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NFL analyst likes potential of UA tight end

Citizen Staff Writer

A Saturday smorgasbord of sense and nonsense: Just to make sure we’re all on the same page about the future of sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski, I called Ron Rang, a senior analyst for the information-rich NFLDraftScout.com.

His first reaction upon being asked about Gronkowski?

“Superstar,” he said.

OK. We’re definitely on the same page.

Rang is spending most of his time breaking down senior prospects, but as he does so, it’s impossible not to notice talented freshmen and sophomores.

“Obviously, he is young, so he has to continue to be as productive as he has been and continue to get better,” Rang said of Gronkowski, who has five touchdown receptions in his two games this season.

“But he has the tools you’re looking for in a first-round-caliber tight end.”

Looking back at the NFL draft over the past 10 or 15 years, an average of about one-and-half tight ends are taken in the first round each season.

Rang rates Gronkowski as the top tight end in the draft class of 2011. But what if Gronkowski were eligible for the draft this season?

“This is a pretty good year for tight ends, so I would hesitate to call him a first-round pick,” Rang said. “Second-round starts to make some sense, just from the fact that you would want to see him a little bit more.”

This season’s strong group of senior tight ends include Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew and Missouri’s Chase Coffman at the top. Gronkowski’s older brother, Dan, is a potential mid-round pick. Dan plays for Maryland.

What about Mike T?

Arizona’s Mike Thomas is the shortest player among the best senior wide receiver prospects, listed at 5 feet, 8 inches. You know that’s going to hurt his draft stock, no matter how productive he is in college.

“I would see him as a mid-round prospect, and that assumes he runs well (in postseason workouts),” Rang said.

“The thing about him is that the guys who are drafted ahead of him aren’t going to be as polished as he is. The fact that he is returning punts helps.”

Thomas returned a punt for a touchdown last week against Washington and ranks 22nd nationally with a 14.31-yard average.

Stopping Gronk

Having Gronkowski split out wide near the goal line is a nightmare for opponents.

If a defender sets up to the inside, he gives Gronkowski the fade route.

Play him outside, and you give Gronk the slant – which he scored on twice against Washington. Give him double-coverage, and somebody like Thomas will beat you.

“In the last game, they played the safety and a ‘backer to Mike T,” said quarterback Willie Tuitama.

“That left Rob one-on-one with a linebacker or one-on-one with a safety. You can’t do that. I’m pretty sure we will start seeing a lot more true zone.”

How do you rate UA?

Let’s play a little good-cop, bad-cop regarding Arizona.

Bad cop: Arizona hasn’t accomplished much.

Its schedule strength is 133rd nationally, as ranked by USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin. That’s pretty bad considering there are 119 teams in college football’s top division.

Good cop: The Wildcats are (mostly) taking care of business against that weak schedule.

The 70 points against Idaho was the third-highest total in school history.

The 31-10 victory at UCLA was UA’s second-biggest win ever in Pasadena, Calif., over the Bruins. Last week’s 48-14 triumph was the school’s biggest victory ever over Washington.

More Gronkowski

OK, this is the last bit on Gronkowski, I promise.

Here is a quote I liked from tight ends coach Dana Dimel, who says Gronkowski’s success goes beyond his athletic ability. Gronkowski is able to quickly take lessons from the practice field and film room to Saturday game day.

“You can show some guys everything, but when you get on the field, it’s about processing,” Dimel said.

“And if you don’t have a guy who is a great processor, then all the coaching in the world doesn’t matter. He’s a great processor.”

Tomey-Tedy reunion

The New England Patriots played at San Francisco on Sunday, then stayed in the area to prepare for a game at San Diego.

San Jose State coach Dick Tomey offered his team’s facilities to the Patriots, if only to be able to spend some time with ex-UA All-American Tedy Bruschi, now in his 13th season as a Patriots linebacker.

“It was a no-brainer for me because Tedy is one of my absolute, all-time favorite people,” Tomey told the San Jose Mercury News.

The Boston Globe reported Tomey has the 1994 Sports Illustrated college football preview issue in his San Jose State office. That’s the “Rock Solid” cover that pictured Bruschi and defensive mates Tony Bouie, Jim Hoffman, Brandon Sanders and Sean Harris.

Bruschi was scheduled to talk to the Spartans after practice Friday – a rare move for Tomey.

“I don’t trust most people that they would say the right thing, no matter whether they’re some football coach or politician or president or whoever,” Tomey told the Boston Globe.

“Some coaches have every Tom, Dick, and Harry talk to their team. I don’t because I want to know that whoever it is is going to represent reality in the best way to the players, and I know (Bruschi) will.”

The envelope, please

Arizona has some clear advantages, especially in the passing game.

Stanford has had trouble, in particular, defending the deep pass.

What I like about the Cardinal, however, are its consistent physical play and persistence with the running game. Stanford is going to put up a fight, no matter what happens.

Arizona, I don’t think, has answered all the questions about its defensive line. New Mexico pushed around the Wildcats. The Cardinal could, too.

Stanford typically is aggressive on defense and could force UA’s Willie Tuitama into a couple of mistakes. Hearkening back to the New Mexico game again, Tuitama has to show he can make better reads and decisions in the face of pressure.

Arizona has more talent, but something bugs me about this game.

This is the kind of game UA has lost in recent years. Come out flat, make a couple of turnovers . . . and it all slips away.

Stanford 28, Arizona 27.

Anthony Gimino’s e-mail:


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