BLOOMINGTON — Coy Cronk has been an ironman on Indiana’s offensive line throughout his college career.
Since arriving on campus as a 260-pound linebacker from Central Catholic in Lafayette, the now 6-foot-5, 325-pound Cronk has started 36 of 37 games at left tackle, protecting the blind sides of quarterbacks Peyton Ramsey and Richard Lagow while missing just one game due to injury.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” Cronk said. “You’re never going to be 100%. I pride myself in playing through injuries.
“I’ve been fortunate I’ve never torn an ACL or anything crazy or needed surgery. It’s part of the gig. I think as an offensive lineman, you have to have a tough mindset, some scrapes or a couple of sprains, to me it was pride that always pushed me through that to play and those 36 games.”
This season, though, Cronk could be moving from one bookend of the line to another. With redshirt freshman lefty Michael Penix Jr. named starting quarterback Monday, Cronk could wind up playing some snaps at right tackle to provide Penix the time he needs on passing downs.
“Those are adjustments that we’ve obviously, going into this, you’re aware of it,” IU football coach Tom Allen said.
Cronk is listed at starting left tackle on IU’s depth chart for Saturday’s opener against Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium, with 6-8, 358-pound redshirt sophomore Caleb Jones at right tackle. This offseason, Cronk took Jones under his wing, pushing him during workouts to help Jones prepare if he needs to protect the QB’s blindslide.
“He’s a monster of a human being, but he’s got pretty good feet,” Cronk said. “He’s got soft feet. He can move them, and he’s got a good demeanor.”
Regardless of where Cronk lines up on the line, he’ll be counted on as the leader of a unit that includes three senior starters and two first-year starters — Jones at right tackle and Harry Krider at left guard. Krider replaced Wes Martin, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Washington Redskins last April.
“He really made my life easier,” Cronk said. “Harry is really a talent, too … he’s a really sound football player and chemistry-wise is being friends on and off the field. We’re good friends on and off the field, so I feel that strong rapport. So I think he’s going to do a really good job.”
For Cronk, it has been a career about adapting quickly. As a true freshman, Cronk switched from linebacker to left tackle and was immediately thrust into the starting lineup. Playing from 260-280 pounds, Cronk dealt with physical mismatches throughout his first year in the Big Ten but learned to make up for it with footwork and technique.
“Without playing my freshman year, I don’t think I would be half the player I am now,” Cronk said. “I think I had to grow up rather quickly, especially at a position I didn’t really play coming into college. So (I was) getting thrown into the fire, but that’s also 12 games you get to watch on tape.
“So while everyone else is kind of red-shirting, having fun, having a little fun outside of football it was kind of my whole life. So that experience pretty much shaped the career I’ve had in my opinion.”
Cronk also learned in his freshman year he couldn’t get away with playing video games all the time. In fact, his mother, Karla Cronk, drove down from Lafayette to his dorm room to take away his PlayStation.
“My mom is a principal, so she knows when people are lying to her, especially her own (son), and I think she picked up on it, to be honest,” Cronk said. “It was very embarrassing. I had to explain to my quad mates why is your mom here and they were like, oh, she’s here to take away my video games. It was pretty embarrassing, but you roll with it.”
Cronk has been taking it out on opposing defensive players since. Last season, Cronk said one of his best blocks of the season came against Ball State, when he was able to chip a blitzing linebacker and get him to fall on the turf.
“I had really strong games against Ohio State, Michigan and I didn’t think I played my best against Michigan State and Penn State last year,” Cronk said. “Those are two games I want to get back, and I also want to build off some of the successes I had against some of the upper echelon teams in the Big Ten.”