So there has been a lot of partying going on around Bulldog football this off-season. More concerning to team and fans has been a lot of staff shuffling, which began during the Christmas break and finally concluded this week. The addition of Billy Gonzales as wide receivers coach completed the on-field staff for 2013, and allows everyone to get immediately to work preparing for spring practices.
Gonzales' official hiring coincided with wideouts-turned-tight ends coach Tim Brewster and safeties coach Tony Hughes having their titles and tasks expanded to assistant head coaches. The defensive staff has been largely revamped, as previously reported.
Mullen briefly went over the hiring process with his longtime friend and cohort Gonzales as well as other offensive staff moves.
"We're pretty fortunate. I think Billy is the premier receiver coach in the United States. I've had the opportunity to work with him before. (He's coached) Like, seven All-SEC receivers in his time in this conference, as well as at Utah developing two 1,000-yard receivers in one season. Just about everywhere he's gone his receivers have broken records. So the opportunity to get one of the best receivers coaches in the country is huge."
"Then, thank goodness, you look at our staff. With Tim Brewster, when I brought him in we talked about the professionalism that he had. In my time here, our receivers had their best season. That was his first season as our receiver coach. And that's why he was a great head football coach, why he's a great assistant coach in both college and the NFL, and the opportunity now for us."
"I think everybody, I'm sure you guys will be writing about it all the time: the tight ends are going to have a bigger role in the offense. And just how the makeup of our personnel fits, how the tight ends will probably have a bigger role this year. I mean, here's a guy who has coached Pro Bowl tight ends; we get the experience to do that."
"So when we had the opportunity to make this, put this staff together this way, it was kind of a no-brainer."
When did you first contact Gonzales? "Back in 19…! Billy and I talk all the time. It was something that we discussed. And I said with where we were, we weren't going to do anything until after signing day. Especially as recruiting moves forward. I knew where he was, being at Illinois, and Tim Beckman is a good friend of mine. I know with a lot of staffs people make some changes just right before signing day. I'm not a big fan of doing that."
"So we kind of waited. And it was a thought, boy we could have the opportunity for this plan to come together. I was going to wait until after signing day so it might have caused it to fall apart. You didn't know how it was all going to react to it. But when after signing day we had the opportunity to go look at things, evaluate things, and the chance to put it together this way, we were really excited."
So it was more he was available than let's change things? "Yeah. That was it. It wasn't that we were trying to stir and change things up right here. Like I said, the opportunity, when I talked to Billy and he said he I'd be really interested…that was a pretty easy decision to try to make it fit and work on our staff."
Talk about moving Scott Sallach and the rule changes on staffs? "We go play a lot of teams and I look over on the sideline and they have, you know, six quality control guys on offense and six on defense. We're, I guess, under-staffed in the Southeastern Conference a little bit that way."
"So here it is, a guy that is a great analytical guy in the game of football. It allows us to kind of open that up and create a position right now where we can try to catch up to the rest of the league in that way, in our off-the-field personnel. Obviously talking with Scott it's different. I mean, it's the first time we've had someone in that position, of how it's all going to work out. But I think it's going to be a great fit for him and give us an opportunity to really catch up personnel-wise with the rest of the league."
Going forward, on game day take us through offensively? "Everybody will be very involved. I mean there's a long time until you do that. I think you look at the continuity we've had a little bit within our staff, I really think it makes everything the same way. We'll see how that goes."
"You know, Les (Koenning) does a great job calling plays for us and kind of patching everybody together. You know, there's a lot of personalities in that offensive room now. Because I spend a lot of time in that room too and I have a little personality myself! John Hevesy's got some personality, Brew has got some personality, Greg Knox is pretty opinionated on what goes on. And Billy's not shy over there so he's going to have his say."
"So Les does a good job of patching all that, of coordinating and taking all of that and putting all the thoughts ideas together and getting it all out in a plan on gameday."
With Gonzales' expertise in special teams do you see… "Expertise in special teams? Wow! Big time!"
I imagine you get tired of yelling at yourself, you can yell at him now? "Yeah, I can yell at a lot of people. But I think when you guys get to see it more in spring ball than during season, you see everybody's involvement in the special teams. There's not a ‘when it comes to special teams I do everything'. I mean everybody has an input, everybody has a say."
"Having Billy, with Greg Knox, with some other guys that have real good solid special teams backgrounds, I might even look into giving everybody the more input. You know, kind of assigning each guy a team within it, instead of just positions where one guy is going to oversee kickoff return. And I'll still coordinate everything from the top."
Do you, Billy, and John have any nicknames? "No. I'm sure the last guy we all worked for had some nicknames for us! You've got to think when we all started, we're 29, 30. We're old now. I'm 40."