The wait is over. The Texas Longhorns have a starting quarterback.
Mack Brown announced Monday morning what many believed was inevitable – that Garrett Gilbert will take his team’s first snaps in Saturday’s season opener against Rice. The decision itself isn’t as much of a surprise as its timing. Gilbert started every game in 2010 and played the majority of the national title game two seasons ago after Colt McCoy suffered an injury. Texas’ other three quarterbacks – sophomore Case McCoy, redshirt freshman Connor Wood, and true freshman David Ash – have one career pass attempt between them. In fact, now that Gilbert has won the job, there are reports that Wood has decided to transfer. Nonetheless, Brown and his coaching staff waited until the week of the Longhorns’ first game to name Gilbert their starter.
"He's the starting quarterback," Brown said. "If he moves the ball and scores, he'll keep it."
Mack Brown has emphasized repeatedly the importance of third down conversions and red zone offense, two banes of Texas’ existence in 2010.
Out of 192 attempts, Texas only converted 77 third downs, a measly 40 percent. And in the red zone, the Longhorns scored just 23 touchdowns on 52 attempts from inside the 20-yard line — a 44 percent success rate.
So after an offseason of cleaning house, it’s out with the old and in with the new.
Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin was brought to Texas this past winter to help the Longhorns score. One of the top offensive minds in the country, Harsin put together a strong body of work at Boise State and also helped the Broncos put up some big (and efficient) numbers.
While Texas sputtered on third downs and in the red zone last year, Boise State fared better. On third down, the Broncos converted 75 times on 153 attempts — a 50 percent rate. But with Harsin calling the plays and quarterback Kellen Moore executing them correctly, they faced a third-down situation 40 fewer times than the Longhorns. And remember Texas’ poor red zone success rate? Up north, Harsin’s Broncos broke the plane 47 times out of 68 attempts (69 percent).
Boise State’s effectiveness in crucial spots led to some big point totals. The Broncos averaged 45 points per game compared to Texas’ 24.
It’s clear that Harsin knows how to coach an offense, and he’s done it with two- and three-star recruits. Now, Harsin gets to work with co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, another young coaching star, and the esteemed recruiting classes Texas hauls in year after year. It shouldn’t be too long before Texas returns to offensive prominence.
Printed on Monday, August 29, 2011 as: Harsin's influence in Texas may be what offense needs.
A lot of the blame for the lackluster 2010 season was put upon first-year starter Garrett Gilbert.
Following the National Championship in 2010, fans drooled at the prospect of having Gilbert anchor the program for the next three years, and expectations for the former Lake Travis gunslinger were sky-high. Texas fans expected 350-yard, four-touchdown passing performances weekly.
Well, Gilbert had his ups and downs throughout the season, including calls for Case McCoy to replace him.
However, looking back on statistics, Gilbert really wasn’t that bad. Averaging about a 60-percent completion rating, with a Jordan Shipley-less receiving corps is respectable. And when your offensive line doesn’t block for you, being sacked 18 times is understandable.
Gilbert did throw 17 interceptions, compared to only 10 touchdowns, almost the same ratio of his National Championship performance (two touchdowns, four interceptions). Take away a few outliers (his five-interception performance at Kansas State, his three against Tech and his late pick against Texas A&M when he was trying to make something happen) and his stat line looks OK.
Fans were upset by Gilbert’s inability to get lift on his throws, many of which were tipped at the line. But with a new-look Bryan Harsin offense that emphasizes quick decisions, that problem can be easily corrected. Plus, Harsin says Gilbert’s mechanics and footwork are greatly improved.
In 2010, Gilbert was placed in a system that decided running was going to be a crucial aspect of the offense — a far cry from the pass-happy days of Colt McCoy. So, the state’s all-time passing leader in high school (12,534 yards) was called upon to hand the ball off in a more pro-style offense, an arena Gilbert was obviously uncomfortable with, and rightfully so. He had been playing in a spread-style offense for his entire life and wasn’t used to having to take a snap under center and then make his decision while taking a three-step drop. When it became apparent that there would be no power running game, the coaches (specifically, former offensive coordinator Greg Davis) decided to throw the ball more but elected to use the old formations, meaning that Gilbert would still be under center to begin a large chunk of the plays.
With no running game relief, Gilbert threw 441 passes. When you put the ball in the air that much, bad things are going to happen.
2011 should be different for Texas. If Gilbert wins the quarterback competition in camp, look for an entirely new player come Sept. 3. An improved receiving corps that features Mike Davis, Darius White, John Harris and Jaxon Shipley, and a running game that will keep the defenses honest will help bolster the passing game. Under a new, Boise State-style offense, Gilbert could flourish. Texas fans shouldn’t give up on him just yet.
Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: Was Gilbert really that bad in 2010? Stats say he wasn't.
The University of Texas sent out the following release in response to reports that Texas A&M is headed to the Southeastern Conference:
"At this point we do not know if Texas A&M is leaving the Big 12. All we know is what we read and hear in the media. We are actively looking at every possible option we have and have been talking to other Big 12 schools. We are strong supporters and members of the Big 12. We'd be disappointed if Texas A&M leaves but, if they do, we wish them well."