February 13, 2013 12:13:13 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen has added another familiar face to his coaching staff.
Multiple sources in the MSU football program confirmed Tuesday afternoon to The Dispatch that Billy Gonzales, a former offensive coordinator at the University of Illinois, had been hired at MSU as wide receivers coach. Gonzales, who will enter his 18th year as a Division I assistant coach, was in Starkville on Tuesday, and is expected to be introduced by the MSU administration this week, and possibly as early as today.
Gonzales, 41, served as an offensive assistant coach on staffs with Mullen and then-head coach Urban Meyer at the University of Florida, University of Utah, and Bowling Green State University from 1995-2009.
"I hopefully take a bit of everyone I have had a chance to work with or played for or worked for. (LSU coach) Les Miles did a lot for me, showing me a different style," Gonzales said in June in an interview on the Big Ten Network. "Charley Molnar at UMass is a mentor of mine. Dan Mullen is another. It's hard to say there has been just one or two. I appreciate all of them."
Multiple phone calls and text messages to Mullen in the past three days weren't returned.
With MSU already at the NCAA limit for assistant coaches, sources confirmed to The Dispatch current MSU assistant coach Tim Brewster will be moved to tight ends coach and Scott Sallach will be moved off the field to an administrative position inside the program.
"Tim is a great recruiter and did do a good job," Mullen said Feb. 6 on National Signing Day.
Brewster, who was fired as the head coach at the University of Minnesota in 2010 after leading the Golden Gophers program to a 15-30 record in four seasons, recruited at least four of the six receiver prospects MSU brought in to its 2013 recruiting class.
"One thing Tim brings us is being a head coach it kind of makes my life a little bit easier at times," Mullen said. "He knows what I'm going through and he knows the thought process and sometimes what the head coach is dealing with. Someone good to keep bouncing ideas off of and being there and help with the recruiting aspect of things."
According to a report from the Champaign (Ill.) News Gazette, Gonzales was forced off the staff of Illinois coach Tim Beckman late Thursday. He split offensive coordinator duties with Chris Beatty last season. The Illini, who finished 2-10 in 2012, had the worst offense in the Big Ten Conference (16.7 points and 296.7 yards per game). Beatty was fired after the season.
Gonzales reportedly was a candidate to be hired at the University of Utah before former Arizona State University and University of Miami coach Dennis Erickson was hired as the football team's offensive coordinator. Gonzales, who is known as a superior recruiter, has Southeastern Conference experience at Florida and as the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at LSU. Gonzales was part of the coaching staff that led the Tigers to the 2011 SEC championship and an appearance in the Bowl Championship Series national championship.
Gonzales' impact on the LSU passing game contributed to the development of receiver Rueben Randle, who earned first-team All-SEC honors, and the emergence of freshman Odell Beckham Jr., who ranked second on the team with 41 receptions for 475 yards and also earned freshman All-SEC accolades.
At MSU, Gonzales could help Mullen on special teams. In addition to his role as Utah's wide receivers coach, Gonzales also served as the special teams coordinator for the Utes. In 2003, Utah led the nation in kickoff returns with a 28.2 average. The Utes also ranked third in the nation in net punting (40.8 yards) and fifth in the country in kickoff returns (26.2) in 2004.
MSU was worst in the SEC in touchback percentage in kickoffs (21.62 percent) this past season and was 12th in the league in punt return yardage at 7.43 yards per attempt.
Gonzales is MSU's third hire since the end of the 2012 season. Former NFL player and assistant coach Deshea Townsend replaces Melvin Smith as cornerbacks coach. Geoff Collins was promoted to defensive coordinator, and David Turner (defensive line) will begin his second stint at MSU. He replaces former defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, who is the new defensive line coach at the University of Georgia.