Posted: Wednesday, May 28th 2014 at 9:52pm
Spring football: Gonzalez set to take over QB spot at GHS
By Jeff Hart Staff
How big a part will the shadow of departed Deshaun Watson play as Mikey Gonzalez prepares to take over the helm of the Elephants offense in the upcoming season.
GAINESVILLE -- They are daunting numbers to say the least: 13,077 career passing yards (state record), 218 career touchdowns (state record), 46 total victories, one state championship.
But for diminutive Gainesville senior quarterback Mikey Gonzalez, what departed Deshaun Watson was able to accomplish in a stellar four-year career at the helm of the Red Elephants offense has no bearing on what fans should expect in the upcoming season.
It was the biggest question for Gainesville heading into the recently-completed spring practice. And it is the first of a series of questions we will explore around the area this week as we prepare for what should be another exciting, and, hopefully, fruitful high school football season.
Gainesville opens the 2014 season on the road against Class AAAAAA Grayson Aug. 29th.
“I’m not Deshaun. No one is. I’m not going to try to be,” Gonzalez said this week as he reflected on his first spring practice under center and trying to replace a high school legend. “My game will be different than his. More quick passes and just try to be as efficient as I can. If I try to do things the way he did I won’t be as successful as I want to be.”
The differences will be noticeable right from the beginning. Watson was a lanky 6-foot-4 while Gonzalez stands 5-foot-8 in tall cleats. However, Gainesville coach Bruce Miller did not hesitate coming into the spring practices to name Gonzalez the No. 1 starter.
“First of all, he has been in the system for three years and has waited his turn. Second, he knows the system and was 19-2 as the JV starter in the same offense,” Miller said. “It’s his job to lose. He had a great spring.”
Initially it was thought a battle between Gonzalez and junior Mesiah Dosrsey would be the focus of the spring. But Miller said having both on the field at the same time made them a more dynamic team.
“Mesiah is one of five guys for us that are tremendous weapons and being able to use him in other areas will be a key for us,” Miller said. “I think both will get snaps under center during the season but I really like the offense with Mikey at quarterback and Mesiah in the Y-slot.”
The Elephants will once again employ what should be an explosive spread attack. They will have senior Mike Byrd, who had over 1,000 yards rushing and 700 yards receiving, returning at running back. Seniors Rodney Lackey and Chris Williamson and juniors Toddrick Turner and Dorsey give Gainesville another talented receiving corps.
“Mikey’s job will be to distribute the ball around. He was very efficient in practice in doing that,” Miller said. “We’re not going to change what we do. Mikey knows how to run this offense, just in a different way than Deshaun.”
However, Miller said a key for spring and the coming fall practices was finding the right pieces on the offensive line.
“We lost three guys off the line from last year so that is a big priority for us,” Miller said. “Deshaun was able to use his speed to get out of trouble so some of our deficiencies were not as glaring. Mikey isn’t as much of a runner as Deshaun was so we’ll need to be able to protect better in the passing game.”
Gonzalez said he is ready for the challenge of following in the large footprints left by Watson.
“I know the offense and I think we’ll be just as good as we have been the last few years. If we run things right, I don’t think we can be stopped. We have a lot of weapons on the field.”
Miller didn’t believe Gonzalez felt anointed to the starting spot just because it might be his turn. He was right.
“It’s nice to know (the coaches) have confidence in me,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m going to go out and play thinking the spot is not mine. I have to work hard to stay there and that’s what I’m going to do. I thought I had a good spring but we’ll see what happens.”
Great players always move on. But can the Elephants make another deep run in the playoffs less than a year after Watson’s departure?
“We have enough talent on both sides of the ball to make a run,” Miller said. “How good the lines are going to be will determine that just as much as who will be the quarterback.”
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