By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Robert Johnson approached Billy Gonzales a few weeks ago, just before spring break, and asked for a specially made DVD: Highlights of the Florida receiving corps, circa 2006.
The Gators won a BCS title that year with the help of Percy Harvin, Dallas Baker and Cornelius Ingram, who combined for 1,870 yards and 15 touchdowns receiving. Gonzales was their coach.
Now he’s Mississippi State’s new receivers coach, and he was more than happy to make the DVD for Johnson, a junior receiver.
“It kind of fired me up a little bit, because he called me and asked me, said, ‘Coach, can you get me a DVD, can you burn it, can you get it going?’” Gonzales said. “That was before we went to spring break, and that was kind of a neat deal. He wanted to make sure he had it with him before he took off.
“That’s what you want, you want guys that are hungry to continue to learn.”
Johnson is hoping to find knowledge and inspiration from the DVD. He said he’s been “watching it like a hog and trying to learn from all them guys,” and Gonzales believes it can be beneficial to Johnson.
“It’s no different than a college coach getting a chance to visit with other college coaches or with NFL coaches,” Gonzales said. “You get a chance to learn different techniques, get a chance to see what works for different guys and to say, oh, there’s more than one way to run this route.
“We can teach you what we’re doing, but there’s 110 different ways to get open against a certain coverage or whatever it may be.”
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Johnson has a chance to play a big role in MSU’s passing game this fall, and this spring gives him a chance to show coaches what he can do. Johnson has had good springs before, but last season is when he finally showed signs of real promise.
He played in all 13 games, catching 17 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
“I just had to wait my turn,” Johnson said. “Actually, really it’s just trying to get (adjusted) to the speed of the game. It took me a while to get it, but I think I’ve got it.”
Johnson is vying to be one of three new starters at receiver for MSU, which lost four seniors at the position from last season. Joe Morrow and Jameon Lewis are also leading candidates to start.
A lot of work remains between now and the Aug. 31 season opener against Oklahoma State. Johnson is doing everything he can to assure he’s ready.
“It’s been a long time coming, being behind the same guy for three years,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of pressure when they’re gone, but we’ve got to get the job done.”