Cronk finds role on the sideline for IU

There are parts of Coy Cronk’s life that suck right now.

Not playing football, that’s not great. The scooter he’s had to prop one leg onto, keeping his booted ankle off the ground as he rides around, hasn’t been any fun, either.

But what’s transpired since the senior left tackle’s season-ending injury in Week 4 hasn’t been all bad. After all, the Hoosiers are 7-2. “Coach Cronk,” as some have come to call him, has plenty to be happy about.

“It’s hard not to wake up with a smile every day,” Cronk said. “I’ve been a part of three years of really close losses … two not going to a bowl game. Those are never fun.

“But now you wake up with a smile on your face. You feel thankful to be a part of the program, be in the building, see people flying around.”

On Monday, Cronk wasn’t quite full-speed. He still has a boot around one foot, but he was standing behind a podium without crutches, taking reporters’ questions about his recovery and rehab. That’s a step.

It’s still not certain if Cronk will utilize the NCAA’s four-game rule and return as a fifth-year senior or opt for the NFL draft. At this point, he’s about a month removed from surgery, not far away from getting in a pool and walking.

But his focus remains short-term, mainly. On his team, specifically. And on game day, the senior game captain has an even more particular mission.

“Instead of four quarters, the biggest part of my day is trying to win the coin toss,” Cronk said.

Through the week, Cronk plays another pivotal role in coaching up a true freshman left tackle, Matthew Bedford. It’s a familiar position for Cronk, just in reverse.

Cronk’s streak of 40 career starts began his freshman year. Only he didn’t have the luxury of a veteran, like himself, showing him the ropes. Cronk will watch Bedford at practice, critiquing his technique. He even breaks down Bedford’s game film every Sunday, just so he has even more insight for the 6-foot-6, 307-specimen to absorb.

“Matt’s a lot better player my freshman year than I was my freshman year,” Cronk said.

That bodes well for the future of the Hoosiers’ offensive line, but IU coach Tom Allen wasn’t exactly comfortable with the future arriving so early.

Especially if it meant Cronk going down.

“If I had to say one guy that we could not lose this year, it was that guy. For a whole myriad of reasons,” Allen said. “And I mean, when he went down and I saw his foot going one direction and supposed to be going the other, I knew this was not good and my heart just sank.

“And I was just sick, sick, sick, because I knew pretty much right then it wasn’t going to be a good outcome.”

Cronk, in the moment, was able to keep a sense of humor, saying the injury was too far from his heart to kill him. If he was a horse, they’d have to put him down, he quipped.

Cronk didn’t panic and neither did his line-mates. With first-year starters at left guard (Harry Crider) and right tackle (Caleb Jones), and seniors Simon Stepaniak and Hunter Littlejohn each missing games to injury, the offensive line has somehow held everything together.

IU has allowed the fewest sacks per game in the Big Ten, just 13 in nine contests. Cronk’s pointers have helped, but he defers to offensive line coach Darren Hiller and first-year offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer.

“Coach DeBoer, I tell him every day, I think he’s a rock star,” Cronk said. “I think he calls the right plays, I think he gets us in the best positions. We switched up our protections when I (went) out because it’s not really fair to ask a true freshman to be on an island for four quarters.

“I think the success story is our offense coordinator, the way he’s calling plays and putting us in a position to win football games.”

Despite shifts from Michael Penix Jr. to Peyton Ramsey at quarterback, and a shuffling offensive line, the Hoosiers have managed to score 30-plus points in eight of its first nine games this season. That’s a program record.

Cronk could reenter the mix next season if he wanted, but he said he will wait until after the Hoosiers’ bowl game to decide whether to go pro.

“It really just depends on how it heals,” Cronk said. “As for now I’m part of a 7-2 football team and it’s pretty good to be around here.

“But if I can go play and make money doing it, that would be awesome. But if I have to come back here, it would be a really good spot to be in, as well.”

Considering his success as a “coach” this season, does Cronk see that in his future?

Cronk wasn’t so sure he’d like spending days on the road recruiting, but he’d maybe be open to something at a lower level.

“I told Peyton Ramsey, if he becomes the head coach at Elder (high school) after his dad retires from the job, I’ll be his offensive line coach if he needs one,” Cronk said. “I’m always open for it, but I think being on the road, and being away from family, would be really tough.”

Penix update

The availability of Penix, who was removed from last Saturday’s Northwestern win in the second quarter, remains uncertain heading into the bye week.

Allen said Penix’s injury is not related to the first two he has sustained, both unspecified. Regardless of the malady, keeping Penix upright has been a struggle. He has now departed three games this season due to injury.

“Just with any of our quarterbacks, you have to be very careful with how you use them to limit the number of hits they take,” Allen said. “You can’t eliminate it, it’s not possible, it’s a full-contact game.”

Allen also mentioned the 19-year-old’s build, 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds. He could use some added strength.

“He needs to get bigger, needs to gain a lot more muscle mass on his frame,” Allen said. “He has a good frame. We have a good plan for that here, for him to continue to grow in that area and just put on good weight, get thicker and all those kinds of things to be able to take the hits he’s going to take at this level.

“But it’s tough. You have to keep guys healthy, and we don’t hit them during the week for a reason. But they get hit on game day. Can’t keep that blue jersey on.”

