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Christian Gonzalez
CFB

Christian Gonzalez Is A Nightmare For WRs, Dream For NFL GMs

  • Justin Melo
  • October 11, 2022
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NFL defenses are attempting to combat today’s high-octane offenses with dominant boundary cornerbacks. It will make Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez a hot commodity whenever he decides to make the leap to the next level. Gonzalez possesses all the traits necessary to eventually shut down standout wide receivers.

The No. 39 overall player in our latest TDN100 update and 24th overall selection in our latest NFL mock draft, Gonzalez recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network. We discussed Oregon’s dominant victory over Arizona while looking ahead to their impending showdown with UCLA. Gonzalez also discussed transferring to Oregon from Colorado, playing press-man coverage, how he uses his outstanding size and athleticism to his advantage, his ball production as a cornerback, and so much more.

JM: What a dominant victory over Arizona this past weekend. What was the atmosphere like around the Oregon program after that showing?

Christian Gonzalez: We had a great week of practice and we knew exactly what we had to do against Arizona. We had a good feel for the game plan. We knew what was expected of us. The atmosphere is always great around this program. Everybody comes to work ready to work every single day. We weren’t surprised by our performance against Arizona. We took care of business. It came together beautifully for us.
JM: You’re essentially now heading into a bye week before a massive showdown against UCLA on Oct. 22. The Bruins are currently the 11th-ranked program in the nation and Oregon is No. 12 overall. What’s the mood like heading into that contest?

Christian Gonzalez: We’re excited. We don’t shy away from competition. That’s what we pride ourselves on. We love big games. Everybody on the team is ready for UCLA. We’re going to attack this bye week and fix what we need to fix. It’s an extra week of preparation. 

You know what we like to say around here? We’re not playing against another team. We’re playing against Oregon. We’re the only ones that can get in our way. If we do what we’re supposed to do on a weekly basis, we’ll go get a win.

JM: We love to hear that. You made the decision to transfer from Colorado to Oregon ahead of the 2022 campaign. How do you reflect on that decision now that you’re roughly halfway through the season?

Christian Gonzalez: When the time came, I felt like it was the right opportunity for me to leave Colorado. An opportunity arose for me to follow my position coach [Demetrice Martin] to Oregon. I had already been working under coach Martin for two years and I appreciated that familiarity. We talked about it. We both ended up at Oregon and I love it here. 

I was always a fan of Oregon growing up. It’s a dream come true to represent this program. I’m super blessed to be here. I’ve enjoyed every single day at Oregon.

JM: Following coach Martin surely helped your transition, but you’ve also done an excellent job hitting the ground running despite new surroundings. Was there an acclimation period involved at all?

Christian Gonzalez: Not really to be honest with you. It’s still football at the end of the day. I’ve been playing this sport since I was five years old. I love the game. It’s the same game I’ve been playing my entire life. I’m just playing in another state with a new team. This program loves the game just as much as I do. We have common goals. It’s been an easy transition. 

JM: It didn’t hurt that you stayed in the Pac-12.

Christian Gonzalez: Yeah, that definitely helped. When I entered the portal, I knew I wanted to stay in this conference. This is my third year playing in this conference. I wanted to keep that sense of familiarity. I didn’t want to make a drastic move across the country to a different conference. I understand the ins and outs of our league. 

This is a great conference to play in. I think we’re proving that as we speak. We have three nationally-ranked teams right now. We’re out here battling every single week. Playing in this conference is very exciting for me. Anything can happen any given week.

JM: Oregon plays a ton of Cover 1 and Cover 3 in press-man coverage. What do you enjoy about playing press, and is that your preferred scheme?

Christian Gonzalez: I can play in any scheme. I’ll play in any scheme Oregon needs me to play in. Being with coach ‘Meat’ [Demetrice Martin] for three years now, he’s always prepared his cornerbacks to be press man-to-man corners. He instilled that in me when I first started working with him at Colorado. That’s just what we do. We play press-man and we’re going to get in your face. We’re going to make you beat us.

JM: I love that. We’ve also seen you play the nickel on occasion. Is that something you hope to do more of, or do you prefer to be on an island on the boundary?

Christian Gonzalez: I played the nickel this past weekend against Arizona. It was fun, man. Learning a new position is always fun. The coaches did a great job getting me ready for a different challenge. I really like playing both positions. It goes back to what I said earlier. I’ll play any position or any scheme the team needs me to play.

JM: You’re listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. You have outstanding size and length. How do you use those natural abilities to your advantage?

Christian Gonzalez: There aren’t a lot of cornerbacks my size that can run like I can. I can run with speedy receivers. Having a track background, having run speed drills my entire life, that helps a lot with overall makeup. 

I know I’m strong and long. I use my arms in press man-to-man coverage. I love being physical with receivers. 

JM: You’ve been credited with five pass breakups through six games. That matches your career high. You also recorded the first interception of your career this season. Was there an emphasis to showcase improved ball skills this year?

Christian Gonzalez: Yeah, for sure. That’s been on my mind after the previous two seasons. Cornerbacks always want to record interceptions. I’m no different. I didn’t have a fast start to my career in that department. That’s been something I’ve worked on every day. I think it’s starting to show on tape but there are definitely a lot more plays out there I can be making. I’m getting in the film room and identifying areas and opportunities for growth.

JM: Are there any cornerbacks you enjoy watching, studying, and learning from?

Christian Gonzalez: I love watching Patrick Surtain II. He’s already one of my favorites to watch. He’s a big cornerback like I am. We have a lot of similarities from a size and body perspective. He’s a super technician too, though. That’s what makes him so special. He’s the total package. He prides himself on being physical and having great technique. I try to approach the game the same way. I always want to make sure my technique is on point. I love being physical, too. I love what I see in Surtain’s game. I like to study his game a lot.

JM: He’s already a special player. You come from an athletic family. Your dad played basketball at UTEP and your two older sisters were All-Americans in track & field. Was it a competitive household growing up? How did that mold you?

Christian Gonzalez: It was very competitive growing up (laughs). We were competitive with everything we did. Even the small things like playing cards and board games. Everybody in the family wants to win. We all pushed each other from a very young age. We all had goals and we strived to be better. We did whatever it took to help each other. We wanted everybody to win and achieve their goals.

JM: What do you feel is the best game you’ve played in an Oregon jersey this season?

Christian Gonzalez: I thought I played pretty well against BYU and Stanford. I had some pass breakups in those games. I made some big tackles. I’m excited for the remaining games on our schedule. The best is yet to come.

JM: We’re excited to monitor your progress. I’ve appreciated your time today. In closing, what are Christian Gonzalez’s goals for the remainder of the 2022 campaign?

Christian Gonzalez: We want to keep winning as a team first and foremost. We’re aiming to make it to the championship game. We’re going to continue growing as a team. We’re becoming more connected as the days go by. We have to keep doing what we do best while having fun doing it. We have to go out there and win, period. That’s what it’s all about. I’m focused on our goals as a team. I’m not worried about individual goals or anything else. Those will fall into place whenever they’re meant to, especially if we’re winning as a team. That’s my biggest goal.

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Justin Melo