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How UA’s Gronk could be even better

Better patterns key for UA’s tight-end star

Arizona's Rob Gronkowski is an accomplished tight end, but coach Mike Stoops believes he can still improve.

Arizona's Rob Gronkowski is an accomplished tight end, but coach Mike Stoops believes he can still improve.

Rob Gronkowski can catch a pass in a crowd, in the end zone or in the flat.

He’s already Arizona’s career leader for tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns heading into his junior year.

So how do coaches believe the likely All-America candidate can get even better?

“Route running,” Gronkowski said with a laugh Monday, as spring football resumed for the Wildcats after a weeklong break. “They say that to me every practice.”

The powerful 6-foot-6, 270-pound receiver can catch passes in traffic and knock defenders over to gain extra yards. He also is a top-notch blocker, able to contain an opponent’s fastest pass rusher.

But by being more precise, Gronkowski can elevate his game, UA coach Mike Stoops said.

“As good as he is, Robbie is just scratching the surface of being a complete player,” Stoops said. “His ability to run routes is the main thing we want him to improve this spring.”

Gronkowski’s 75 catches for 1,197 yards and 16 TDs put him at the top of the career list at UA.

He also holds UA’s single-season record for tight ends with 47 receptions last year for 672 yards and 10 TDs.

Here’s the kicker. He missed the first three games of last season with mononucleosis and still was named a third-team All-American.

On Monday, No. 48 was hard to miss as he caught passes from quarterbacks Matt Scott, Nick Foles and Bryson Beirne.

The three, competing for the starting job, have found out that Gronkowski can be their go-to receiver in the clutch.

Still, UA coaches are making sure he doesn’t rest on his accomplishments, which include an average of a touchdown every five catches.

“I saw what he did last year, but right now I don’t care,” new tight ends coach Seth Littrell said.

“This is the spring and it is the time to get better. This is a whole new year.”

Gronkowski, who turns 20 in May, expects to go into the 2009 season as one of the top two or three tight ends nationally.

He’s projected to go high in the 2010 NFL draft and is one of only three tight ends, along with Pittsburgh’s Nate Byham and South Carolina’s Jared Cook, to be on the preliminary watch list for the Lombardi Award.

The honor is given to the most dominating down lineman, end or linebacker who lines up on either side of the ball.

“He has proven himself,” Stoops said. “I thought his production for only eight games speaks for itself.”



When: April 4, TBA

Where: Arizona Stadium



Year G Rec. Yds. Avg. TD Long

2007 12 28 525 18.8 6 57

2008 10 47 672 14.3 10 43

Career 22 75 1,197 16.0 16 57

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

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For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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