Turning It Around

Like many people, Tito Gonzales was pleasantly surprised when the Mountaineers came out throwing in their season opener against Villanova.

The senior wide receiver is happy to finally have a substantial role in the offense, but knows that West Virginia will have to be more consistent in that arena if it is to get back on a winning track.

"It was great to see. I was probably more ecstatic when (Alric) Arnett caught those two touchdowns than when I had my one catch because it was just good to see the coaches trusting the receivers to go out there and make plays. During my first four years I hadn't seen a receiver catch two touchdowns, especially not an outside receiver. It was just really good to see the coaches trusting the players and to see Pat (White) throwing the ball that well," Gonzales said.

Gonzales, who has had four different receivers coaches during his five years at WVU, said it has been a difficult transition learning Coach Galloway's new playing scheme. Add in the changes that have had to be assimilated almost every year, and it has been difficult for West Virginia's receivers to develop any continuity.

"With each coach you have to learn how they coach. You could take one route and all four coaches would coach it differently," Gonzales explained. "Every time you have a new coach you just have to learn how he coaches and what he expects from each individual. Every time I have had a new coach it's been a big transition."

The next challenge for WVU's receivers is to renew the productivity they had against the Wildcats, but could not find against East Carolina. Despite the lack of passing during the Mountaineer's loss to the Pirates, Gonzales is confident that the team can regain their intensity.

"We have to take a loss like an East Carolina and we have to take a win like a Villanova and we have to make it come together and make us better," the senior wideout noted.

Gonzales is confident that he is leaving the receiving position in the hands of some talented younger players, in the form of Arnett and Jock Sanders.

"Hopefully he will get some double teams on him and it will open me up more," Gonzales joked.

In his final season, Gonzales acknowledges the leadership role that he must take on due to his experience. He has been catching balls for the Mountaineers since his sophomore season when he had a touchdown catch in the 2005 Gator Bowl.

"I think it's just as you grow and you play that guys that don't have that experience look at you for leadership because you've been there and you've done that. I've been a leader but I think as good of a leader as I have been I think there is room for improvement," Gonzales said.

West Virginia obviously needs that at this point, as the Mountaineers appeared uninspired and rudderless in their road loss a week ago. Gonzales, who is a leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, is looking to extend his leadership qualities on the field. Although he will likely be chiefly remembered for his touchdown catch in the Mountaineers' Fiesta Bowl victory against Oklahoma, he would prefer to be remembered as man of faith. He's often the one to lead the pre- and post-game prayers as well.

"No matter how many records you have, great touchdown catches or runs that you have at the end of the day, in 10-15 years from now no one will be thinking of Tito Gonzales," he said.

Still, there is plenty more time for Gonzales to make more memories on the field for both himself and Mountaineer fans. At this first critical juncture of the season, he seems poised to do just that.


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