WKU coaches look to get talented Andrews the ball

Sophomore Antonio Andrews returns a kick Saturday in WKU’s 40-14 home loss to Navy. Andrews totaled 202 return yards in the loss, WKU’s 16th in a row at Smith Stadium.

Brad Stephens

When Antonio Andrews spoke to the media Monday, the name card sitting in front of him didn’t read running back, wide receiver or any other position.

It simply read “ANTONIO ANDREWS — ATH,” meaning athlete.

That may be the best way to describe the WKU sophomore.

“You don’t want to be one-dimensional. You want to be multi-dimensional,” Andrews said. “It’s always a great thing to play more than one position.” 

Andrews’ reputation as a pure athlete was well-known in the state before he arrived at WKU.

During his days as quarterback at Fort Campbell High School, he threw for 50 touchdowns and rushed for another 56 scores.

Andrews led the Falcons to a 29-0 record during his last two high school seasons, including a pair of class 2A state championships. His accolades earned him the title of 2009 Kentucky Mr. Football.

After initially enrolling at the Air Force Academy, Andrews transferred to WKU weeks before the start of the 2010 season.

He was used primarily as a backup to running back Bobby Rainey during his freshman year.

But coaches have said they won’t be shy about using Andrews anywhere on the field this season.

“We’ll play him at receiver, play him at running back, play him at quarterback,” Head Coach Willie Taggart said. “We might even let him kick.”  

Taggart has promised that Andrews, who was banged up throughout training camp, will see a larger role in what has been a struggling WKU offense.

Andrews touched the ball just three times in the Toppers’ season opening 14-3 loss to Kentucky but accumulated 202 special teams return yards in WKU’s 40-14 loss to Navy last Saturday.

“He’s getting himself back in game shape now, and I think that’s what you saw the other night,” Taggart said. “He had missed a lot of training camp, didn’t see much of the first game, but practiced well last week and showed us what he’s capable of doing once he gets the ball in his hand.

“I expect to see more of him as the year goes on.”

Andrews said he’s received the majority of his recent practice reps returning punts and kicks and working as a running back.

He said he enjoys getting reps as a “Wildcat” quarterback from time to time but said he’s most comfortable as a running back, where he’s been working with Rainey.

“(The Wildcat) is always a fun package, just being able to get the ball in your hands on the first snap and being able to go out there and make a play,” Andrews said. “But after a while it kind of gets boring back there. Shoot, running back — that’s a big job, because you see how well Bobby does it.”

Offensive coordinator Zach Azzanni said he hopes to see Andrews become one of the offense’s premier playmakers and prevent a drop-off in situations when Rainey needs a play off during games.

“He’s good with the ball in his hands, and we’re trying to establish some playmakers on offense,” Azzanni said of Andrews. “Antonio can always provide a blow for Bobby and we don’t have to go down a step in production.”

Andrews said running backs coach Terry Obee has set a 1,000 all-purpose-yard goal for his sophomore back.

Andrews will attempt to run, pass and return his way to that mark.

“I’ll put my foot in each door and see which door opens,” he said.