Heaps and Di Luigi named to preseason award watch lists


Expectations continue to rise for BYU’s offense this upcoming season as quarterback Jake Heaps and running back JJ Di Luigi were nominated to the Davey O’Brien and Doak Walker Award preseason watch lists on Friday.

The Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award is presented yearly to the nation’s best college quarterback, while the Doak Walker Award showcases the nation’s top college running back. Heaps is one of 38 quarterbacks nominated to the Davey O’Brien watch list, which includes such standouts as Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez.

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Jake Heaps has been named to the Davey O'Brien Award watch list.
BYU has produced more Davey O’Brien trophy winners than any other school in NCAA football. Their four trophies have distinguished BYU as a quarterback-centered school and Heaps looks to join the ranks of trophy winners Steve Young, Ty Detmer and Jim McMahon.

“There is just such a culture here at BYU that honestly, this team is centered around the quarterback. This is a place that focuses on helping the quarterback thrive as much as he possibly can,” Heaps said. “We have a great system here in place. A system that is very unique than any other.”

Di Luigi became a go-to man for Heaps last season and finished the season with more receptions than any other player on the team. Heaps and Di Luigi look to feed off each other’s success and Di Luigi believes motioning out of the backfield and lining up as a slot receiver will be a critical part of his game this season.

Di Luigi wants to finish the season with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, while helping his team go undefeated. Di Luigi has had his sights set on the Doak Walker Award ever since he came to BYU and wants to join BYU’s only other Doak Walker trophy winner, Luke Staley.

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JJ DiLuigi has been named to the preseason Doak Walker award watch list.
“When I was being recruited here I saw Luke Staley’s Doak Walker Award and I actually told coach Mendenhall ‘I want to win that award. I want to bring another award to BYU,’ ” Di Luigi said. “To be on this list just gets me a little bit closer to reaching my goal, in that sense.”



BYU’s first two home games next season will feature matchups against two other Davey O’Brien preseason watch list quarterbacks. Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn and Central Florida quarterback Jeff Godfrey will provide intriguing matchups for Cougar fans to watch at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“It’s a great opportunity for me personally to go and prove myself against other elite quarterbacks in the country,” Heaps said. “It’s an exciting opportunity, but at the end of the day … it’s about winning football games and I think if our team’s winning than that’s as good of an outcome as any.”

Heaps admits that the offense was torn at the beginning of last season with the different style of quarterback play that came from both Riley Nelson and himself. He looks to carry the momentum gained by the offense during the second half of the season into BYU’s first year of independence.

“We weren’t gelling. We didn’t have the chemistry needed. I didn’t have the reps needed to perform at a high level. I think that as you saw the season progress, you saw our offense and myself gain more and more confidence, more and more chemistry,” Heaps said. “Once we hit that second half of the season I truly believe the reps had caught up to the point where we were now able to perform at a high level like a BYU offense should. The thing that I’m looking forward to the most this season now is learning from that experience and now having myself be the clear-cut starter and to have a full offseason to work with my teammates and for them to work with me.”

Heaps acknowledged that being independent increases the stakes of every single game. He said his team has a core group of guys that can make a run at a national championship.

“I think these guys are talented. They’re working extremely hard and we’ve just come back from a season that has kind of left a bitter taste in our mouth,” Heaps said. “We finished real strong toward the end of the season, but BYU is not a 7-6 football team. We’re expected and we expect ourselves to play at a much higher level and we definitely have the talent and the depth to pull off a great run this year and for the next few years to come.”

Selection committees narrow down finalists for the Davey O’Brien and Doak Walker awards during October and November, with the winners being announced on Dec. 8 at the Home Depot College Football Awards on ESPN.

“It came as a shock, but I’m excited about it,” Di Luigi said about the Doak Walker Award watch list. “Hopefully I can just have a great season and be an even bigger candidate for it at the end of the season.”

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