The Back Nine: Gonzales holds one key to UF’s season

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Florida wide receivers coach/Co-Offensive Coordinator Billy Gonzales does the Gator Chomp during Thursday's news conference at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer]

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of pool time, golf, grilling and generally laziness. I’ve had my down time. Let’s start football season.

10. We talked about this on one of our Daily Football Fixes (when we finish those this week there will have been almost 70 at Gatorsports.com) and I talked about it on an out-of-town radio show, but it keeps staying with me so I thought I would mention it here. I truly believe the MIP — Most Important Person — in the Gator camp when they start back in August is receivers coach Billy Gonzales. Everybody can talk about the quarterbacks and we know how important they are, but Florida must be much better at wide receiver. Guys can’t be rounding off routes or mailing it in and somebody has to climb the air once in awhile to go get a high pass. The talent isn’t there like it was the last time Gonzales was the Florida receivers coach with a bunch of guys who played in the NFL like Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, David Nelson and Louis Murphy. But those players got better for a reason. If he can work some magic with this group, it’s only going to make the quarterbacks better and the offense will naturally be improved. Here’s the thing — everyone thinks Florida will be better on offense, but it’s only because Dan Mullen has an offensive reputation. There are reasons to think this is going to be a long-range project because:

• We need to see the wide receivers get a lot better. I believe I mentioned that.

• The offensive line has a lot to prove. A lot of experience, but block somebody.

• Quarterback is a total question mark.

Not to be Debbie Downer, but the truth is that we don’t know if this offense THIS YEAR is going to be any good. A massive improvement from the wide receiver position — which I think is possible because of how mediocre it has been — would go a long way toward getting the Gator offense out of the dumps. So, Billy G., no pressure. Just know I’m watching your guys.

11. The funny thing is that summer technically isn’t very old and yet all of us who really love college football want it to be over. Relax. It’s coming. And then when it gets here it will rush by you like Tyrie Cleveland behind the Tennessee defense. In the meantime, find some of the old games they are playing on different networks and you will discover that things actually happened differently than you remembered them. OK, maybe that’s just me. All I know is that it has been 27 years since Florida’s first official SEC title and that makes me feel old. So try to enjoy the rest of the summer and don’t get too worked up over preseason rankings in magazines or lists that compare the best teams at every school or the Vegas over/under win projections. Real ball isn’t as far away as it looks.

12. I give my dad a hard time because whenever he asks me if I remember someone who lives in St. Augustine the punchline is always a kick in the gut, “He died.” Well, as I get older, I feel like the big news of every day is someone passing away and it makes me sad. The news about former catcher Todd Johannes was rough, especially because I talked to him when he was here for the 1998 reunion just a couple of months ago. And then I hear that James Richards left us a couple of weeks ago. I went to school at UF when Richards was part of Florida’s wishbone backfield, more of a blocker than anything, but a really good guy. He ran for 858 yards in three seasons (1973-75) and averaged 5.6 yards a carry before settling down in his hometown of Marietta, Ga., to coach football. Just sad.

13. So I finally figured out how to get really into the World Cup. I went to an old standby — negative rooting. It certainly worked during the Croatia-Russia quarterfinal, which had loads of drama late. And, yes, I celebrated the final penalty kick. The trouble with the four teams remaining is I don’t really dislike any of them. How can you root against Belgium? Another thing I discovered is that it’s way more interesting if you watch in a bar where people really care and I have volunteered to take that task on later this week. Now if I can only find a way to make Wimbledon interesting.

14. I tell you what was not interesting this weekend and that was golf. Kevin Na blew away the field so there was no drama at all except that he has had all kinds of psychological issues in the past so the shank was in play down the stretch. Nobody who watches golf can forget The Players when he was in the lead and couldn’t make himself hit the ball, kept balking halfway through his swing and was getting booed by the spectators. There is a fascinating piece in Na by Alan Shipnuck of Golf Magazine that you can find on his Twitter or just by Googling it. If you are like me, you’ll come away hoping he wins a lot more.

