The craziness concerning Florida’s coaching staff took an even weirder turn Thursday night with the news that wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales would be leaving to take a job atLSU . Gonzales is one of the premier young receiver coaches in the country and he’s also one of the best recruiters in the game. He’s been instrumental in recruiting guys like PercyHarvin, Joe Haden, Jon Bostic and Andre Debose. This year, he’s been in charge of recruiting and helping to sign Matt Elam, Gerald Christian, Demar Dorsey, Quinton Dunbar, Jordan Haden, Cody Riggs and Solomon Patton. He was also one of the main men behind trying to sway uncommitted guys like receivers Chris Dunkley, Ivan McCartney, Robert Clark (West Virginia), Christian Green and defensive end Chris Martin.
Behind, Urban Meyer, he’s probably been Florida’s top recruiter. Now, Meyer will have to work even harder at keeping some commitments and trying to develop better relationships with uncommitted guys. As of Friday, I got word from a couple sources thatPahokee’s Dunkley was not happy about Gonzales leaving, but that things shouldn’t sour between him and Florida. Meyer is still the primary guy in charge of his recruitment.
Patton was very upset about Gonzales and didn’t have much to say about his decision when he first heard. After Meyer hired former Central Michigan receivers coach ZachAzzanni , I contacted Patton to see how he felt about the new hire. Patton hadn’t heard of him and was still a little confused about the whole situation, considering Gonzales had an in-home visit with him Monday night and said nothing about leaving. Patton said he’ll keep his commitment and that he’s meeting with safeties coach Chuck Heater next week.
“I’m disappointed,” Patton said. “I really want coach “G” to be my coach, but it’s cool.”
One guy not wanting to talk about Gonzales is Martin. The Aurora, Colo., Grandview prospect was visited earlier in the week by both Meyer and Gonzales and had a pretty good relationship with Gonzales. For the first time since I talked to him after the Florida State game he didn’t respond to one of my text messages (since he’s not doing phone interviews) when I asked about Gonzales and the impact it will have on his recruitment.
While losing Charlie Strong only weighed heavily on defensive recruiting, Gonzales affects all areas.
“A lot of guys wanted to come in due to the way (Gonzales) recruited them and the relationships he’s built,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barton Simmons said. “He’s definitely a big part of this class, recruiting some pretty special athletes.
“He’s definitely a key cog in that recruiting picture and it will be interesting to watch out that affects things.”
Still, players aren’t going to Florida to just play for Gonzales. Meyer is the man with the plan and he’s just going to have to work a little harder and hope thatAzzanni, who Meyer stated in a release is an aggressive recruiter, can fill the big shoes left by Gonzales.
“It might seem like it’s an overwhelming task to have to jump in there and immediately build some relationships with these kids and immediately earn their trust,” Simmons said. “That’s what he’s going to have to do and he’s got a short period of time to do it. That’s key and there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him to do that.
“Once (Azzanni) gets settled in, I think he’s someone that can make an impact on future classes, but at this point, the key is not to mess anything up with this class and build off of what Billy Gonzales was able to bring in.”G