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Monday, August 19, 2013
Finally healthy, Heidari is just kicking it

By Greg Katz

Andre Heidari
A healthy Andre Heidari, now a junior, is focused on returning to his freshman year, All-Pac-12 form.

LOS ANGELES -- Given all the attention to the USC quarterback competition is getting, it’s easy to forget that in order for this edition of the Trojans to be successful, they will need junior placekicker Andre Heidari to return to his freshman form, when he garnered first-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Considering that Heidari had such an impact his freshman season in helping Lane Kiffin's 2011 Trojans to a 10-2 record, it's understandable that the kid with the powerful leg would just as soon forget all about his injury-plagued 2012 season.

"I am just trying to put it in the past," said Heidari, who says he feels as strong now as when he first entered Troy in 2011. "This a new year, and I'm not really looking back. I am just going to focus on this season and not talk about last season."

Yet, despite his woes last season, the two-year starter still connected on 10 of 16 field goals and 39 of 41 PAT attempts in 2012 and was an honorable mention all-Pac-12 pick.

The prideful and no-nonsense kicker is determined to get back to what he considers his own standard of excellence, and with the Trojans' season opener at Hawaii next week, it's interesting that Heidari faces the same opponent in which he suffered his knee injury while running down the field after a kickoff in last season's opening game.

"I think I am healthier than ever now," Heidari said. "I am now out here to compete my butt off."

While quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are getting headlines, Heidari is quietly preparing for what he hope will be a stellar season by using practice time and scrimmages as a chance to hone his skills not only as a placekicker but also as the Trojans' kickoff specialist.

"I'm taking mental notes, using vision, and technique," Heidari said. "I am just focusing on what to do when it comes to my time on the field. I just work on putting the ball through the post or putting the ball where it needs to be on kickoffs."

If you think the many position battles in fall camp have been intense, Heidari, who knows he is solid as the Trojans placekicker, places great responsibility on himself and has taken the recent Trojans scrimmages as tune-ups for the real thing.

"I take the scrimmages just like a game, so when it's my turn to go out there and kick a field goal or kicking off, I take it very seriously," Heidari said. "I just don't try to go out there and knock it. I go out there to do my best and do the best I can for the team."

Field position is always important to the success of a team's defense, and Heidari knows that while field goals add points, he is also aware that his kickoffs can really put the opposition in a hole if he can launch the pigskin for no or little return.

So what does Heidari consider a successful kickoff?

"Putting the cover team in the right position, putting the ball where it needs to be, and putting the opponent on their 20-yard line," sternly commented Heidari, whose 2012 kickoffs accounted for 13 touchbacks and 12 others positioned opponents inside their 20-yard line.

And as far as field goal success?

"First, just go 1-and-0," said Heidari, referring to his first attempt of the season. "That's what I am focusing on.

"Just keep going 1-and-0 and not worry about what the next series is going to look like or the last kick that I had. I am just going to focus on that field goal and what I am doing at the time."

Heidari likely will get that first field goal attempt in the season opener at Hawaii, but if you think he is dreaming of gorgeous sunsets, the picturesque waves of Waikiki and the beautiful coeds that walk the island, you don’t know No. 48.

"It's just another game," said Heidari, a sociology major. "It's not exciting at all. We need to take care of business, and we need to do what we need to do to win."

Maybe if the Trojans are victorious in Hawaii, their placekicker will reconsider and spend his remaining time on the island enjoying the delights of the tropical ambiance. Then again, don't bet on it. From Andre Heidari's perspective, "kicking it" doesn't apply to luaus and island romance.