15. Oh, you know what I will be watching? The All-Star Game. It is always the same week as SEC Media Days and I always find myself ignoring it and that was when it meant home field advantage for the winner. But there are four Braves in it this year, including two starters and we will be in Atlanta. The Braves have pulled me back in and it will interesting to see how they do in the second half. I know Tampa Bay fans are upset Blake Snell, who has the league’s best ERA, wasn’t selected by the players, but two things — 1. Players should never vote on anything because they aren’t going to put the effort in; 2. He’s going to be in the game anyway because two AL starters are pitching Sunday. It’s cool.

16. Among the many examples of trying to come up with summer fodder was a thing that ESPN did ranking all athletic departments based on their draft picks in the last 10 years. North Carolina was No. 1 while Florida finished eighth. That said, North Carolina finished No. 1 because it had 32 men’s lacrosse players drafted. Impressively, Kentucky was the highest rated SEC team at No. 4 and not just because of basketball. The Wildcats have had a lot of baseball and football players drafted (43) as well. You know who didn’t make the Top 25? Alabama, despite 77 NFL draft picks. In a way, it’s an unfair poll because there are no drafts in sports like gymnastics, swimming, tennis and golf. But it’s the summer.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Peter Burns of the SEC Network — “I’m happy that Russia advanced so far in the World Cup so their defeat could be even more crushing. I’m still not right for what Ivan Drago did to Apollo Creed, I’ll never get over that. #DragoWasJuicing.” See, it wasn’t just me.

18. So one day last week my daughter Kelsey grabbed an old Ipod I keep charged up for emergencies on the back porch and decided to make a playlist. She called it “Songs The Made Me Love Music.” There are more than 50 songs on it, but I give you these five and, yes, it is my favorite playlist of all time:

• “American Idiot” by Green Day.

• “Somebody To Love” by Queen.

• “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers.

• “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Beatles.

• “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.

— Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

49 COMMENTS

  1. “and yet all of us that really love college football and want it to be over, relax it’s coming.”

    I know, and I can’t relax. Watching cheeze and d-rob ball out in summer league has helped, but let’s be honest, NOTHING beats college football. Im not looking for a top 20 offense this year, but our depth at receiver is incomparable to last year…If Franks does get the nod at qb he has to learn how to step up in the pocket and deliver the ball on time. It’s east to blame the o-line, but blocking rushers is all about angles and timing from the qb. With the depth we have at RB I’m expecting a lot of 1 on 1 coverage, and a lot of 2nd <5.Take three steps back, step up and deliver the ball.

    • I can’t relax either, and am about 20 days away from entering the annual sleepless stage myself, Kenny. I’m not looking for a Top-20 offense either–a Top-60 would realistically make me ecstatic and anything better would probably make me dizzy. I am tho expecting a Top-25 final ranking as Dan Mullen sets the foundation for the years to come.

      Good point about the QB role in the blocking of rushers!

      • A 60th ranked offense would be 56 places higher than last year, and I would take that much improvement as a very good sign. I am optimistic. One cool thing I saw in an earlier article about Gonzo was that he told the receivers flat out– you don’t block, you don’t play– and he’s had them pushing blocking sleds all over the field. That will help the running game, but just as crucial it will keep the WRs involved and their heads in the game at all times. This will be huge.

  2. It’s been eight seasons since Florida really played well on offense. The 2009 season’s Sugar Bowl (Tim Tebow’s last game at U.F.) to be exact. And now it’s only 8 work weeks away, and 3 Head Coaches later.
    So, saying, ”relax, it’s coming”, sounds kinda’ like you’re trying to tone down the enormity of the Florida fans’ burning desire to see 1st downs, then drives, then T.D.s. again, and on a regular basis. The season is coming, but we want to know, is the ‘O’ is coming, too?!?!
    Go Gators!

