Gonzales turns down NFL to stay at UF


Published: Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 5:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 5:17 p.m.

Florida's football team dodged another bullet this week. Billy Gonzales turned down the Cleveland Browns new coach Eric Mangini, who was trying to hire him to the NFL. A source told Dooley Noted that the Browns contacted Gonzales on Saturday.

This is the second time an NFL team has tried to lure Gonzales away from Urban Meyer. Jacksonville tried to do it last offseason.

And, of course, there was Tennessee's Lane Kiffin going after Gonzales in January.

I guess that makes Gonzales one of the hottest assistant coaches in college football. And with good reason. Florida's receivers have been productive ever since he came to Florida and have been the best blocking unit of receivers in the country over the last three years.

It's funny, because the knock on receivers coming out of Florida for many years has been that they don't produce at the next level. And yet, here are two NFL teams trying to hire Florida's receivers coach.

While this is Meyer's offense, it would have been a harsh blow to lose both offensive coordinator Dan Mullen and Gonzales to other jobs.

Certainly, Gonzales is going to have his work cut out for him this spring as he tries to replace Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy while Riley Cooper is playing baseball. Those are the top three wide receivers in terms of number of catches from last season (Cooper tiedDeonte Thompson for third with 18 catches).

LOST HOPE: I'm sure when CBS scheduled Florida-Kentucky for its national broadcast Saturday there were all kinds of scenarios playing out in the minds of the CBS execs.

What they weren't expecting was a loser-leave-town game.

That's what we have here, folks. What looked a week ago like it might be a play-in game to the NCAA Tournament is now an elimination game. The loser will have to win the SEC Tournament to make it to the tournament.

The winner will still have to make some noise in Tampa to have a chance, like make the final.

Think they're on the ledges in the UK Nation? I know how it is around here and Florida isn't even a basketball school. Believe me, there is very little talk about spring football in Lexington right now.

While I understand why Florida is what it is this season, Kentucky is a bit baffling. The Wildcats have two of the five best players in the league. But after starting the SEC season 5-0, the Wildcats are now 3-7 in their last 10 games.

Kentucky is struggling because it doesn't have a point guard.

Florida is struggling because all it has is a point guard.

Think how good Kentucky might be with Nick Calathes. But I'm sure you'd rather think about how good Florida would be with Patrick Patterson.

BENCH WEAPON: A day later, Billy Donovan said his benching of Nick Calathes was educational more than as disciplinary.

The Florida star was benched for the last two-plus minutes of the Mississippi State game after taking a 3-point shot early in the shot clock, a shot that banged off the backboard.

"He has an incredible drive to make an effort at the end of games but he has to understand how to incorporate other people," Donovan said Thursday. "When you're the best player on the team, you feel like you have to do it. But you have to be thinking about time and score, who has the hot hand, what's the best situation.

"I thought it might be better for our team for him to just sit and watch. Sometimes you can talk about it or watch it on film. Sometimes you just have to sit and watch it."

LEBO SHUFFLE: I'm sure LSU's Trent Johnson will be named coach of the year at the end of the season. But if I had a vote, mine would go to Auburn's Jeff Lebo.

The Tigers started the season 10-6 and 0-2 in the conference and we were all thinking the same thing -- Auburn stinks again. Now the Tigers are a 20-win team with a 9-6 conference record despite being undersized and playing in front of absolutely nobody at home (average home attendance -- 4,816.Saaaa-lute!)

Lebo was on the hot seat big time but it looks as if he'll get to coach in the new arena.

SLEDDING ALONG: The United States won the four-man event World Bobsledding Championship for the first time in 50 years and America has a former Gator to thank for it.

Former UF decathlete Steve Mesler was part of the team that made history in Lake Placid, N.Y.

"It was good to do it at home," Mesler said. "I've spent eight years in bobsledding seeing the Germans all but one year at the top of that podium. We totally dominated them, absolutely crushed them."

The "Night Train" sled is part of a concerted effort by some NASCAR drivers, especially Geoff Bodine, to get involved in sled racing. Dooley Noted told Mesler he'll need to bring up sponsors names more if NASCAR is going to be involved.

PAT-POURRI: I don't know who will end up with Terrell Owens but has there ever been a bigger risk-reward player in the history of the NFL? ... I don't know if there has been a player more vilified who deserves it less than Dan Werner. ... It's not his fault he has to play 32 minutes when he should be playing 15. ... Raise your hand if you woke up at 4 a.m. to watch the World Baseball Classic. OK, you with your hand up, ever tryAmbien? ... There is starting over and then there is Larry Coker . The former Miami coach will be the new head coach of Texas-San Antonio, which starts playing football in 2011. ... I don't know about you but I'm going to need a scorecard when NFL free agency is over to know where all of the formerUF players ended up. ... Be safe.

Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com.

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