After spending the 2022 season at Florida Atlantic University, Billy Gonzales is back on the field for 2023 for his third stint as the Gators’ wide receiver coach and is excited about his new receiver room.
Speaking to the media after practice on Saturday, Gonzales made it clear that returning to The Swamp was an easy decision and he is excited to be back.
“I was really ecstatic about having the opportunity to come back,” Gonzales said. “Very honored to have the opportunity. It’s a prestigious university. Coach Napier is a fantastic coach, so I’m excited about the opportunity to be back.”
Same Place, New Faces
Gonzales is no stranger to Gator Nation. During his first run as Florida’s receivers coach, Gonzales helped bring home two BCS National Championships and several bowl wins. He has also produced an impressive amount of NFL receivers that include Kadarius Toney, Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson.
However, although Gonzales is very familiar with where he will be coaching, he is currently working on getting to know all the new faces. From the receiver room to the other coaching staff, the WR coach has some work to do.
But the coach is more than up for the challenge and is stoked to work with head coach Billy Napier, someone who knows the position well. During his time with Alabama from 2013-16, Napier was the Crimson Tide’s wide receiver coach. He produced players like Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to learn from coach,” Gonzales said. “It’s again, a chance for me to not just learn from him as a head coach but from a position coach. He’s coached some great players from that standpoint, as well.”
Thoughts on New Room
When it comes to his new room of receivers, Gonzales explains what he likes about this group.
Gonzales says Florida has put together a solid unit since he was away. Napier and his staff have signed three high school receivers for the upcoming season and have taken in five walk-ons.
One of the more notable names that Gonzales will be coaching is returning receiver Ricky Pearsall. The wideout had five touchdowns on 33 receptions and had 661 receiving yards, last season. Although Gonzales is impressed with Pearsall’s height, speed and leadership, he admires the receiver’s drive to get better.
Another returning receiver is Xzavier Henderson. The upcoming senior had 38 receptions, 410 yards and two touchdowns in 2022. Overall, it was his best statistical season in The Swamp. Gonzales believes that Henderson has transitioned into a better player after having three touchdowns and around 100 yards in a recent scrimmage. That being said, the returning coach has high praise for the way Henderson has been able to evolve.
“He’s coming into his own at the back end of being here,” Gonzales said. “He’s playing with confidence right now.”
The coach is also working closely with freshmen receivers Aidan Mizell and Andy Jean. Both wide receivers are players who enrolled during the middle of the 2022-23 academic year. Gonzales says the two Gators need to get used to the physicality and speed of play that comes with NCAA football. Though, he is proud of how Mizell and Jean have approached the learning process.
Playing The Same Way
When asked if he is keeping his “If you don’t block, you don’t play” style of coaching, Gonzales quickly confirmed that nothing about that is changing. The coach made it clear that if a receiver wants to have 13 catches in a game, he better be running and blocking in 50 to 60 other plays for his teammates.
Gonzales’ work with this wide receiver room will be on full display at the annual Orange and Blue game on Thursday.