Coach Doc Holliday witnessed Heater's work firsthand from 2005-07 at Florida and marveled at his ability to get the most out of his players. Holliday dropped a somewhat surprising observation on the subject recently.
"Number one, he loves the game. His whole world's coaching football," Holliday said of Heater. "I've never seen anybody who develops players like he does. He's a great teacher.
"That year we played for the national championship, we played with guys who shouldn't have been playing in the SEC, and they played at such a high level we were able to win it."
Heater feels he is developing players already of Conference USA caliber, or higher. He thought that would be the case when he arrived.
"I have great trust and confidence in Doc," Heater said. "He's a legendary coach, a legendary recruiter. I made the assumption when I made the decision to come here that he had good players.
"I don't know what perceptions people have, but I'd take these kids as a group. I'd take those guys any place I've been; there's no pushback at all. ... all the assumptions I've had have exceeded in some regard."
Cornerback Derrick Thomas is hoping for an improved season, and big years from fellow Penn State expatriates Devon "Moo Moo" Smith and Shawney Kersey. He is delighted to see Smith at full speed - emphasis on speed.
While Smith redshirted last season with a foot injury, Thomas knew what to expect after the healing. He's not sure anybody else here did.
"Man, I've been telling people [to] wait," Thomas said. "When he gets on the field, watch - don't let his size fool you, because he's going across the middle to catch the ball. He's not scared of anything; man makes crazy catches."
And there's the thought of Smith playing outside at the "X" position, the latest experiment. For a man who prides himself on man-to-man coverage, Thomas doesn't want much of that.
"A lot of corners ain't going to catch him," Thomas said. "All they got to do is say, 'set' and go throw the ball as far as they can, he'll get it."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.