Andrews chairing WKU’s running back committee

Lucas Aulbach

Coming into the season, coach Willie Taggart and the Toppers preached a “running back by committee,” where several backs share carries for the team over the course of the game.

Junior Antonio Andrews has earned his spot as the committee chairman.

Andrews has led the Toppers in all-purpose yards in every game this season and with a prominent place in the WKU offense, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

His all-purpose yard totals are a product of his place in the Topper playbook. Andrews does it all for WKU — he leads the team in rushing attempts and kick returns and is a close second in receptions.

Andrews said he embraces his role as a renaissance man in the Topper offense.

“If you’re playing in this offense as a running back, you’ve got to be able to catch, block and run the ball,” he said. “Me being able to catch the ball just allows me to be that much more of a dynamic player.”

His efforts on the field have not gone unnoticed. Andrews was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week last week for his performance against Kentucky.

Andrews racked up 125 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries against the Wildcats. He also had three catches for 36 yards and 72 yards on three kick or punt returns.

Freshman Leon Allen also saw time at running back against Kentucky, gaining 20 yards on six carries.

Taggart said he can see Andrews beginning to gather some buzz from other teams.

“Antonio Andrews is starting to make people know his name,” Taggart said. “We want everybody to know our name.”

Taggart and the coaching staff didn’t intend for Andrews to play the primary role in the offense.

But when junior running back Keshawn Simpson injured his knee in the season-opener against Austin Peay, they were forced to let him have an expanded role.

Andrews said he understood how important he would be to WKU when Simpson, who should be back on the field for the Toppers in the next few weeks, got hurt.

“Our rotation is a rotation — the running backs are a one-two-three punch,” Andrews said. “I was never worried about not playing because I knew how the rotation went. Now I just have to up my playing level because there’s not as many backs to rotate now.”

Simpson came into the season as WKU’s starting running back and had gained 60 yards on the ground before getting injured on opening night.

Andrews said Simpson left a noticeable hole in the running back rotation, which has consisted almost entirely of him and Allen in the past two games.

“Having that one-two-three punch is solid but now we’re down to a one-two,” Andrews said. “We’re just looking for that third running back to step up.”

Southern Mississippi, WKU’s opponent this weekend, uses a 4-2-5 defense, that places an emphasis on stopping the run.

Andrews said he’s ready for the challenge.

“Whatever the o-line gives me, I’m taking it,” he said. “If they come out here and they’re making holes for me, I’m going to hit them.”