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Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Illinois hiring Billy Gonzales as OC

By Adam Rittenberg

Illinois fans, let me tell you about your new offensive coordinator, Billy Gonzales.

He has been on coaching staffs that have won two national championships and played for another, and won three BCS bowl games. He coached seven Florida wide receivers selected in the NFL draft.

That's the good news.

Here's the buzz-killing news: he spent the last two seasons as LSU's passing game coordinator. Yes, the same LSU team that crossed midfield once Monday night in the BCS title game and finished with 53 pass yards and zero points against Alabama.

Safe to say the timing of this move isn't great, at least from a perception standpoint.

Still, Gonzales will have an opportunity to win over Illinois fans. He reunites in Champaign with new head coach Tim Beckman, whom he worked with under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green in 2001-02. Gonzales is one of Meyer's disciples, having worked for him from 2001-09 at three different stops (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida).

LSU ranked 107th and 106th nationally in passing offense the past two seasons, although the team has had some talent at wideout. Beckman had targeted his offensive coordinator at Toledo, Matt Campbell, for the same position at Illinois, but Toledo promoted Campbell to head coach last month.

Gonzales takes over an offense that sputtered down the stretch of the regular season and loses its top weapon in receiver A.J. Jenkins. He inherits a talented quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase who started the season strong but saw his production drop off.

Gonzales has ties to the Midwest, having coached at both Bowling Green and Kent State. He began his coaching career in 1994 at Division III MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill.

It'll be interesting to see how this move turns out. Illinois fans hope it's a lot better than what we saw Monday night.