Anthony Gonzalez has seen a little bit of everything in his time at Pitt. He has played four different positions. He has played for three different coaching staffs. He has been suspended twice. Everything settled down for Gonzalez last season, though, as he started all 13 games at strongside linebacker, finishing third on the team with 79 tackles and coming up with a number of big plays.
ESPN.com caught up with Gonzalez this week to talk about expectations going into his senior season. (And to hear just how odd it is for him to be in a locker room without former Liberty High and Panthers teammate Devin Street.)
You've gone from quarterback to H-back to safety and now linebacker -- under three different regimes. What have all those transitions been like?
Anthony Gonzalez: It was definitely tough, switching all the positions. But just by doing that, just learning the different aspects of the game from different positions I think really helped me out in the transition to being a linebacker.
How has seeing the game from so many different spots helped you understand not just what you're doing, but what the guys around you are doing?
AG: Yeah, definitely playing all the different positions, [knowing] what everybody else is doing, especially at linebacker, it just slows down the game for me. Playing quarterback, you know what you're looking at on the defense and where you want to go with it. So just taking out the minute details for being a linebacker, it just slows down the game. And you see everything faster and react faster.
Going back to your childhood playing days: Were you all over the field? Did you have any one position you liked most?
AG: My first year I played lineman, offensive tackle and then linebacker. But then my second year they saw I could run a little bit, so I played running back and linebacker, and during middle school I moved to safety and quarterback, and then I just played quarterback and safety for the rest of my high school career and started off in college playing quarterback. So I was definitely all over the place, which helped me out to be a better athlete in football.
When did you first start playing tackle?
AG: I believe 11 or 12 years old.
Being entrenched at linebacker, how much more comfortable are you there right now, finally having consecutive seasons at one spot?
AG: I think it's great. The game is slowing down for me. I've got pretty good speed for a linebacker. And just the knowledge of the game that I've learned throughout my years has really helped me, and it's helped me get better in my game, which is really good.
What are the expectations for this defense this season? When people are talking about teams that could possibly win the Coastal Division, Pitt's name has come up.
AG: I think we can be a really good defense. We don't really pay attention to the expectations. We take it a day at a time and every day just get better. Just knowing the defense more will allow us to be a great defense. So we don't really pay attention to expectations, but in-house we really expect big things this year.
How nice has it been to have some continuity with your coaching staff?
AG: The first couple years were rough, but just staying in the same system with the same coaches, it's really allowed us to progress as a team, which is good.
What was the bigger thrill last season: The pick-six at Duke or the game-clinching breakup against Notre Dame?
AG: The pick was great because I scored a touchdown, but the Notre Dame game, just watching that, the rivalry's just great between us and Notre Dame, so I feel like the Notre Dame breakup was a better feeling and a better win.
How would you describe your maturity level and the leaps you've been able to make over the last few years in college?
AG: It's helped me a lot. It's helped me a lot. Just growing up, maturing and just being more accountable on myself and for the team, mostly. Just being accountable to my teammates and just knowing I'm here doing the right things.
Has it been weird for you not seeing Devin Street in your locker room anymore?
AG: Yeah, it's weird. We've always been there together. It's definitely weird not seeing him. I'm hoping he's doing good things over in Dallas. That's actually been my team since I was young, so I was very excited for him, and hopefully he'll have a good career.