Mississippi State officially confirmed Gonzales' hiring Wednesday, as well as the move and promotion of former receivers coach Tim Brewster to tight ends as well as assistant head coach. Former tight ends coach Scott Sallach moves into an administrative post with football.
The hiring of Gonzales completes the Bulldog staff for the spring semester, and comes after a cycle of shifts on defense during bowl camp and prior to signing day. Mullen said today that the offensive changes were held off until after February 6 and signings.
As for all the moves, "It wasn't that we were trying to stir and change things up right here," Mullen said. "It was the opportunity, when I talked to Billy, and it was a pretty easy decision to make it fit and work on our staff." Gonzales and Mullen have a long association already, as aides under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida.
Gonzales spoke briefly with media prior to Wednesday's basketball game.
"I want to thank Coach Mullen for letting me be a part of this program here and the Mississippi State Bulldog family. And I'm extremely excited to get going here. I've got a ton of respect for the coaching staff here on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side of the ball, and having had a chance to work with some of them."
"There's something special when you've had an opportunity to have been in a foxhole with somebody before. You have an opportunity to see how they respond and how they interact when the pressure is on. So it's always welcoming to have that opportunity to like I said get back in that foxhole with somebody that you've been in there with before."
Have you checked the roster and thanked Dan for hiring you after all the graduations? "You know what, that's part of the deal. I know they had a senior-heavy class last year but I'm pretty fired-up about the guys they've got today. I looked at the roster and I had a chance to see it work out a little bit. And I've had a chance to evaluate the young men coming in. So for me it's an opportunity to get in here and mold some of these guys."
"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. So I'm fired-up in having that opportunity to be able to do that."
Dan said you two talk all the time, at what point did this opportunity come up? "I can't tell you exactly when. But I've always stayed in contact with Coach Mullen. I have a ton of respect for him. I had a ton of respect working side-by-side for him. And obviously now that he's been here as a head football coach. He's a fantastic guy, he's a great family guy."
"And I think when you start picking a place to have an opportunity to go coach, you want to again surround yourself with great people. And I know what kind of guy he is. I know he's a great father, I know he's a great leader, and those are the things that you look at. When you look at how is he going to interact with our family; how is he going to be welcoming? To me, you try to find out what kind of father is he. And he's second to no one. So it was an easy decision for me to have an opportunity to reach out and join this staff with Coach Mullen."
This is your fourth job in five years, what have you learned in the stops? "I think everything is a learning opportunity. I've been very fortunate to have coached with some great football coaches and am going to continue that here on this coaching staff, both assistant and head football coach."
"But every opportunity is a learning experience. And I probably learned a ton this past year, no different than what I did with opportunities with LSU and Florida. So I'm looking forward to getting back into this system. Picking up a playbook today and thumbing through it, I'm fired-up. I'm ready. And like I said for me to have an opportunity to help mold guys, help some of these young guys get established. And again our job as an assistant coach is to maximize the potential of our student-athlete, and I've got some guys to work with. So I know we had a senior heavy class last year that graduated, but I'm fired-up to get going with this class of younger receivers."
What did you learn from last season? "I think you can look back, it's easy to point back and say this didn't work, that didn't work, or this worked. I think the biggest thing is how to overcome and put yourself in a situations. 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."
"And if anything else I'm hungry, I'm fired-up and I'm ready to work harder than I ever have in my life. And I'm fired-up to have this opportunity to be here."
Are you looking forward to being back in the Southeast, recruiting? "I am. It's neat. You know what, I'm excited to get my family down here as soon as possible. I've got a nine-year old son and a seven-year old daughter. My son was playing basketball and the first time I had a chance to go watch him play was this past weekend. We were just talking on my way home, remember being down in the South the weather is a little warmer so it's a little easier to go out and shoot hoops, practice with my son in the front yard versus shoveling two or three inches of snow and trying to shoot hoops. So I'm excited to get back down this way."
And about recruiting? "We'll talk about as a staff when we start getting a little more in-depth. I know I've had an opportunity to go recruit in Florida, Louisiana. I've had Dallas, 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."
How much of the playbook did you recognize? "A lot! A lot! Now he's changed some terminology, he's changed some of the things. But it was great to open it back up."
"And we watched some film today. To hear Coach Hevesy jump up and start talking schematics, I'm fired-up. I love everybody in there. I have a ton of respect for Coach Brewster, to have an opportunity to let me move into the position he was coaching. It takes a strong man, it takes a strong leader. I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to work with them. Obviously with Coach Sallach as well, having an opportunity to move into the recruiting area too. But a strong group of coaches and I'm fired-up to be here."
Talk about the personalities of the offensive staff in that room? "Well everybody is going to have a responsibility, no different than what they've done in the past. Danny's done a great job as far as making sure everybody has got their responsibility in their area. And that won't change, we'll pick up where we left off."
"For me first and foremost is to get to know my players. More than anything I've got to build a relationship with my guys here. I think no different than in life, if the players know that you truly care about them, that you want them to be a part of your family, the guys that are going to play are going to be a part of my family. And I believe that with all my heart, they'll play a little harder for you if they know that you care about them as a person, not just as a football player."
"And it's great to be around Coach Mullen again, a family guy. I've been around coaches before and I've seen it in this profession when people talk about family. It's neat to preach family in the recruiting process because that's what you've got to do. But having had an opportunity to be around a guy that when he talks about family he really means it. And how do you know that? Again like I've said, I've been in that foxhole with him and seen how he's interacted with children and his children as well. And again how he leads his football program."
How much of an immediate comfort level is there? "I think it's always nice to have an opportunity where you know people going into it. But at the same time everything is new. For me, I'm down into a new office. A beautiful facility by the way! But everything is new."
"For me I'm going to hit this thing running as fast as I can. And my job like I said is to continue to educate my players, make sure they're living life right off the field, socially, academically, help them if they need any spiritual guidance. And obviously to prepare these guys as young men. We've got a great group of people to work with here."
"And I'm going to leave you with a last thing: I'm fired up to be a Bulldog."