Older Wideouts Lend a Coaching Hand with Young Bulldog Receivers

Getting out and about selling Mississippi State is part of the job. Recruiting certainly is more enjoyable these days too, with the Bulldogs reclaiming the Golden Egg and extending their bowling streak.

Yet for Billy Gonzales, it was high time for a return to campus and to coaching. “We were talking about this in staff meeting today, in the locker room. It’s just good to get back around your players.”

St. Petersburg Bowl camp continues the rest of this week before another and shorter break. Between now and Saturday’s final practice wide receivers coach Gonzales and all staff have lots of work left with the current Mississippi State roster.

“And that’s why we’re doing this, to get a chance to coach our players, get around them. But it feels good to get back with them, get back in the thick of things. And really it feels good to give the older guys an opportunity to help teach the younger guys. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing the last couple of days in practice.”

 

How have the older receivers embraced that teaching role? “It’s awesome. But it’s something established. Coach Mullen has done a great job over the year of his program and getting guys organized where these older guys it’s a great opportunity for them. All of a sudden they’re not in as many reps, but at the same time from my standpoint I get a chance to see Donald (Gray) on one side, Fred (Ross) on the other side really coaching up the young guys.”

“When they come off the field I can just kind of look at one of them and already they’ve kind of been drifting over to the young guys. Going to Reggie (Todd), going to Osirus (Mitchell), even Jamal (Couch).”

“Jamal’s played a lot for us for this year. But he’s still a young guy in my opinion. Just the constant reinforcement that they’re hearing coming from those players, it’s awesome. It’s a really good deal.”

 

What have you seen from Mitchell and Todd getting those reps? “It’s been really good. Both of those two guys have really had a good week of practice. Reggie is a little stronger right now than Osirus is, but at the same time they each kind of do something a little bit different than the other guy.”

“Reggie is kind of stepped-up and made some plays downfield. I think Reggie gives you a threat downfield. Osirus has been able to play multiple positions, both sides, X and Z for me. So he’s a guy that’s been able to learn both positions.”

“But both those guys, the reps that they are taking right now it’s critical. Not just those guys but it’s a chance for Malik (Dear) and (Keith) Mixon to get some more reps obviously. I moved Gabe (Myles) up a little bit in getting more reps, Gabe’s moved around inside and outside for me. Jesse (Jackson) is kind of moving back and forth.”

“But just the constant snaps, and I always say for the young guys they’ve been in scout team meetings all semester. We break up, we go through scout team, we get ready for team apart. But they haven’t really had a chance to sit in my meetings. So for Osirus and Reggie and some of the other guys it’s critical for me. Because now they get a chance to sit in the meetings, get a chance to learn what we’re doing, get a chance to really go through it no different than a game prep.”

“So any time you get an opportunity to speak to your young players it’s a great thing. To be able to just kind of teach them and get them in order for what they expect for next year.”

 

How much have you seen Couch develop in his first year? “A ton! A ton. We were laughing about it the other day. And he’s got so much more. His ceiling is so far ahead of him. He’s not even close to getting to where he needs to be. And he understands that the biggest thing for Jamal is being able to sit and watch film with him and say am I going full speed every time?”

“With young players when they’ve played a little bit they understand, and it comes a little quicker than some of the other kids that have been redshirted. But at the same time it’s no different, they’ve still got to keep pushing and keep getting better. What they think is going hard every play, it really isn’t. Until you get a chance to sit there and watch on the film, did you go full-speed? Nnnnno. Why not? And once you start talking to them it’s not their choice, their decision to go half-speed or three-fourths-speed.”

“Coach Mullen set as your standard is everybody to extremely hard, give great effort. So the standard’s been set. You look at Donald, Gabe, Fred, some of the older guys, when they take a rep that’s a full-speed rep. so it’s just a matter of developing from day-one to right now. Jamal’s done a great job as far as just continuing.”

“And a lot of that’s the weightroom. That’s kind of getting him tough, bloodying him up a little bit, thickening their skin. A lot of it comes from that. And then I’ll be honest with you, I think Donald Gray is his big brother. When they get here they’d have a big brother, Donald’s done a great job. Donald doesn’t take any crap from anybody as far as making sure they work hard. And he’s kind of embraced that role with Jamal to motivate him and push him and push him.”

“And at the same time Jamal’s done a good job because he’s never really backed-down. No, he’s took the coaching from the older guys. And that’s all critical in developing your unit and building your room.”

 

Now that your three freshmen are back in full practices, how much good does that do Jonas Spivey, Jesse, Deddrick Thomas? “Sure. I think competition, that’s the greatest motivation for somebody to work hard. Knowing that somebody out there is trying to take your job.”

“I think everybody probably here at least in the media, I showed it with my players one of the greatest quotes was Steve Smith. When he’d start talking about there’s somebody else out there trying to take my job. Somebody out there trying to out-work me. As long as they understand that, they’re going to be pushed.”

“And again I think our players right now, with the exception of some of the inside guys, there’s some length on this team out of the young group of guys. That’s a neat thing to have as far as to have big targets. It gives quarterbacks a little bit more freedom to throw the ball.”

“And again it gives me on the outside an opportunity to do some different things blocking-wise and blocking schemes when you’ve got long guys and bigger guys.

 

What about Couch allowed him to see the field earlier than the other freshmen? “You’ve got to remember, he got here earlier than the other two guys. So one was that standpoint. But Jamal is 6-4, 220-plus pounds. It’s a little easier for a young man that’s got that kind of size and stature to go win. And even if he kind of misses a block, but he’s close enough, he’s big enough and strong enough where everything doesn’t have to be technique-sound immediately. Because he can still hold his own.”

“Now, as soon as he continues to get better at that? We had a big deal, 2-on-2 blocking the last couple of days which in my opinion is one of the best drills ever to do for working the perimeter. And you’ll see that he still tries to use a little bit more strength vs. technique. Once he gets that and combines both of them, he’s going to be really, really good. But I think that’s probably his physical stature was one of the reasons that he could get on the field early. And he picked up the offense pretty quick. That was good.”

 

With Ross leaving is Gray ready to take on that role next year? “Oh, I talked to Fred, and Fred says he’s going to come back again for next year! So I was all for it!”

“No, I do. I think Donald is a vocal leader. Donald is going to embrace it. And that will be something tha the works through and he’ll have the opportunity to do it. But right now we’re still pushing forward and continuing to get better.”

 

Have you ever seen anyone work as hard on the JUGS machine as Donald does? “No. He’s by far, I’ve never coached a receiver that’s done that much extra on a JUGS machine. Ever. That’s a testament to him as far as his work ethic. It shows he wants to be a great player. When you’re doing that much extra, you’re showing you’re going above and beyond to try to be the best.”


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