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Return to SDSU bittersweet for ASU defensive coordinator Gonzales

Arizona State defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales has mixed feeling about playing San Diego State, his former employer. (Photo by Harley Yearout/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – Danny Gonzales celebrated a 30-20 win on the sidelines of Sun Devil Stadium last season.

Only then, he was a first-year defensive coordinator for the San Diego State Aztecs.

This Saturday, Gonzales will travel to San Diego State as an opponent and first-year defensive coordinator of the Arizona State Sun Devils.

“I wish we didn’t have to play this game,” Gonzales said. “I recruited most of those kids. All those kids on defense, other than the true freshman, I coached at some point. So I know them all and I love all those kids dearly.”

Gonzales spent the last seven seasons on the sidelines with the Aztecs, six of those as their safeties coach.

In 2017, he took over as defensive coordinator of the Aztecs before joining coach Herm Edwards’ staff at ASU.

But Gonzales isn’t the only former member of the coaching staff making his return to SDSU this weekend.

He will be accompanied by ASU cornerbacks coach Tony White, who spent eight years with the Aztecs as their cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator.

“I couldn’t be more thankful that Tony White’s here,” Gonzales said. “He’s made this transition really, really easy for me. When I told coach (SDSU coach Rocky Long) I was going to take this job, I told him that the one guy I’m going to ask to come with me is coach White.”

Although White said he is preparing for it like any other game, he realizes he is walking into some familiar territory.

“We were there for a while,” White said. “We know every one of those guys. We know all those coaches. We know all the administrators. They’re great people over there. But it’s competition. We want to win.”

ASU sophomore cornerback Chase Lucas said he has seen a visible change in his defensive coordinator prior to his SDSU return.     

“It’s a big thing and I think he’s handled it very well,” Lucas said. “But you can tell he’s on edge.”       

Lucas added that he doesn’t want to disappoint Gonzales.

“What matters to me is that I don’t want to let him down,” he said. “I know he really wants this game.”

In his return, Gonzales said he doesn’t plan to implement any exotic schemes or big changes to his defense going into Saturday.

“One of the things I’ve been taught through my 20 years of doing this is that when you get emotional, you make bad decisions,” he said.

Gonzales said he is excited to move on after the game, where he can call Long on a consistent basis.

“I haven’t talked to coach Long very much, because I don’t think it’s right to compare notes when we are getting ready to play each other,” he said. “After this game is over, I can call him every week like I did before. That’s what I’m most excited about.”

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