March 20, 2009

Heberer respects USC special teamers

Zack Heberer is used to running with a different crowd.

The big offensive lineman has spent plenty of time during his USC career rolling with the teams' kickers and punters. But, with both of his roommates, David Buehler and Greg Woidneck, graduating, what's the big man's plan?

"Oh, I'm moving in with Joe Houston," Heberer said with a laugh.

While offensive linemen and special teamers have bonded for some time at USC, Heberer said his relationship with Mario Danelo, a fellow San Pedro native, got the ball rolling.

"We just always hung out. Mario was from San Pedro, and I got close with him when I first got here. He was the only one I knew," Heberer said. "I guess the o-linemen had always hung with the special teamers. I got used to it."

Heberer said the Trojans' specialists have his full admiration.

"I respect what they do. They have to go out there, and they only get one play," he said. "I get all these chances, and if I mess up on one play, no one out there will ever know.

"They mess up, and people will always remember the one kick they missed."

With so much pressure on each play, Heberer said the kickers work harder than most of the rest of the team.

"I come out here when they kick in the summer, and I watch what they do. I do my o-line stuff while they kick. They're some of the hardest working guys on the team," he said. "They're out here every day kicking balls. A lot of players aren't doing that, coming out every day for extra work."

Heberer said the offensive line, though fully intact from a year ago, isn't taking too much time to rest this offseason.

"Everyone's working hard. All spots are open," Heberer said. "We have to fight every single day. The first day we had a meeting, that's what Coach (Pat Ruel) told us."

When the entire team gets together, whether for a team run or a coaches' conditioning workout, Heberer said he sees things get amped up.

"I don't know if it's more intense, but it seems like people go harder because they don't want to be looked down on," he said. "The coaches will call you out if you're slacking. We try harder because we don't want to let anyone down."

Heberer said he felt let down last season after missing significant time with a turf toe injury. The injury was so painful, he said, that he'd wince even when the sheet from his bed rested on the big toe on his right foot.

"I'm totally healthy. The toe is good, thankfully," he said. "It was the first time I ever had turf toe. I couldn't believe something that small, a toe injury, could hold me back. It's a serious, painful injury."

But now that he's healthy heading into spring workouts, Heberer said he's ready to fight for his starting spot.

"I just have to keep my body in shape. I need to keep my pad level low and work on moving my feet," he said. "It's the same things we've been working on all along, since I've been here. I just need to keep it up and keep putting in work."

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