Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews is one of the scarier matchups in college football and will produce a bevy of problems for an inexperienced Ohio State secondary, which allowed 420 yards on 42 completions against Richard Lagow and the Indiana Hoosiers.
In 27 career games, the 6’5, 254 lb seam-stretcher has reached the end zone a whopping 15 times and has averaged 16.5 yards per reception. After being sixth on the team in targets (28) in 2015, Andrews had the second most targets (49) last season — only trailing Biletnikoff Award winner Dede Westbrook (105). But with the departure of Westbrook, Joe Mixon and No. 2 wide receiver Geno Lewis (43 targets), the passing game will go through the tight end, and it looks like he’s more than ready for the heavy workload.
In Oklahoma’s first game of the season against UTEP, Andrews put up a career-high of 134 yards on a career-high seven receptions. He dominated the seams of the UTEP defense and put on a clinic after the catch. He is an excellent route runner and has the awareness to find the holes in the opposing defense.
His natural route running and football IQ was on display in last year’s matchup against the Buckeyes. Ohio State played man-coverage on the goal line with Damon Webb on Andrews. Webb expected a rub route, but Andrews’ precise route running completely lost Webb in the trash, resulting in an easy score.
Here’s Andrews out of the slot running a post pattern. He finds the soft spot in Ohio State’s middle zone coverage and sits between four defenders. He has a real knack for finding the soft spots in the defense.
"We just need to keep getting him the ball," Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "He's going to make competitive plays, and obviously you want the football in his hands after the catch."
After the catch is where Andrews is most dangerous. His route running is what gives him separation against defenders, but what he does after the catch is extremely impressive for a guy of his stature.
Once again, Andrews lines up in the slot and completely fools the defense with his route running. He crosses the linebacker’s face, who then thinks Andrews is running a crossing pattern. The tight end then finds the hole in the middle of the field and the empty spot in the Miners’ zone. Mayfield hits him for an easy completion before Andrews makes multiple defenders miss en route to a big gain. Andrews is built like a tight end, but runs like a receiver — in the mold of New York Giants rookie Evan Engram.
It’s no secret that Andrews runs just about every single route out of the slot or on the line of scrimmage, but they use him extremely well in play action. Below, Andrews was lined up on the line of scrimmage. He engages with the end to sell the run, disengages and then sneaks behind the linebacker for the easy score. Everything Andrews does is with precision and he always does an excellent job at selling play action and/or his route to get open.
Overall, Mark Andrews is going to create serious matchup issues for Greg Schiano’s defense — especially if they don’t clean up their coverage issues in the middle of the field. There were at least two occasions against Indiana where the defense blew a coverage in the middle of the field, leaving a Hoosier receiver wide open. Andrews needs to be keyed on at all times and cannot be overlooked even for a minute. As shown above, he does a tremendous job of selling play action and takes advantage of overaggressive linebackers who aren’t sound in coverage. This will be a huge test for Chris Worley, the rest of the linebacking corp and Damon Webb at strong safety. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ll utilize bracket coverage on Andrews to limit his success in the seams.
Indiana provided an excellent test for the Ohio State defense and the 420 passing yards they allowed could be a blessing in disguise.