Mark Andrews tapping into potential

His stock is trending up as OU tight end Mark Andrews is starting to make a difference for Sooners.

The only thing on the mind of Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews was don’t get caught. The redshirt freshman was running free down the middle of the field for what would be his first career touchdown as a Sooner unless he was run down.

Andrews, of course, was able to make it to the end zone to score the first of his two touchdowns in OU’s 52-38 victory against Tulsa two weeks ago.

He finished the day with three catches for 87 yards, but it felt like a lot more than that. It felt like it was Andrews and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley starting to realize exactly how Andrews will fit in this offense.

That’s good news for OU fans and not so good news for the Big 12 as the Sooners begin conference play this weekend.

“It’s big for him,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “For him to get out in the home crowd and those first few catches and touchdowns, it’s huge. He can carry that confidence to other games, too. He’s so versatile. He’s a guy you can do so many things with.”

But he’s also a guy who is learning. Coming out of high school, Andrews was one of the top wide receivers for the 2014 class. His goal was to be a receiver in college, and he was at OU, at least for a couple of weeks.

It became clear when he arrived that a change was going to be in order if Andrews was going to see significant time and help the Sooners.

“I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I made the switch, but I’m thankful to be in the position I am,” Andrews said. “I love this offense. I’m just going to continue to work.”

There reached a point, Andrews said, where he realized he could be the difference maker at tight end the Sooners haven’t had dating back to James Hanna and Jermaine Gresham.

He was going to have to wait, though, as Andrews was destined for a redshirt season. It was rough for a bit, but Andrews chose to see the positive toward it. He got to learn a lot, watching everything around him. He believes it has helped make him a better player this season.

The move to tight end guaranteed Andrews would get more snaps, but it’s still not set in stone just how many he’ll get as inside receivers coach Cale Gundy said last week Andrews’ role is still basically the backup to Sterling Shepard.

And that’s the wrong guy to back up.

“We would like to get him on the field more,” Gundy said. “We need to get him on the field more. He was a true receiver in high school, but he has all the tools to be really good in there (blocking). We’re asking him to do things he hasn’t done, and it’s going to take time.”

Time is one thing Andrews does have. He has already made a number of strides in his game as a blocker and the traditional tight end role. When he’s out in open space, it’s back to doing what he does best and something OU fans hope to see a lot more in conference play.

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