Early Look at 2010: Gonzales, Wilson
Bowl gives snapshot of new offensive staff
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Acting Editor
Only a year ago, everyone in Tigah country was up in arms about the defense. The not-so-subtle calls for help all sounded about the same: ‘The two coordinator approach can’t work.’ ‘Bring back the dominant defensive line and pass rush.’ ‘I’m tired of watching the DB’s throws their hands up in the air as if they’re lost.’
So what’d Miles do? He reached into his magic hat and, abracadabra, John Chavis.
The impact was immediate considering LSU finished this campaign ranked third in the defensively stacked SEC in scoring D.
Now, it’s January 2010, and the new New Year’s resolution is a better, more efficient (and less complicated) offense.
Difference is, this time around, the coordinator stays and the moving parts are the assistant coaching cogs beneath him. Out as running backs coach is the valuable Larry Porter (now the head Tiger himself, at Memphis), in is homegrown Louisianan Frank Wilson. The Bayou Bengals also bid adieu to wide receivers coach D.J. McCarthy - amid investigations into recruiting violations - and said aloha (the ‘hello’ version) to Billy Gonzales.
And while it’s hard to see these two acquisitions being as simple as the Chavis band-aid, there’s reason to believe LSU might have gotten the right guys for the program. At least, that’s what Gary Crowton indicated in Orlando as the team prepared for Penn State.
“I am going to miss the two coaches who have moved on, but I am very happy with the two new coaches,” said Crowton. “I have known Billy Gonzales for a long time. He was someone that I recommended when I first came here, but we weren’t able to get him away from Florida.
“As far as Frank Wilson goes, he is from Louisiana and he knows the kids. From a recruiting standpoint he is outstanding and very knowledgeable. I think I am going to be very comfortable with these new coaches.”
As the LSU coordinator referred to, familiarity with Gonzales - who spent the past five years as Florida’s receivers coach and red zone coordinator - helps lead to a nice built-in comfort level. In fact, the duo (who both played college ball at Colorado State) were off and running in Baton Rouge as soon as the NCAA cleared Gonzales.
“Well, because it was a bowl situation, we had a little bit of time,” explained Crowton. “Billy and I just locked ourselves in a room early and just went over all the things and created common nomenclature. So, I’ve changed some of the names from what we called it in the past so that there wouldn’t be an overlap of ‘Well, we used to do it this way, now we’re doing it that way.’ Everything to put us on the same page.”
Another responsibility at the feet of Gonzales, who doubles as LSU’s passing game coordinator, is the expedition of the play-calling process.
Early returns from the Penn State game were mixed in that respect. True, the ‘check with me’ routine looked less painful, but the Tigers still incurred false start and delay of game penalties (on the day, LSU had 10 penalties for 64 yards to PSU’s two for 10 yards). Also evident from that offensive outing - LSU gained only 243 yards - is Gonzales hardly laid a fingerprint on the overall game plan. The calls often lacked imagination and were in-line with the inconsistencies visible all season.
Another sore spot from Orlando is the running game. The offense combined for only 41 yards on 25 carries, including the following line from workhorse Stevan Ridley: 12 carries for 13 yards (and a touchdown). If Ridley, Michael Ford, Richard Murphy or Russell Shepard is to lead the Tigers next season, Frank Wilson is going to have to make a splash and prove he can coach ‘em up as well as he can sign ‘em up in his recruiting coordinator capacity.
On Wilson, Crowton beamed, saying: “Well, Frank’s such a good guy and has such a good, upbeat spirit about him. The glass is always [half] full. He’s happy and he’s intelligent and he’s fit right in; the players really like him. The other good thing about Frank’s situation is he came in with three really pretty young backs right now because the three older guys were all hurt, so he was able to come right in and they took to him right away.”
Ben Love is the acting editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.