During the next two months leading up to the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Sooners Illustrated will breakdown the Oklahoma Sooners roster, starting with Jarvis Baxter (No. 1 on the roster) and working all the way down to Marquise Overton (No. 98) and the incoming freshmen.
We’ll look at last year’s performance, the best-case scenario for this season – without projecting injuries – and what each player means to the short-term or long-term success of the Sooners.
No. 81 – TE Mark Andrews (6-foot-5, 244 pounds)
19 receptions, 318 yards, 7 touchdowns
What happened last year: Hyped as a red-zone and third-down weapon, Andrews was slow to be involved in the offense until he had a five-touchdown run of catches. And nobody will forget that touchdown catch-and-run against Tulsa (one of two he scored in that game). Andrews became a potent weapon but still had just 19 receptions. The impact he had even with a small number of catches made many wonder how dangerous Andrews could be if he had 40 receptions. It was just Andrews first season on the field. He looked better and better as the year went on, and in the off-season, Andrews made even bigger strides to set up for a dangerous sophomore campaign.
Level of importance for Sooners (1-10): 8. From here, Andrews becomes possibly Oklahoma’s top target for the 2016 season. He and Dede Westbrook will share that role initially, but it’s probable that one will emerge in the wake of Sterling Shepard, who served as the Sooners’ top receiver for almost three years. Westbrook on the outside and Andrews on the inside will provide for a potent combination for quarterback Baker Mayfield. Andrews will need to be a weapon – even more so than he was last year. There’s no reason to think he won’t grow into the role because there will be more passes to go around and he’ll be another year older. Andrews will be to the Oklahoma Sooners what Rob Gronkowski is to the New England Patriots. Andrews isn’t Gronkowski, but he’ll need to play as big a role in the offense as “The Gronk” does for the Patriots.
Best-case scenario for this season: Andrews has the skills to be an All-American by the end of the season. He’s a preseason All-Big 12 nominee, so it’s not that big of a jump to third-team All-American at a rarely used position – tight end. He would need to see a big spike in production, but he’s in line to do just that. Andrews could finish with a three-times multiple in catches and receiving yards. That would have him finish with 60 catches for 1,000 yards. Last year, Oklahoma’s top two targets combined for 132 catches and 2,031 yards. And it likely won’t be as one-sided as it was between Shepard and Westbrook last season. There will be a more even split, if everything goes according to plan. So half of that total would be 66 catches and 1,015 yards. Not that distant of a goal. Now for the touchdowns: Expect double-digit scores to be within reach but not a guarantee.