Snohomish grad adjusting to life on defense

  • John Sleeper / Herald Writer
  • Monday, April 5, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – It wasn’t happening for Andy Heater at tight end.

The Snohomish High School grad could only watch as the Washington Huskies brought in one hotshot after another at his position. Time is running out for the redshirt junior and he knew it.

So after conversations with his offensive coaches, Heater made the decision to move to defensive end, starting this spring, under defensive line coach Randy Hart.

“It’s gone better that I thought it would,” Heater said. “I’m learning it. It’s a big switch, but Coach Hart is a great coach. I think he’ll bring me along.”

One by one, the Huskies recruited players at the position who were bigger, taller, stronger and faster than the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Heater. Transfer Jon Lyon came in at 6-6, 260. Ben Bandel at 6-7 260. Jason Benn is 6-5 and 245. Joe Toledo is 6-6, 285.

All could catch passes like a wideout. All could block like a tackle.

If Heater wanted to play in his final two seasons of eligibility, the move to defense became one of necessity.

“Two-sixty or 265 seem like a pretty normal weight for a tight end,” Heater said. “But being 6-3, I was really trying to keep my weight down so I could move the way I wanted to. Playing defensive end, I can play at a weight that I know is going to keep me stronger, rather than trying to lose weight to make me quicker.”

In meetings after the 2003 season, Heater learned that some of the coaching staff saw him as one who had possibilities of shoring up the defensive end position now manned by junior transfer Mike Mapu and senior Manase Hopoi, although Hopoi figures to play inside much of the time. Clearly, there are jobs to be had.

It was Heater who approached head coach Keith Gilbertson about the switch. Gilbertson, Heater said, has been very supportive.

Now comes the difficult part. Heater is on a vertical learning curve, one that requires him to carry with him a more aggressive, search-and-destroy mode than does a defensive end.

“The hardest part is reading a pass versus the run,” he said. “You’re not just reading one guy; you’re reading three or four guys. Being able to play off a block and make a tackle or being able to run to the quarterback. It’s a whole different mindset than tight end.”

It’s been a year of change for Heater. No longer is his father, Chuck Heater, a UW assistant, having accepted a similar position at Utah.

“He’s enjoying himself,” Andy Heater said. “I talk to him every night. We never really talked about football when he was here. We talked mostly about family stuff. Now he asks me how I’m doing here and I ask him how he’s doing there.”

Other changes: Stanley Daniels, who switched from defensive tackle to offensive tackle at mid-season last year to shore up the injury-depleted line, continues on offense. Also, Tui Alailefaleula switched from defensive tackle to offensive tackle, Graham Lasee goes to offensive tackle from defensive end and James Sims moves from strong safety to fullback.

Injured: Several Huskies are either limited or will miss spring practices entirely because of injury rehab.

The list includes wideout Charles Frederick (shoulder), tailback Chris Singleton (foot), tight end Jason Benn (shoulder), free safety Dashon Goldson (shoulder), tight end Joe Toledo (back), linebacker Joe Lobendahn (knee), guard Tusi Sa’au (back) and guard Rob Meadow (knee). Wideout Justin Robbins (knee) has officially retired, but will assist the staff as a student-coach.

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