WVU's Hit Man

  • April 05, 2006 04:05 PM
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By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
April 5, 2006

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Sometimes Quinton Andrews has a difficult time differentiating between those he’s supposed to hit and those he’s not. Just last week West Virginia’s raucous free safety put the wood to quarterback Pat White during skeleton drills and that sparked a lively debate between Andrews and several offensive players.

  Freshman Quinton Andrews is getting a reputation for hitting anything that comes his way, even the players he's not supposed to hit.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks

Andrews wound up getting a couple of stitches underneath his chin during the discussion. Of course hitting the team’s starting quarterback who is also wearing a gold jersey is big a no-no.

“That was my fault because I knew we weren’t supposed to hit Pat White because he’s in a yellow jersey,” Andrews said. “Anytime the quarterback is in a yellow jersey it’s tag-off. Plus it was a tag-off situation anyway.

“I got cursed out.”

Andrews may sometimes test Coach Rich Rodriguez’s patience by hitting his starting quarterback, but the coach likes that fact that he’s got a free safety back there in Andrews who is willing to keep wide receivers honest.

“He’s not shy about putting his face into you,” Rodriguez said. “If I had anybody that was shy about doing that then I don’t think they belong in this program. Quinton is a guy that can bring it and I think he likes hitting. Some guys will do it because they have to do it and some guys really like doing it.

“I think he really likes it.”

During last Saturday’s scrimmage, Andrews came up and met fullback Owen Schmitt head on despite giving up about 50 pounds. He also made a big hit on wide receiver Dwayne Thompson on a pass play over the middle that put the former quarterback out for the rest of the scrimmage.

“I read that play pretty well,” the freshman said. “I really wasn’t supposed to be in that zone but I saw the quarterback look that way so I tried to get there. My heart jumped because I knew I had a big play coming my way.”

Andrews could have really laid Thompson out if he wanted to.

“I kind of missed him and I didn’t get him the way I wanted to. Plus, he’s my teammate and I really didn’t want to take him out,” Andrews said.

Rodriguez says Andrews is more than just a fierce hitter.

“Some guys just understand football; they understand angles and plays and I think Quinton is a guy that understands football,” Rodriguez said.

Andrews admits that it is sometimes better to go after the football instead of delivering the big kill shot. It’s something he’s focusing on real hard this spring.

“Once you make your break right before the quarterback releases the ball and you’re just trying to get there,” he said. “Then when you look up and you see where you are and thinking can I get the ball or do I only have a chance to make the big hit? That second goes so fast and you’ve got to make a choice.”

Quinton’s choice of picking the right school may have taken him a lot longer but was equally as confusing. He was a hotly pursued football prospect out of powerful Monsignor Pace High School in Opa Locka, Fla., last winter. Andrews played on a Class 3A state champion football team as a junior and a state champion basketball team as a sophomore.

His senior year he made the Orlando Sentinel Florida Top 100 list (No. 38) and was considered one of the top 15 players in the high school football factory that is Dade County. As a defensive back he picked off three passes, made 85 tackles and forced two fumbles. On offense he caught 26 passes for 637 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

“It was a big battle with who I wanted to go with and which school that would be the best situation with me,” Andrews said. “It came down to Florida, Georgia and West Virginia. I kind of got close to West Virginia and Coach Magee.

“He kept in touch with me and the things that he was saying really helped me out,” Andrews said. “When I came up on my visit the first night I was here I knew I had to be here.”

Despite it being a love-at-first-sight proposition with West Virginia, Andrews admits his college recruitment still had its difficult moments, too.

“You have to try and figure out the depth chart and then you have to sit in on Saturdays and watch the games and see who is playing the type of defense that you want to be in,” he said. “It was a brain buster.”

In the end, the 5-foot-11-inch, 205-pound speedster chose the mountains of West Virginia over the warmth of the south.

“It was something I felt I needed to do to get away from home,” he said. “I figured if I go away I can focus more and get the job done.”

‘Getting the job done’ means locking up the starting free safety position this spring after spending last fall redshirting. Andrews is in a battle right now with senior Abraham Jones and both have played well so far.

“I think Quinton has had an excellent spring,” Rodriguez said. “He is going to have a chance of playing a lot of football for us.”

“I just want to get out there and make some plays and get myself into a position of being the starting free safety and also build a little faith from my teammates that when I’m out on the field they don’t have anything to worry about,” Andrews said.

It seems like the only ones worrying about Andrews these days are the guys that have to go over the middle to catch passes and, of course, quarterbacks wearing gold jerseys.

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