What might have been.
Those four words may sum up Arizona Football better than any other. We got hit with another dose as superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski decided to enter the NFL draft with two years of college eligibility remaining.
The fact that he left early isn’t a surprise. From the first time you saw him drag a defensive back 12 yards you knew this press conference was coming. There was no way GRONK! was going to play four years of college bowl.
We just wish it was more than a year and a half.
Rob Gronkowski only caught passes in 20 games at Arizona. If you take his per-game averages and project them over a three year career (36 regular season games and two bowls) you get 142 catches, 2274 yards and 30 touchdowns. That receiving touchdown total would tie the UA school record and be more than Dennis Northcutt, Bobby Wade or Mike Thomas. All from a 265-pound tank in shoulder pads.
He caught 12 passes against Oregon in 2008. Would he have helped put the Ducks away in 2009?
He scored 12 touchdowns in 11 career home games. What would he have done in 2010 with a veteran offense and a favorable schedule?
Arizona went 10-2 when he caught at least three passes. What’s the record look like if he plays 13 straight?
We’ll never know. GRONK! has become GRON…
Incredible but incomplete.
It doesn’t do any good to be bitter at Big Rob. My gut says he’s going to be disappointed with his draft position but I hope he blows up the combine and storms into the first round. A great way to attract NFL talent is to put guys in the NFL and have them become stars.
So what do the Wildcats do now? The quick answer is the same as this year since #48 didn’t play a down, but if you look at the passing numbers over the second half of the season you know that isn’t good enough.
There are two options. You either try to develop tight end AJ Simmons as a legit threat or you go exclusively to four wide receiver sets.
If the Cats do go small we need somebody willing to run over the middle and catch tough passes in traffic. If the safeties and linebackers aren’t occupied in the center of the field we aren’t going to find any room on the perimeter.
Even with a down-the-middle threat the guys on the outside need to figure out how to beat press coverage. Sharper routes? Crossing patterns? Back-shoulder fades like they run in the NFL? Whatever it is it has to be priority #1 this offseason. Nick Foles and the Wildcats will not see another seven-yard cushion until they start torching bump-and-run coverage.
An all-world tight end could have been the final piece on a legendary offense. But at least now the injury issue is resolved and the team can go into spring practice knowing exactly what it needs to do.
Fare thee well, Robert Gronkowski, and thanks for the memories. Twenty games weren’t enough but they sure were a great twenty games.