When the Irish offered Mark Andrews last November it was with the full understanding the 2014 prospect wanted to remain a wide receiver. The first thing people assume when they see his size is that he’ll be transitioned to tight end the moment he steps on a college campus. The Scottsdale, Ariz. product is comfortable being used in the same fashion Notre Dame All-American Tyler Eifert was for the Irish the past three seasons, but any thought of making him an in-line player is pretty much a deal breaker for whichever school is recruiting him as such. With that in mind, the Irish are comfortable enough to say they are recruiting Andrews as a wide receiver/H-back.
Andrews has been a busy boy the past 12 months and has fielded over 20 scholarship offers from schools like Oklahoma, Ohio State, USC, and Michigan. He’s tentatively scheduled to make an unofficial visit to South Bend this spring. He plans to take his time with his final decision and the Irish faithful shouldn’t expect any type of announcement until after his senior season. His junior year he caught 81 passes for 1,500 yards (18 yard per catch average) while hauling in 21 touchdowns.
Andrews already has elite wide receiver size at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds (Detroit Lion wide receiver Calvin Johnson is 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds). He’s a big target and a matchup nightmare for opposing cornerbacks. He passes the eye test in pads and because he’s so tall he looks like a lean 225 pounds. He carries his weight well and doesn’t seem to be hindered athletically in any way due to his height.
I’ll be honest, this is one of the only players I’ve ever evaluated (outside of a few gigantic offensive linemen) who I don’t believe really needs to get any bigger or taller. If the Desert Mountain High School standout was moving to tight end I’d say he needs to put on another 20 pounds, but with his desire to stay at receiver any more weight gain would hinder his speed and elusiveness. Obviously he can’t help if he gets taller, but I would say he’s pretty much where he needs to be weight wise.
Andrews has very good speed and has been consistently timed in the 4.6’s for the 40-yard dash. I believe he could be even faster if he focused on increasing the length of his stride when he’s running full speed. Nevertheless, he can move pretty well and when he breaks free in the open field there’s very few that are able to chase him down. There have been several receivers I’ve evaluated who are six inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than Andrews who aren’t as fast as he is, so I don’t have any concerns about whether or not he has the speed to compete on the next level at wide receiver.
For being as tall as he is and not having the advantage of a low center of gravity he still has several moves that enable him to shake free of would be tacklers. There are times when the term “stiff” is used to describe a taller player’s elusiveness in the open field and although Andrews doesn’t move like Barry Sanders, I certainly wouldn’t describe him as “stiff”. He uses head fakes, spin moves, and lateral cuts to give himself extra yards after the catch. His high school uses him as a motion back to run the jet sweep and he looks like a natural carrying the ball out of the backfield.
His strength is apparent in his blocking, especially against smaller defensive backs who unfortunately have to take him on at different points during a game. Having him in the slot or out wide as a blocker is definitely a tactical edge for the offense and creates another mismatch situation he can take advantage of. He’s also a tough kid to bring down and there are times when he’s dragging three or four defenders with him before he’s finally tackled. He can break tackles pretty easily too and has learned to protect himself when players attempt to go low to take him down. His size and strength is a plus for a receiver and whatever program he ends up playing for will need to figure out ways to get him involved in all aspects of the offense.
Andrews can run all the routes and isn’t limited to jump ball fades, even though that’s one of his specialties. His cuts are sharp and quick and he doesn’t show any signs of the “stiffness” I mentioned earlier that might hinder him from running any particular routes. Is he the best choice to run a middle screen? No, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t do it and still get positive yards. He also has good anticipation with his breaks and reads the cornerback well on timing and comeback routes.
I was really impressed with his ability to catch the football. Regardless of where the ball is thrown he’s as sure-handed a receiver as you’re going to find. With as tall as he is there were times when the throw was quite low and he had no problem going down and snagging it before it hit the ground. Obviously he has the height to go up and get the ball and he’s honed that skill to a razor sharp edge. He catches the ball with his hands too, which is the benchmark for all receivers when it comes to pass catching technique.
Andrews has the talent to be a player in Notre Dame’s offense who’s very similar to the role Tyler Eifert played. He’s athletic enough to play multiple positions and has the size to create mismatches in a number of ways. He’s also fast and elusive enough to create space after he makes a catch. He runs good routes and catches everything thrown in his direction and has the size to be an effective blocker in the run or screen game. I believe this would be a great pickup for Brian Kelly and the fact that he’s named Notre Dame as one of his favorites should excite the Irish fan base.
Size: 90 (already compares to big time NFL receivers)
Strength: 80 (good blocker and tough runner)
Speed: 83 (4.6’s is moving for his size)
Athletic Skills: 80 (is elusive and has many moves – jumps well)
Technique: 85 (runs great routes and has really good hands)
Versatility: 90 (has the talent to play all over the field)
Upside: 4.0 (I believe he’ll play right away because he fits into so many different roles)
Overall Grade: 4.0
90-100 – Elite/Exceptional: Skill set is rare and gives prospect ability to dominate
80-89 – Very Good/Outstanding: Skill set is a significant strength
70-79 – Average: Skill set is solid, not a significant weakness
60-69 – Below Average: Skill set is not a strength for this player and could become a liability
50-59 – Very Poor: Prospect does not possess this trait and it is a definite liability
OVERALL/UPSIDE GRADE KEY
5 – Elite: Player is one of the best players at his position nationally, potentially dominant
4 – Very Good/Outstanding: Player is a potential standout and starter, could also play early
3 – Solid: Player is a potential contributor, could eventually start down the road
2 – Below Average: Player does not possess the talent to be a significant contributor
1 – Poor: Let’s be honest, Notre Dame is not going to bring in anyone with a one!