NORMAN — Back in August, Mark Andrews wasn’t sure how big his role would be for Oklahoma.
He sensed his production could rise, though, with the Sooners trying to fortify their skill positions after the loss of NFL draft picks Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook.
“There’s going to be a lot of things that have to make up for that,” Andrews said before the season. “I’m definitely a guy that can do that. I’m looking forward to doing that.”
The soft-spoken redshirt junior tight end became a critical piece of OU’s offense and was rewarded Wednesday, becoming the program’s first Mackey Award winner, given to the nation’s best tight end.
Andrews has 22 career touchdown receptions, which is sixth in OU history. Eight of those have come this season to lead Sooner receivers. He is first on the team with 58 catches and second with 906 yards receiving.
Andrews totaled 31 catches for 489 yards last season.
The 6-foot-5, 254-pound Scottsdale, Arizona product, averages 15.6 yards per catch and last week was a unanimous All-Big 12 first team selection by league coaches.
While he rarely lines up as a traditional, hand-in-the-ground tight end — he is more often at receiver — Andrews has become a security blanket of sorts for quarterback Baker Mayfield.
“He’s a vital part and key to our success,” Mayfield said earlier this season. “Mark’s just such a great talent, and, leadership-wise, he doesn’t care how many catches he gets. He’s going to give it his all. He wants to win. I love that.
“I love the mindset that he has and he carries week in and week out. He’s a guy that we need to keep getting the ball in his hands because he obviously makes a lot of plays for us.”
Andrews will be recognized Thursday at the Home Depot College Football Award show in Atlanta.
After that, the No. 2 Sooners’ drive for the national title continues with preparation for the College Football Playoff semifinal Rose Bowl Jan. 1 against No. 3 Georgia.
The winner claims a spot in the national championship.
“Just this journey has been incredible,” Andrews said after OU’s Big 12 title win over TCU. “Losing early to Iowa State and everyone kind of doubting us, and having a new head coach at the beginning of the season. There’s a lot of different factors and things that make this special. This team has fought through so much adversity and doubters.
“It’s a special one.”