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Originally published Friday, June 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Jake Heaps makes it official, chooses BYU

Skyline High coach said Heaps' final decision came down to BYU and Washington, claiming "it was very, very close."

Seattle Times staff reporter

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What had been much speculated the past 24 hours became official this afternoon as Skyline High quarterback Jake Heap announced he will attend Brigham Young.

Heaps, regarded as the top prospect in the state and among the best in the nation, made the announcement in front of a raucous audience at a sports bar in Salt Lake City. After he made his announcement, putting on a BYU cap along the way, he then introduced two other players who also made their commitments official — receiver Ross Apo of Arlington, Texas and linebacker Zac Stout of Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, Calif.

The news conference culminated a hectic 24 hours for Heaps, who had announced Wednesday afternoon via a news release from a PR firm hired by his family that he had made his decision, though with no other details. He attended Skyline High's spring practice Wednesday afternoon, then dashed off to the airport to catch a flight to Salt Lake City for today's news conference.

Heaps said he wanted to make the announcement now to help BYU in its recruiting — the school is hosting a Junior Day on Friday with 100 or so prospective recruits expected to be in attendance.

"I felt like now is the time," said Heaps, listed at 6 feet 2, 195 pounds. "I felt like I've done a lot of thorough research. At one point I was just waiting for that epiphany to come and finally, recently, I received that and realized BYU is the place for me and I'm just lucky I found it."

Heaps, who has led Skyline to two straight Class 4A state titles, had said he had five finalists, the others being Washington, California, Tennessee and LSU. But most close to the process say the decision ultimately came down to UW and BYU.

"I'll say this — it was very, very close," said Skyline coach Mat Taylor, who learned of Heaps' decision Wednesday afternoon. "It was a very difficult decision for him. [If he attended UW he would have been] able to play in front of the Skyline community and his family, and he grew up a Husky his whole life. It was a very difficult decision for him. But this was what he felt was in his best interest at this time."

Heaps has noted that BYU was the first school to offer him a scholarship and UW had a lot of ground to make up after the coaching change last December from Tyrone Willingham to Steve Sarkisian.

Sarkisian made getting Heaps a priority and visited Skyline within hours of his introductory news conference on Dec. 8.

Heaps also attended a few UW spring practices and scrimmages and recently had a long meeting on campus with Huskies coaches and academic advisers, which helped buoy the hopes of Huskies fans.

Taylor said UW coaches "did a fantastic job. I don't know what more they could have done."

Among the factors helping sway Heaps to BYU is religion — he is Mormon — though Taylor said he didn't think that was the deciding factor.

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"It was really just part of it but not the whole part," Taylor said.

Heaps plans to graduate from Skyline in December and then enroll at BYU so he can participate in spring practice and compete for the starting job that will come open with Max Hall entering his senior season.

"That's been a big part of his recruiting," Taylor said. "He wants to be an early-enroll kid."

If Heaps were to win BYU's starting QB job for the 2010 season he could have a storybook beginning to his career as the Cougars are set to open their schedule that year against the Huskies in Provo on Sept. 4. BYU will also play at UW in 2011 and host UW in Provo again in 2012.

While the loss of Heaps might be seen as a hit to Sarkisian's efforts to rebuild the Huskies, some recruiting observers have said it might be more a negative in perception than on the field as long as UW is able to sign one of its other targets.

The Huskies have also made offers to quarterbacks Jesse Scroggins of Lakewood, Calif., and Nick Montana of Westlake Village, Calif., both rated among the top quarterbacks in the nation.

Montana, the son of Joe Montana, is expected to make an unofficial visit to UW this weekend, telling ESPN.com on Wednesday that "Washington is up there and if I had a good visit, they could move to the top, so we'll see how it goes." He said he is "excited to see Washington and I have a good relationship with Sarkisian."

The Oaks Christian team featuring Montana and Stout, the BYU recruit, will play at Skyline on Sept. 18 in a game that will be televised on ESPN2.

Potoa'e to explore options

Washington had hoped to make Heaps the centerpiece of a 2010 recruiting class that already includes nine commitments. Instead, they now not only won't get Heaps but also will have to work to keep some of the in-state commitments they have already received.

Lakes High defensive lineman Sione Potoa'e, who committed to UW in February, has received an offer from USC and will take visits to other schools, Lakes coach Dave Miller said via e-mail Thursday.

"He is still committed to UW," Miller said. "However, he will be taking some trips and considering a few other offers. Sione committed so very early in the recruiting process, even before the May junior evaluation period had begun.

"After seeing all of the opportunities that have materialized during the past month he realizes now that he owes it to himself to go through the process and make sure he ends up with the right fit by visiting three or four schools."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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