    • GI, I like it. 1st downs (had a friend that went to UCF I went to games to watch. They celebrate first downs. Never saw that until then.) I think 6 has something there that there is talent, at least physical talent. Whether that translates to football talent. We’ll know soon. The lack of consistency. Well that is not true we were consistently bad. With our new staff we will play with less mistakes and play better. If the ‘O’ can play consistently average or better our ‘D’ can keep us in the games. By the way.. Good funny on the ‘O’ is coming. There was laughs coming from my girlfriend on that one.

      • I cannot even take credit for it, Gator65, as it was a typo. And then when I read it (after hitting send), I thought, ”oops!” But like a President once famously said, ”It depends on what is, is!” Take care, Gator65!

        • Gonna be a better year. I like reading what everyone posts here. 5 wins would be better but if we can be on the good side of the injury bug we are gonna be a solid 8-9 wins. Cant wait to read/watch news on spring training. Come on Sep 1. Go Gators.

  3. Journalists like Dooley are incredible. Although this is supposed to be a sports column, folks like Dooley allow their Trump Delusion Syndrome to have them hating Russia not because of “Drago” from Rocky (a not so clever attempt at hiding his true intentions) but strictly due to their deranged belief that Russia helped get the greatest President ever elected. WOW! So glad I didn’t go to journalism school Talk about brainwashing smooshey liberal minds. Go Gata!

        • Russia trolling on a sports blog? Lol. Nice. But yeah, it’s normal for old angry white guys from Ferndale to make supportive comments about a hostile foreign adversary. But yes I am the brainwashed one here.

        • I’m fairly well educated, graduated high school too, but for the life of me I fail to see the point of that youtube video. Can’t go home to Mommy in that she died about 25 years ago–guess you’ll need to explain it to this dumbass.

        • Nice try dude. I have a master’s degree and professional designation and a very nice income and oh yeah, I sacrificed and served my great country for eight years. Fortunately I can think for myself so I don’t need some spoiled rotten millennial jealous punk trying to shame me into liberal submission. Take your warped social politics to a safe space and leave this site to Gator Sports.

        • Mr. Wonderful. You try to insult “the masses” on here by posting that we are all somehow part of the uneducated masses. Then you post that “Mommy” is somehow a proper noun. LOL, Mr. Educated.

          P.S. I would bet that the large majority of people, other than you, are graduates of UF or some other college, or at least have some degree o command of the English language.

  4. Relax…….yeah right. I am SO burned out of getting excited about a season and by halftime of the 2nd game I’m so frustrated with the Gator offense that I’d rather go out and mow the yard…..and the neighbor’s yard. And yet … I am anticipating that THIS… will be the season that makes Gator football fun again (MGFFA)!!! Is it Sept 1 yet?

    • Rog, after the hurricanes last year I did exactly that. Start watching the game. Start yelling at the tv. Watch a little more, yell a little more. Went out to attack the trees with the chain saw. How about MGFFGA?
      The second F could be left out.

  5. Pat makes a good point about the OL. I contend that “coaching”… or a lack of… the past 9 years has been the problem with our OL. But, to Pat’s point, better, more intelligent QB play would certainly ease the pressure on the OL. I truly believe the talent level at RB and WR is at a much higher level than we’ve seen in a loooonnnnngggg time and that will surely rise the tide of the entire offense, including the OL.

    This team, more so than many others, will sink or swim with the QB. No pressure guys…..

    • Coaching was a part of it, but I think the biggest factor in the OL getting manhandled on a regular basis was the fact that none of the players knew what the inside of the weight room looked like for the past 3 seasons. You can teach them technique all day long, but when the guy across from you is twice as strong, you can throw technique out the window.

      • I’m not disagreeing with you, but I’d contend that is on the coaching as well. Apparently strength and conditioning was not a priority for Coach McElwain. The HBC charts the course…not just on the field….but in the weight room, in the classroom, and in today’s college football world…he charts a course in LIFE for these young men. It all starts at the top.

