February 15, 2013 2:31:39 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Billy Gonzales took one look at his new Mississippi State University playbook and realized he was exactly where he needed to be.
After working with Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen for eight years at three previous different schools (Bowling Green State University, University of Utah and University of Florida), Gonzales will partner up with his old friend one more time to run that spread-option attack in Starkville.
"A lot!" Gonzales exclaimed when asked Wednesday night how much of the playbook he recognized. "Now he's changed some terminology, he's changed some of the things. But it was great to open it back up."
The offensive coaching room at the new $25 million Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex now has three former assistants of the Urban Meyer coaching tree with Mullen, Gonzales and MSU offensive line coach John Hevesy.
"We watched some film today and to hear Coach Hevesy jump up and start talking schematics, I'm fired-up," Gonzales said. "Danny's done a great job as far as making sure everybody has got their responsibility in their area. We'll pick up where we left off."
According to a report from the Champaign (Ill.) News Gazette, Gonzales was officially forced off the staff of Illinois head coach Tim Beckman last week after splitting offensive coordinator duties with Chris Beatty for the Fighting Illini program for one season in 2012.
The Illini, who finished 2-10 in 2012, had the worst offense in the Big Ten Conference at just 16.7 points per game and 296.7 yards per game. Gonzales being allowed to look for other employment options by Illinois coach Tim Beckman, who had also worked with Mullen and Gonzales at Bowling Green, was part of major staff changes following a more than disappointing first season in Champaign.
"it's easy to point back and say this didn't work and that didn't work," Gonzales said of his only season with Illinois. "Everything is not always going to be a cakewalk. If anything, it leathers your skin a little bit, so next time you're in that situation you know how to prepare yourself a little bit harder."
In Mullen's viewpoint, Illinois' inability to move the ball and generate offense with his good friend and somebody he said he views as a "the best receiver coach in the country" was too good to pass up.
"Just about everywhere (Gonzales) has gone, his receivers have broke records," Mullen said. "When we had this opportunity to make this and put this staff together this way, it was kind of a no brainer."
With MSU already at the NCAA limit for assistant coaches before Gonzales' arrival, The Dispatch confirmed Wednesday the staff restructuring would include current MSU assistant coach Tim Brewster moving to tight ends coach and Scott Sallach being moved off the field to an administrative position inside the MSU football program.
Brewster and safeties coach Tony Hughes will both also have the title of assistant head coach.
The Dispatch confirmed with MSU administration Thursday Gonzales' salary will be $250,000 with no salary difference next season for either Brewster, Sallach or Hughes.
"I'm at a great place in my career where I think I can help where I'm needed," Brewster said Wednesday. "When Dan brought this up, I thought it was a natural fit to bring in a guy like Billy Gonzales."
Gonzales walks into a positional depth chart at MSU with four productive seniors walking out the door and six new targets for quarterbacks Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott added via the 2013 recruiting class.
"For me it's an opportunity to get in here and mold some of these guys," Gonzales said. "As a position coach one of the greatest things is to have the opportunity to maximize the potential of the young players that you have."
Gonzales' skills as a superior recruiter will be tested in the Southeastern Conference again but his experience recruiting that part of the country simply added to the attraction of coming to MSU.
According to Rivals.com, Gonzales was personally responsible for signing four five-star prospects while at Florida including current NFL wide receiver Percy Harvin out of Virginia Beach, Va.
"I know I've had an opportunity to go recruit in Florida, Louisiana (and) I've had Dallas," Gonzales said. "I've had a variety of different areas. So wherever they put me I'm excited to get going. First and foremost is to try to get evaluated the wide receivers in the state of Mississippi. It's our state and we want to protect our state."
For Gonzales, Starkville is admittedly only a place on the map "he's driven through a couple of times" before taking the job but the familiar faces are what brought him to his new challenge at Mississippi State.
"There's something special when you've had an opportunity to have been in a foxhole with somebody before," Gonzales said. "You have an opportunity to see how they respond and how they interact when the pressure is on."