taken little steps every day in the right directions," offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. "He's really progressed and asserted himself (this offseason)."
Heavner will take the snaps this Saturday in control of his own destiny.
Redshirt junior Nic Costa has taken a step back and into a more "slash"-type style, probably seeing action in the backfield and at wideout, while Ryan O'Hara will continue to look on from the sidelines as the team's backup.
Head Coach Mike Stoops has decided that Heavner will be in control of the multiple spread scheme, and hopefully he can continue to rise as a leader on the field.
"He's a lot more disciplined," wide receiver Ricky Williams said. "He's showing a lot more leadership. Last year he was a true freshman and didn't really know how to run the offense but this year he's been around all summer and worked hard with us."
Heavner started the final eight games last year, throwing for the second-most yards by a freshman in Arizona football history.
His progression over the offseason brings a smile to his teammates' faces, who will be competing beside him.
"Right now he is more confident than ever," Williams said with a smirk. "It's always a good thing having a quarterback that can find you and has confidence in you making plays. I just look forward in seeing how well we've progressed."
The man that wears number 12 will have a good chance this year to improve on stats that included an 8-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio and an efficiency rating of 102.74.
Canales could only speak positively of the new approach Heavner has made.
"He's taken a step in the right direction and understands that he's the starter and that he can play on this level," he said. "He knows he wants to set himself apart amongst the top quarterbacks in the Pac-10, and I think he understands what it takes to get there."
With most of Tucson anticipating a breakout season under Stoops, it is Heavner that will be taking the most heat.
A large crowd is expected Saturday to see if the man behind center can answer the hype.