        I like our “top” a lot more than I did a year ago 🙂

  6. So a roster full of 4* WR’s isn’t talent?

    I agree they’ve been mediocre the past few years, but the issue wasn’t a talent problem, it was a COACHING problem.

    • 100%. The route trees alone were below high school level. Combine that with “No imagination..1st down run Nuss”….who could truly be successful?

      • Smith. Amen. You basically said what I posted below, concisely. But my distain for Nussmeier as a play caller and QB coach clearly showed itself in my post. And again, the brilliant QB whisperers and play callers (Nussmeier and McElwain) are now coaching tight ends and wide receivers. Tells you all you need to know about McElwain and Nussmeier as “offensive geniuses”.

        • And one more thing. McElwain was quoted saying after being hired by Michigan: “I look forward to learning” (under Harbaugh). To bad he did not learn much under Saban. If he had, maybe he would not have hired Nussmeier, who Saban got rid off after just one season, and would have hired nothing but the best assistants who would have coached up the talented players on the Florida roster. But maybe McElwain will not learn much from Harbaugh considering Harbaugh just hired McElwain to coach his wide receivers. LOL.

  7. Pat, concerning #10. One other category could be added to your paragraph. If the wide receivers are going to get better, the play calling has to get a lot better. Mullen, unlike Nussmeier, cannot call a very predictable run up the middle or a poorly blocked bubble screen left or right 90 percent of the time on first down, and usually for a short gain or a loss because the D knew what was coming 90 percent of the time or because of that poor blocking technique by the WRs. And Mullen, unlike Nussmeier, cannot call a delayed run up the middle for a either a short gain, no gain, or for a loss 95 percent of the time on second down, because the D knew what was coming most of the time. And Mullen, unlike Nussmeier, cannot call a three-yard slant on third 3rd and long 90 percent of the time for either an incompletion (since the receiver pulled up short because he was scared to run across the middle, as he knew the D knew the call and was standing there waiting to knock his head off) or for a rare and miracle completion because the defensive player was hanging all over the Florida receiver or knocking his head off because the defense knew what was coming (and I will not mention INT because the D knew what was coming). And I read at the end of last season that one Florida receiver (I think it was Hammond) said that the Florida receiver coach and Nussmeier taught only three pass patterns, two short and one long, and that there were no options off of those patterns. No wonder the talented Florida wide receivers (and tight ends) were unproductive. COACHING. And I can guarantee you that Gonzalez will teach more than three runnable pass patterns, will teach separation technique to get open, and will teach break down options for pass patterns. And I can guarantee you he will not put up with receivers not giving 100 percent on the field on any given play for any reason. And because of the higher level of coaching and resulting confidence, we will likely see a clear improvement in wide receiver play this year. And we know Jefferson and Grimes (hopefully), have already been coached well in their times at OSU and Ole Miss as wide receivers and that will rub off on the previously poorly coach receivers under McElwain and staff. But as you stated, Franks (or Trask or Jones) has to have more than 1 or 2 seconds to set up and move around in the pocket and deliver an accurate and timely pass to the receivers who are playing at a higher level, running more innovative and various pass patterns, and therefore making plays this year. Go Gators.

    • AMEN. Preach it TampaGator. Add in a stronger and better conditioned team thanks to Savage, I expect improvement on the O.

    • Tampa, That about sums up every discussion that has been had since I came to this site. Well said. I had mentioned in another thread I could see the intended play and I am no football mind. Your comment on Hammond (and I believe he was one that I read somewhere spoke his mind of the previous staff) is dead on. We had no ingenuity last year. I think half of the guys posting on the thread could have coached better than what we saw last year. Here is my thoughts on what D saw on us last year. “are they really going to run that play again? yes they are. and again and again. I agree coaching is going and a serviceable OL. QB’s don’t have to be great just execute the play. I think if Gonzales and the offense can mix up plays and stay on the field, score some. We will be in the games. I think we will be in trouble if our games gets to the QB winning for us. Jones maybe at the end of the year.

