LV: Billy, what’s your assessment of the receiver talent you have to work with?
BG: I think the talent’s there, but I don’t think we’re anywhere close to where we need to be. We’re taking small steps, but some days we take a step back. My biggest concern is just the need to develop toughness and an understanding that in this offense you better be tough and you better be willing to lay it on the line every time you don’t touch the ball. In a great game you may run 80 plays and you might get ten catches which is a pretty darn good game. That means 70 other plays you better be blocking your butt off for your teammates and that’s what I’m concerned about now. We’re working on it, but for the athletic ability we have I’m not very happy with what we’re doing right now.
LV: When you’re talking about toughness are you more concerned about physical toughness or mental?
BG: Both. I just talked to the guys right now (after practice) and asked them how can we go out and walk through something pre-practice and then when practice we get an MA (missed assignment) on the play. That goes back to being mentally tough. You have to understand there’s a difference between the two and I think we have to work on both right now.
LV: You had some very talented kids out in Utah (Paris Warren 80 rec. 1,076 yd., 12 td, Steve Savoy 67 rec., 961 yd., 11 td) how would you compare the abilities of the Gator receivers to those guys?
Chad Jackson hauls in a pass
BG: The athletes right here are, I think some of the best athletes in the world at the University of Florida and that’s what we expect, but we need to teach them to this level (of what the offense demands). The reason those guys were so good at the last place is that we worked. They worked and worked and were over-achievers. Now what I got to get my guys who are physically more blessed talent-wise to do here is become over-achievers. When we can do that, I’ll say we got a good group, but right now I’m not happy with the guys.
LV: Talk about that motion-type position, we’re calling it an H-back, how would you describe the position?
BG: We use tight ends, we use slash receivers it’s a position where we can use running backs. It’s a position where what we’re trying to do is find the best fit for our offense right now and create the best match ups. As we progress there will be different that we can actually put in that position. Right now we’re just feeling through. Our guys still got to learn the offense, so we’re changing people in and out at that position and hopefully by the end of spring ball we can say we got two or three guys that will get the reps at that position. Then I’d feel comfortable with it.
LV: Is that the hardest adjustment for these guys from last year’s offense to this one?
BG: I don’t think so. I think the way we put things in we’re very aggressive. The receiver position, the tight end position and the running back position are not where you learn on a certain pass play “I run this route”. We’re so multi-formational that you have to learn the concept. In the same pattern you may run a comeback, or a dig, or a slant or a follow, it all changes. So you got to learn the concept. If you learn the concept you’re pretty darn good if you just learn your position you won’t play.
Bubba Caldwell tries to snag a pass
LV: Does that just take reps?
BG: I think just like anything else it takes reps, and it takes meeting time. My job as a coach is to find out the best way my guys learn. I say my receivers are not where they need to be, and they’re not. But I put that on me, that’s my responsibility and I haven’t done a good enough job right now but we’ll get ‘em that way.
LV: How much does that go hand-in-hand with the quarterbacks learning the same things?
BG: As far as the total offense it’s the same thing. Coach Mullen (Dan, QB Coach and offensive coordinator) was just talking about once they pick up the offense and understand the concepts of what we’re doing and the reads it’s just like anything else. It’s like going out and playing one-on-one basketball. You have to know what you’re doing and that’s over and over reps for the receivers, the quarterbacks the entire offense. We just need to practice. Coach Bruce (Earl at Colorado State) my old coach used to say practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.
Like the other members of this coaching staff, Billy Gonzales is loaded with energy and enthusiasm. He also seems determined to grade his receivers on how they maximize their abilities as much as their individual performances. He obviously has been less than thrilled with the inconsistency of his charges in terms of missed assignments and drops. There’s no question Chad Jackson, Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell and Jemalle Cornelius give Florida as gifted a quartet as you could hope for, but gifts alone won’t get the job done. One thing to look for the rest of spring will be how this unit progresses in terms of productivity day-to-day.
With Reggie Lewis at cornerback and Mike McIntosh missing significant practice time this spring, Florida has not had the numbers at receiver that they would like to have. That means opportunity will definitely be knocking this fall when Louis Murphy, Nyan Boateng and David Nelson look to get into the mix.