TO SAY DAVID Gonzales has quietly risen to prominence in Washington State’s 2010 football outlook is a bit of an overstatement. After all, it’s hard to be inconspicuous when you’re 6-6 and 275 pounds. But there is no disputing the facts. Over the last five months, the JC transfer has gone from being viewed as a possible redshirt to holding down the most critical position on the offensive line.
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Barring divine intervention, Gonzales will be the Cougars’ starting left tackle when the season opens Sept. 4 at Oklahoma State.
Left tackle is the most critical spot in the trenches for this reason: With a right-handed quarterback, the left tackle is responsible for protecting the blind side. The left tackle is, by definition, a team's best pass blocker. And the position requires great footwork, agility and smarts to fend off large, bull rushing ends and speedy linebackers, and overloads to the left side.
“I love (left tackle)," said Gonzales. "I came out of a junior college playing left tackle for two years. In high school, I actually played right guard (before growing significantly).”
Gonzales has flown under the radar in part because the buzz during the recruiting season was that 6-6, 304-pound Wade Jacobsen, another JC transfer who is ticketed for the Cougars’ starting lineup, was ready to step right in – and he is, at guard – but that Gonzales might need some time to bulk up.
Gonzales has added notable strength since arriving in Pullman in January but has actually dropped slightly a bit on the scales. His combination of strength and skill, though, has elevated him to prime time on the offensive line.
The fact Gonzales snuck up a bit on people is typical. He didn’t turn out for high school football until his junior year and was relegated to the JV. A year later, he was a two-way starter at Fresno’s Central High and earned second-team all-league honors for his work on offense. That paved the way for his move to Fresno City College.
There, he took all-conference honors last season as a sophomore and earned scholarship offers from WSU, San Diego State and Marshall, plus an invitation to Tennessee for an official visit he decided not to take after tripping to Pullman.
At WSU, he served notice early that he would be a force to reckon with. On the second day of spring workouts this past March he unleashed a pancake block on linebacker Andre Barrington that actually had observers cringing.
“It’s definitely a lot faster up here, but you stick with your technique and keep going and working as hard as you can -- and you can get it,” said Gonzales.
Paul Wulff and the Cougs are hoping Gonzales can solidify a position that gave them fits last season. Injuries turned the spot into a revolving door that was spinning so fast that true freshman Alex Reitnouer – checking in at 253 inexperienced pounds – was forced to burn his redshirt.
“(O-line coach Steve Morton has) definitely taught me a lot of patience as far as using my technique and making sure I’m doing the right things. He’s probably one of the best offensive line coaches I’ve ever had. He’s just a great guy. He can definitely get you going for practice...“He tells us, ‘Enthusiasm is a force multiplied,’ and that’s a big thing for all of us.” said Gonzales.
If the Cougs were to open the season tomorrow, the view from this chair is the starting offensive line would be Gonzales and Micah Hannam at the tackles, Jacobsen and B.J. Guerra at the guards, and Zack Williams at center.
“I think it’s going really good. We’re definitely taking a step every day. We’re working as hard as we can to get where we want to be Jan. 1. I think as long as we keep up our work, anything is possible," said Gonzales.