Gronkowski settling into Cats’ offense

By Joel Jellison

Glenn Gronkowski is as shocked as anybody when he thinks of Kansas State’s 2-4 overall record and 0-3 start to the Big 12.

But things are coming together for the Wildcats’ redshirt-freshman fullback — even though the season hasn’t gone the way he or his teammates wanted. Gronkowski’s own progression has made him a reliable piece in the Wildcats’ offense.

Gronkowski has three receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and has just one rush for no yards.

But his ability to block has developed quickly, and that’s what has made his presence on the field so important through the first half of the season. In the Wildcats’ 35-25 loss to Baylor last week, Gronkowski almost never left the field.

“I had 50 plays last week, which is a lot more than I’ve done,” said Gronkowski, who is replacing four-year starter Braden Wilson. “I didn’t even realize it when I was out there. We called a couple plays for me too, but unfortunately they didn’t work out like the last couple did.”

For what it’s worth, Gronkowski is the only Wildcat to catch a touchdown pass from both quarterbacks Daniel Sams and Jake Waters. The Amhearst, N.Y., native has also seen K-State’s offense change considerably in the past couple games.

After throwing the ball quite a bit early on with Waters, the Wildcats have leaned on Sams’ ability to run in the last two games.

As a result, Gronkowski said he thinks the offense has began to develop a bit of an identity.

“I think we’ve become more of a run team,” he said. “It’s just about being tough and getting those extra yards, pushing forward and just keep moving the ball down the field on the ground.”

The extended time on the field has allowed him to better grasp the playbook, too. Before the season, Gronkowski admitted he didn’t take his grayshirt season very seriously and had a lot of work to do last year when he redshirted.

Gronkowski tried to learn as much as he could from Wilson before he departed, but he still needed his own game experience to help it all make sense. Now, he says he knows what his role is.

“I was a little nervous those first couple games, but just getting everything under my belt and now knowing the offense completely, I think it’s going a lot better now,” Gronkowski said. “Going out there and knowing what you’ve got to do, you don’t think about (the play as much).

“You just think about getting to the spot you need to be and getting the block. That makes a big difference.”

K-State is a 9 1/2-point favorite for this Saturday’s home game against West Virginia. It’s the start of the second half for the Wildcats, who need to win four of their final six games to become bowl eligible.

“We’re halfway through the season and we’ve got to go 4-2 from now on to get to the bowl game,” Gronkowski said. “We know that we’ve got to hurry up now — we’re in a situation where we’ve got to go now, there’s no time to wait anymore.”

Gronkowski thinks this team could have been 6-0 right now, that the Wildcats were a few costly mistakes away in all four losses to be sitting in a far different spot at the end of October.

“It’s not what we were expecting at all,” he said. “We were expecting to come out, just get a lot of wins in a row and push for that Big 12 championship again. We knew we had the players, we knew we could do it, and obviously we put ourselves in the position where we can’t anymore.

“We could easily have been 6-0 right now if we hadn’t made all those mistakes.”

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