10 comments

  1. T.A. and OC has tried to play MP while still keeping him reasonably injury free. TA and OC has played him but hasn’t kept him injury free. They are walking a thin balance. Now, it makes sense why PR was starter last year. What didn’t make sense and a mistake was not playing MP and then sticking him in Penn State game without playing him earlier in year. I think it showed TA wasn’t wanting to play MP due to the issues MP is having this year. What is a head coach to do? Got a good qb/player that wants to play and team needs him to play vs not physically ready. It becomes challenging and difficult to call. In reality MP is one or even two years away from getting physical muscle mass that he needs. For IU PR will have his place that will give MP needed time so as TA has stated they have 2 qbs. Both, are needed. PR has gotten better with everything/players better around him, offensive coaches OC better including line coach. Offense looks significantly better because they continue to develop and improve. Plus one very noticeable improvement is the defense is helping the offense and the offense is helping the defense at the same time in the same game.

  2. Now, IU has same scenario with JT not getting time in previous games as they did with MP last year going into Penn State game. For IU I assume they are banking on both, MP and PR available.
    Regardless, big positive for IU that is noticeable on both, offense and defense is IU is confident and physical. They have significantly improved and developed swagger this year. It’s noticeable though the teams played aren’t that good IU looks like the more confident and physical team as defense is running to the ball and offense is not messing around but executing and scoring for the most part in recent games. This is happened because of upside regarding improvement and development.

  3. It would have been better news to read that Penix’s latest injury was related to one of the first two injuries he sustained earlier this year. A new type of injury suggests that he is extremely fragile (injury prone). I just can’t figure it out. I watched the rerun of the second quarter and did not see anything, accept that punch from the NU defender after Penix scored the TD on the QB sneak, that would indicate that Penix got hurt and would have caused him to leave the game. Maybe it happened earlier in the game, on one of his scrambles or runs, but I didn’t see any contact that would cause an injury serious enough to require him to leave the game.

    Yes, Penix is going to need to get “thicker,” but I’m not sure an additional 15 pounds of muscle is going to make a significant difference. How much weight and mass can Penix put on his frame in the next two years and still be the quick player he is today? Here’s a couple of additional ideas TA should consider. How about TA eliminating all designated QB running plays when Penix is in the game……forever. And secondly, how about we allow Tuttle to throw some passes when he’s put into games during garbage time? That way, if Penix and PR go down, our third string guy will know what it feels like to throw a pass in a real college football game.

    1. Po,
      I have to admit that H4H was correct in his concerns regarding MP’s durability. However, we all still have to remember MP is still a 19 year old. My hope is that he can add more muscle mass to his body and increase his ability to take the punishment. The only problem I see with everyone wanting to remove any running play for MP is to that is to take another dimension away from the offense.

      We know all to well the damage PR’s lack of a deep threat capability does to the offense when up against a quality defense. MP not being able to pose the threat of running against a defense is no different that PR not posing a deep passing or high velocity throw threat. The problem IUFB has is the next two games will be against higher quality defenses which will likely expose PR’s arm weakness again for all to see unless MP is healthy enough to be in the game. If PR is the QB, then it will be interesting to see if DeBoer can game plan around the deficiency. He certainly couldn’t do it against OSU.

      1. Whenever we run Penix it should be known as “Flex Seal® Right”…or “Flex Seal® Left.”

        Come to think of it, we should cover everything minus Penix’s throwing arm with two coats of Flex Seal® under a Copper Fit® bodysuit.

        FLEX SEAL® right on two. HUT! HUT!
        What’s next…? Penix goes down in a huddle break?

  4. I watched Cronk’s participation in TA’s recent press conference. What a great young man with a great attitude. He’s a credit to his family, community, his team and IU. My guess is, given the nature of his injury and the rehab time required, he will return for a fifth year. If he were to enter the draft, he might get drafted next spring, but he’d be taken in a very late round. If he can return in 2020, stay healthy, and play like he did in 2018, he’s likely to be drafted in the third round of the 2021 draft. There’s risk either way, but I hope it works out for this impressive young man.

  5. When a quarterback is injury prone, it’s like everyone you play is the Saints during Bounty-gate. Think you had a target on you before?
    Hoosier Jenga tower meets 300 lb. defensive lineman with fingers fatter than your legs….
    “Jenga Tower fake left sweep right..on two. BREAK!”

    Latest Update: It appears Penix got hurt against Northwestern when he pulled something after the first ‘HUT!’ in a ‘HUT HUT!’

  6. PR is fairing pretty well compared to other qbs in big ten because of team effort coaching and his attitude. Will he have some IU career records when his career is over?

    MP can’t go on forever with injuries. Either he will gain some muscle mass to not be so injury susceptible or there will come a time he will have to give up football or play at a small college. Could this negatively effect qb recruiting?

  7. think, strategically speaking, if Penix needs to sit out a game to get fully healthy, it might as well be the PSU game. I say that because IU has less chance of winning that game compared to the home game against Michigan. Having Penix fully healthy and playing the last two games of the season seems to me to give IU the best chance for winning the most regular seasons games. Penix or no Penix, I don’t think IU can beat PSU at PSU this season.

Comments are closed.