WVU's Hit Man

  • July 21, 2006 05:15 PM
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By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
July 21, 2006

  Quinton Andrews

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Quinton Andrews figured the best way for him to stay focused and become the best football player he could possibly be was to go far away. That’s why the Opa Locka, Fla., resident signed with West Virginia University instead of such in-state schools like Florida, Miami or Florida State.

“My mindset was to get away,” he said recently. “It has turned out pretty good. I made the decision to come up here and I can just focus on what I have to do.”

Morgantown, W.Va., doesn’t quite have the diversions a place like Miami offers, where Hurricane football players sometimes have a difficult time resisting the local temptations. Just the other day a Miami football player was shot in the buttocks after being involved in a disturbance in South Miami.

“The guys that stay home sometimes don’t have the self-control to keep out of trouble,” said Andrews, sporting a new mountain-man bearded look. “There are other guys that just want to have fun and that will also get them into trouble.

“I sometimes think about what I could be doing back home, but I also think that I’m up here for business to become a better player and help my teammates win,” he said. “This is something I like doing and it’s for a good cause.”

Andrews, a rock-solid 5-foot-11-inch, 205-pound freshman safety, is giving those close to the Mountaineer program cause to rejoice.

Andrews was easily the most impressive newcomer last spring, his bone-crushing hits reverberating throughout Milan Puskar Stadium. People are still talking about a one-on-one encounter with Owen Schmitt when Andrews actually got the better of the burly 250-pound fullback.

Schmitt is now a believer, labeling Andrews the one player in the program that is going to surprise people this fall.

“That makes me feel good, especially knowing that it is coming from a player like Owen,” Andrews said. “When I was on scout team I always went up against Owen and we had a couple of encounters.”

Andrews fits in well with a West Virginia program full of competitive athletes. What is starting to set this program apart from others is just how competitive things can get sometimes.

“Everything we do here is competitive,” Andrews says. “We get after each other and try to do our best in everything – even it it’s coming to the weight room and lifting weights or running sprints. We’re always trying to bring the best out of each other.”

Andrews will be locked in a competitive battle with senior Abraham Jones for the starting free safety job. If Andrews wins it, he will give the Mountaineers a 205-pound guided missile in the secondary. Mountaineer coach Rich Rodriguez, a head-hunter in his own right during his WVU playing days, likes his safeties big and mean. Andrews fits the bill.

Once during skeleton drills in the spring a charged-up Andrews delivered a big shot on starting quarterback Pat White that got both the offensive and defensive players going at each other. Andrews had forgotten that White was wearing a no-contact yellow jersey.

“That was my fault,” he said. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

And while Rodriguez isn’t too keen on Andrews laying out his starting quarterback, he doesn’t mind his freshman laying out opposing wide receivers this fall. Despite trimming down 10 pounds from 215 to 205, Andrews believes he will be able to generate even more force when he hits people this year.

“The hit is more about momentum,” he says. “As long as I can bring more force, more power and more speed into a hit, I think I will be able to deliver a better blow.”

  Freshman Quinton Andrews has already developed a reputation for being a big hitter.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks

Because Andrews is so keen on hitting, he sometimes gives up an opportunity to go for the interception to instead get in the big kill shot. He says it’s an instinctive thing.

“You have to think about it, but when you get real good at the position making that decision becomes second nature,” he said. “It happens so fast and you’re really not thinking; you’re basically reacting.”

Andrews is young for the position, only playing two years of safety in high school and spending last year as a redshirt freshman behind senior Jahmile Addae.

“I really didn’t know that much (about the position),” Andrews said. “I just played off my athletic ability.

“I was able to make plays but I really didn’t know a lot of keys. My high school defensive back coach taught me a couple of things but with high school a coach really doesn’t have enough time to sit there with one player. Now that I’m in college I had Jahmile and now Coach (Tony) Gibson who can talk to me.”

Like all young safeties, he must by mindful of his keys so that he doesn’t get sucked up into thinking a play is a run when it is actually a pass. If a receiver gets behind Andrews, he’s behind everybody.

“You get your run read and some offensive linemen are good at giving you a run read and it’s actually a pass,” he admitted. “You see it happen before it happens so you can get them before they get into the open field trying to be real eager to make a play. That is something all defensive backs have to work on.”

Andrews says if he guesses, he better guess correctly.

“You’ve got to be 99 percent sure that your guess is right,” he said. “You’re the last guy and if they get past you it’s six points. There is no room for missed guesses.”

Because he’s inexperienced, Andrews is going to make mistakes and there may be times when he blows coverages and he lets receivers get open. But the upside of what he brings to the table – his exceptional size, instincts, athletic ability, speed and willingness to hit – outweighs any inexperience he presently has.

“The corners have come up to me and told me that they have a better chance of being more aggressive if they know I’m over top and they can make a play on the ball,” Andrews said. “The linebackers have told me that if someone gets past them by mistake they know I’m back there to make a tackle.

“That kind of gives me a little confidence when I heard that they have confidence in me for playing the safety position.”