Gonzales Excited about Bulldog Wide Outs

Mississippi State is working this spring to fill the shoes of departed senior standouts Jameon Lewis and Robert Johnson. Bulldog receivers' coach Billy Gonzales was able to add three important pieces to the equation when standouts Donald Gray, Malik Dear and Deddrick Thomas enrolled in January. While there have been some receivers move to other positions of need, Coach G has his guys ready to roll

"Our goal is to make sure that our guys play in grade," Gonzales explained. "I looked at the grades for our guys and they've done that. I think in our last scrimmage that all of our guys graded out with a winning performance. That's where we're looking for."

While the Bulldogs return some proven commodities as pass catchers, the group received an infusion of talent in January that has the Bulldog passing game coordinator smiling.

"Getting guys like Donald Gray, Deddrick Thomas, Malik Dear and Jesse Jackson, the guys that have not played in a game type setting, some reps this spring is important for us," Gonzales said. "We got them those reps. Now Jesse is a little dinged up right now, Malik is a little dinged and Gabe (Myles) is a little dinged, but the reps that those guys got make a difference.

"It's all been great though. Some of those guys were repping with the '3's, but they got bumped up to the '2's. They got more reps and it's really about muscle memory. The more reps we can get for those guys the better it is for all of us.

"The reps we were able to get for those guys that came in early is really a night and day difference for them heading into the summer. Now they know what to expect and they know what to do. We need to finish up in a game type setting this weekend in front of people. You like to finish up with something like that, because players have pressure on them to make plays."

The Bulldogs have just one senior wide out this fall in Ocean Springs, Mississippi native Joe Morrow. Morrow had his best season on the college level last fall. Now in his final season in Starkville, the talented split end is poised for his best work as a Bulldog.

"I think there was a lot of pressure on Joe coming in here," Gonzales said. "He was supposed to be such and such when he got here and he was supposed to be that right away. I hate it when guys get tagged early on as an impact guy early on, because I think that's kind of unfair. Let's just let the guys come out here and play and develop. I think that was one of the things with him.

"If you look at him last year compared to the year before, you see progress. My first year here, he was up and down. Last year, he had a really solid year to be honest with you. Part of that was I had more depth. I had a chance to rotate players. The first year I was here, we went with the main guys and the young guys were just trying to swim along and keep up. We had some depth last year and Joe was able to make some plays for us last year.

"He is showing some real leadership around here too. He's the guy who has been around for four or five years now. He has had a really strong spring. I expect him to continue to grow and build on what he did last year."

One of the staples of a Billy Gonzales coached receiving corp is a strong effort when it comes to blocking on the perimeter. As Bulldog wide out will tell you, "If you don't block, then you won't play."

"The guys that have played like Fred Ross, Fred Brown, Joe Morrow, Bear (De'Runnya Wilson) and Gabe Myles have done well. I feel great about those guys, not good, but great," Gonzales said. "I feel good about the young guys. Nobody really blocks in high school. It's new to them when they get here, but blocking is something we cut our teeth with here. It's something we can do to create an impact. It takes no talent at all to go and block somebody. That's not about talent, it's about heart, determination and your commitment to the team."

JuCo transfer Donald Gray is already a fan favorite and his first snaps in front of a Davis Wade crowd will not come until Saturday. Gonzales reports that the Memphis native is making an impact already.

"I think Donald is coming along," Gonzales said. "Just like anybody else, the first semester you're trying to get acclimated academically. You're in a new environment and you have a brand new playbook to learn. The terminology is new, so there is a lot to get used to.

"Athletically, he is good. He has great athletic ability. It just takes time for those guys to catch up and that's what he did. All spring long, you could see him making small gains every day. He's repped with the 1st and 2nd group this spring and some with the threes. He's worked with all three groups and done a good job. He's got to keep working on getting better, but he has a dynamic work ethic. He would stay here all day if he could."

Former Bulldog receivers Jamoral Graham and Shelby Christy moved to new personnel groups this spring. Graham switched over to defensive back, while Christy moved down the hall to tight ends. Gonzales reports that the moves have not hurt his depth at all.

"We're great with our numbers with what we have," Gonzales said. "You're always trying to get the best that you can get at your position, but whatever helps the team no matter what the situation is we're going to do that. If moving a guy like, Smokey (Graham) helps the team and helps him get on the field then we're going to be for that.

"Our other guys have stepped up and our numbers are good right now."

Heading into the final session of the spring practices, Gonzales is ready to see his guys implement all of the lessons learned over the past few weeks.

"We just want to play clean and eliminate mistakes," Gonzales said. "I am great with my guys. On the perimeter, I know they are going to play. They're ready to go, but we want the offense to play clean and we want to execute. We don't want dumb, silly penalties. We want guys to have a body on a body. We want the running backs finishing strong and shrinking their pad level and be able to run through tackles. When the ball is in the air, we expect our receivers to make plays. This isn't a scrimmage for us. It's a practice and we want our guys to go play. When you step into that arena, you better be able to flip that switch and go make some plays."

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