By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – To say Billy Gonzales is “fired up” about his new job would be an understatement.
He used that term nine times on Wednesday when talking about his new job as Mississippi State’s wide receivers coach. Gonzales said he’s fired up about working with Dan Mullen again, about being back in the SEC, about the receivers he’ll be working with, about recruiting … you get the picture.
“And if anything else I’m hungry, I’m fired up and I’m ready to work harder than I ever have in my life,” Gonzales said. “And I’m fired up to have this opportunity to be here.”
The 41-year-old Gonzales worked with Mullen for eight years when both served under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida. After he left Gainesville following the 2009 season, Gonzales spent two years at LSU, then last
season he was at Illinois as receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator.
Illinois went 2-10, and its offense had major struggles. So now his focus returns to receivers only, and he has a strong track record there. From 2005-09 at Florida, he coached seven All-SEC receivers, including Percy Harvin and Chad Jackson.
“The opportunity to get the best receivers coach in the country is huge,” said Mullen, who noted that he wasn’t looking to shuffle his staff any further this offseason.
But when the chance to hire Gonzales came along, he said, was “a no-brainer.” The addition means Tim Brewster moves from coaching receivers to tight ends, a group he’s mentored at both the college and NFL levels.
“I’m in a great place in my career where I think I can kind of help where is needed,” said the 52-year-old Brewster, who now holds the title of assistant head coach.
As for tight ends coach Scott Sallach, MSU created a new position for him: coordinator of football recruiting. Mullen said that will help State catch up to the rest of the SEC in terms of off-the-field staff.
Mullen and Gonzales talk often, and the possibility of this move came up before signing day. Mullen said he wanted to wait until that big day passed before going forward.
Gonzales said he’s already thumbed through MSU’s playbook, and except for a few changes in terminology, he’s very familiar with it. That should help ease his transition, but he’ll have a challenge on his hands due to State losing four senior receivers.
MSU set several school passing records in 2012 and will need some young, largely unproven players to keep the passing game going.
“More than anything I’ve got to build a relationship with my guys here,” Gonzales said. “I think no different than in life, if the players know that you truly care about them, that you want them to be a part of your family, the guys that are going to play are going to be a part of my family.
“And I believe that with all my heart, they’ll play a little harder for you if they know that you care about them as a person, not just as a football player.”
As he closed out his chat with the media, Gonzales added, “And I’m going to leave you with a last thing: I’m fired up to be a Bulldog.”