Billy Gonzales is back in the Swamp. (Photo credit: Alan Youngblood, Gainesville Sun)
For the third time, Billy Gonzales has been hired by the Florida Gators.
Gonzales is set to return to Florida as the wide receivers coach after Keary Colbert suddenly left for the Denver Broncos earlier this month. He first served at Florida from 2005-09, a period of time in which he won a pair of national championships. He then returned to Gainesville in 2018 along with Dan Mullen, serving as Florida’s wide receiver coach for the duration of Mullen’s time as Florida’s head coach from 2018 through 2021.
Understandably, some Gator fans may be concerned about Napier bringing back a Mullen staffer. But the truth of the matter is that Billy Gonzales more than pulled his weight on the Gators’ staff in both of his previous stints.
His first run in Gainesville, under Urban Meyer, saw the development of Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell, Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy, and Riley Cooper en route to the 2006 and 2008 national championships. Gonzales wasn’t the offensive coordinator for those teams, but he had a vocal presence in the development of the offenses in each year. He then left to become the receivers coach at LSU in 2010, where he stayed for two years; after one year at Illinois as the co-OC, he rejoined Mullen at Mississippi State, where the two remained until Mullen departed for Florida in 2018.
Perhaps his best coaching job, though, was in 2020. Florida had four legitimate SEC wide receivers leave after the 2019 season in Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Freddie Hammond, and Tyrie Cleveland, and the Gators’ pass offense was even better in 2020 anyway. Trevon Grimes stepped up into a much larger role, Kadarius Toney went from being a ridiculously explosive dude who couldn’t put it all together as a receiver into an all-around pass-catching threat- earning him a nomination for the Paul Hornung Award– and transfer Justin Shorter seamlessly stepped into the offense and produced in a big way.
The return of Billy Gonzales should bring some continuity, or at least as much is possible for a man who wasn’t on staff last season. Gonzales has worked with some of Florida’s veteran receivers before, such as Xzavier Henderson, and his reputation in developing Florida pass-catchers should be enticing enough for recruits to not miss a beat when considering the Gators.