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Sunday, August 15, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Bob Condotta
Andy Heater is on his own now.
"It's kind of like now I'm a regular player," says the junior defensive end for the Washington Huskies.
During his first three years at Washington, Heater could always look across the field in the worst of moments and see a friendly face that of his father, Chuck.
Chuck Heater was a UW assistant the last five seasons after coming to Washington from Colorado with Rick Neuheisel in 1999. Chuck Heater stayed through last season after Neuheisel was fired, but was essentially told to get another job when the season ended and is now an assistant at Utah. Tim Hundley, another UW assistant who had come with Neuheisel, was also encouraged to leave.
But Andy Heater, who was ranked as the top tight end in the state as a senior at Snohomish High School in 2000, said he never really thought of transferring.
"This is my school," he said.
"He never really gave me the specific reasons," said Andy Heater, whose father switched from coaching running backs at UW to defensive backs at Utah. "I think that's because I'm still here. Whatever those reasons were, it's been a positive switch for him because he's coaching the position he wants down there."
So far, there has been a positive switch for Andy Heater as well. After playing tight end his first three years, he moved to the defensive line in the spring. Yesterday, when the team put on shoulder pads for the first time this fall, Heater was running as the No. 1 defensive end opposite Ty Eriks.
At the moment, the move up the roster is largely a nod to the hard work Heater put in during the summer.
"He came in in shape and has had a good couple of days," said Washington coach Keith Gilbertson. "Some of the guys in front of him didn't work out and come back in good shape, and have some aches and pulls. So he's in the rotation. He'll get a look."
Heater said, "They are rewarding me with the chance to work with the ones right now to see if I can do the job. But I plan on keeping it."
Listed at 6 feet 3, 265, Heater says he's up to 280 after his summer of work.
"I feel a lot stronger, and I think I've retained my speed pretty good," he said.
And he still talks to his father every night.
"They are at camp as well," Heater said. "And he's already lost his voice, just like here."
When he was being recruited last fall, Jackson High School's Johnie Kirton made it clear that he planned on playing only tailback in college and schools that wanted him to play another position should look elsewhere.
Kirton, who finished a yard short of the Washington prep record with 2,675 yards last fall, signed with the Huskies, in part due to a promise to be a tailback.
But after just three days of practice with the Huskies, Kirton said he has decided he'd be willing to try playing at fullback if needed.
Kirton said playing tailback is still his main focus. "But, basically, if they need me to play fullback, I'd be willing to," he said.
Kirton said he plans on getting on the field this season somehow. First, however, he has to get in shape. He suffered a staph infection from an injury suffered in the East-West All-Star in June and wasn't able to work out for about a month.
He's listed at 6-3, 248 pounds. But asked yesterday how much Kirton weighs now, Gilbertson said "He's bigger than 248. A lot bigger than 248."
Asked how much weight he needs to lose, Kirton smiled. "A significant amount," he said.
After practice yesterday, the Huskies held their annual picture day with fans meeting players to get autographs and take pictures. UW coaches also invited about 20 recruits to watch practice.
One of the recruits, kicker/punter Ryan Perkins of North Thurston High in Olympia, decided to use the occasion to give his verbal commitment to UW coaches.
"I've always been a Dawg," he said. "I knew I was going to do it eventually, and I just felt like this was a good time to do it."
The 6-0, 185-pound Perkins punts left-footed and kicks right-footed and averaged 44 yards per punt last season. He is the fourth member of UW's recruiting class of 2005.
Washington put on shoulder pads yesterday after practicing in just sweats the first two days, and might have suffered one significant injury. Sophomore cornerback Josh Okoebor, a junior-college transfer contending for time as a reserve, suffered a knee injury that could be serious, Gilbertson said. The nature of the injury wasn't immediately clear.
Receiver Quintin Daniels left practice after getting stepped on and likely losing the nail on his big toe. He should be fine.
Sitting out practice was defensive lineman Donny Mateaki, who suffered a hamstring injury in practice Friday. He is likely to miss at least three days.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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