As his team worked to the end of spring practice, Damian Gonzalez was paying attention to particulars, i.e., the depth chart, and the big picture too.
“We have a lot of kids who can play, and we wanted to find out who was going to be able to do what,” said the coach, returning to football after a 4-year sojourn away. “That’s what you do in spring, work on the depth chart. But for me, coming back to football, I have been working with the coaches to establish our roles.”
Gonzalez sees himself as a manager, a facilitator.
“I have great coaches, many of them have been head coaches, so they know what they are doing,” he explained. “Take Max Habecker for example. You know what I like about him, a lot? He talks good to the kids, he knows how to relate and to challenge them and be positive: that makes a huge difference. I have always believed that when a staff is good to their kids, shows them they care, it goes a long, long way.”
Now back to the particulars, meaning individuals and jobs. Gonzalez knows that he can count on CB Carlos Coronado, so has been helping develop the other options in the spring.
“I tend to leave the defense to George [coordinator Espinoza], because he has so much experience,” Gonzalez began. “But I like to head on over there and help coach the kids, we have some nice prospects.”
Free safety Josh Villarreal is one of them, a former Coog who moved away but has come back. He has good instincts and looks like a player back there, physically. Jorge Gonzalez is another DB of note; he and Ricky Garza – should be a hitter in 2018 – spent the spring getting used to varsity speed. Returner Isaac Bernal is set at a corner opposite Coronado.
‘That’s the way it is, take any position group and we have a veteran or two, plus a whole bunch of guys that we think can come in and contribute,” Gonzalez said. “Down on the line, you’ve got Seth Villarreal, he played some last year, and Josue Martinez, same thing. Pair those guys with Beto [Martinez, a defensive standout] and you’ve got a stout group there.”
As for linebacker, the new head coach is looking at some youngsters to come on strong in a hurry. Aside from Jacob Alvarado, Gonzalez has plans for another man child, Mike Anzaldua, whose older brother, David, was one of the best players in North history and now starts for UTSA.
“Again, they have potential, ability, now we just have to get them ready to go on Friday nights,” Gonzalez said. “Jacob and Mike, they are big, strong kids and they should be hitting hard and making tackles, we like their potential.”
Same for the offense, where a bunch of sophomore receivers – Derek Garces, Mike Contreras, and Moises Maldonado among others – have impressed the coaches during spring.
“There’s also Ivan Garza, I’m telling you, we may have to throw the ball a lot,” Gonzalez laughed. “We have so many tall, fast kids, heck, maybe we won’t just play smashmouth all night.”
The key for the spring was to get all the newcomers into the mix, continue to grow as a team, and work on chemistry and spirit.
“We did something kind of cool, we have these door wraps we worked on,” Gonzalez informed. “They’re kind of like posters, we made them of the kids, to put up around the locker room on doors. That kind of thing is fun for the team and we want it to be motivation for them to buy in. It’s all about that, will your kids play for you, buy in to the system, believe in it, and fight for it. I think we have the group that can do it, and they will do it, we’re going to be a big, tight family once the fall comes.”