    • Perfectly said! I agree 100%.

      For the Gator football team to be successful in 2018 vs 2017 we needed several things/changes:
      1. Improved Coaching philosophy for the entire PROGRAM, as set by the HBC. DONE.
      2. Improvement in the weight room and the strength and conditioning program. DONE.
      3. Better on-field coaching with position coaches. Time will tell, but I feel pretty confident.
      4. Improvement in all four offense position groups. See # 3 for WR group….lots of talent that Gonzalez will coach up. RB group looks to be as deep and talented as we’ve had in YEARS!. OL…QB….as I’ve said on these boards….this is where the rubber meets the road.
      5. Better game day coaching, specifically play-calling. THIS….is what all of us are waiting to see on Sept 1 !!!!!

  8. So sad to learn about Todd Johannes’ passing. He was my neighbor in Hall 95 my freshman year, along with a good majority of the rest of the team. He was on of the nicest of the to a couple to non-athlete nerds like my roommate and I, who I suspect were only placed on that floor for an NCAA-compliance measure regarding ‘athlete-only dorms’.

    Godspeed Johannes

  9. Listen to some non-commercial music. Try The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, The Modern Lovers, The Real Kids, The Cramps, The Gun Club, The Flat Duo Jets, R.L. Burnside, Peter Tosh, Collard Greens & Gravy, & Daddy Long Legs! That should get you started.

  10. We ‘re going to get so tired of WINNING. Our fans are going to be so excited at WINNING so fast that they will be asking Coach to slow down some of that progress because we aren’t use to WINNING. It’s been too damn long. I can’t take it. Can’t wait to begin a new era in Gator football.
    MGGA…Make Gators Great Again! Coach Mullen’s new slogan…LOL!

  11. Agreed that Gonzalez is a vital coach for this team. If you measured competence only by the capabilities of the assistants a head coach hired both Muschamp and McElwain would be acclaimed incompetent. Which they both proved to be. Can anyone name all the different wide receiver “coaches” that came and went during the past seven years or the nine years since Gonzalez left for LSU?
    Two or three were graduate assistants, including Chris Leak. We’ve had revolving doors at other coaching spots from offensive coordinators to offensive line coaches.

    In contrast, Mullen’s offensive staff includes four assistants who have worked alongside him for many years.
    Dan perhaps hasn’t inherited as much talent as did Meyer or even Zook and Muschamp did. Even so, from the way in which he’s handled building his staff at UF to everything else Coach Mullen echos the arrival of another Gator coach back in 1990. I believe we’re ultimately in for a really good time.

    • The fact that Mullen has worked with much of his staff before–has a history with them and success–tell us one important thing: His subordinate definitely know the boss’s intent, and if anything enhances each of their contributions–that’s it.

  12. As soon as Nussmeier was announced as Florida’s offensive coordinstor, I knew we were in trouble! He was a Train Wreck at Michigan. QB is our biggest Problem, and Franks needs to be coached-up tremendously. Luke DelRio came in and ran the offense during the Kentucky game, were Franks struggled tremendously. He’s had problems every since his First Spring Game. I hope he pans out under the new coaching regime.

  13. The receivers need to be better? Yes. But the coaches/game-plan/play-calling has to help them out. One of my gripes watching the Gators for several years is it seems like nearly every team (except the Gators) can “scheme” guys open a few times/game. The notable exception was the Kentucky game where Big Blue simply chose to not cover guys at all. This was most notable in early season non-conference games against “lesser” competition. The Gators – DBU to some – would give up enough big passing plays to keep these games interesting. Lack of talent? No way. Lack of concentration? Maybe. Lack of effort? Maybe. Or maybe the other team’s OC had a plan to shake his guys loose. If you want to know how that looks when the Gators do it you have to rewind those old tapes of Steve Spurrier’s Fun & Gun. Seems like guys were constantly open back then.

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