The wait is over. Garrett Gilbert will open the season as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback.
After months of speculation, an ever-changing depth chart and a four-man competition for the starting job, Gilbert will take the first snap of the 2011 season Saturday against Rice.
Ultimately, the decision came down to co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who is in his first year at Texas.
“He had the best camp of the quarterbacks,” Harsin said. “Garrett had a very good handle of what we’re trying to get done offensively. He understood the plays, the reads, the checks and audibles that we can make out of certain plays to get us into a better play.”
Both Harsin and head coach Mack Brown pointed to Gilbert’s advantage in game experience as a deciding factor. The junior is the elder statesman among the quarterbacks and his 12 career starts went a long way towards beating out sophomore Case McCoy, freshman David Ash and redshirt freshman Connor Wood for the starting spot.
“Garrett, probably because he’s got more experience, came out ahead as of today in that battle,” Brown said.
Brown, however, was adamant on Monday that the depth chart remains fluid. Though Gilbert will start against the Owls, performance will dictate who gets the starting nod from week to week.
The position battle began in the spring, when the newly hired Harsin opened the position to all four quarterbacks. But Gilbert didn’t cement his place atop the opening depth chart until the Longhorns’ second fall scrimmage.
Harsin tracked every ball each quarterback threw from the moment they set foot on campus this offseason. His formula for determining a starter was extensive: first down pickups, third down conversions, fourth down reads, red zone decisions, turnover ratio and mobility.
The result was a hotly contested race that came down to the final days of August.
“The pressure was there but it was about relaxing and playing football,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert emerged from the pack for a number of reasons, but his teammates emphasized his demeanor in the huddle. The offensive line noticed a more decisive Gilbert, while the defense recalled a more vocal player bellowing the snap count.
“He’s been more of a leader than he has in the past, which is really good,” said senior left tackle Tray Allen.
Gilbert said he focused on becoming a more outspoken leader this offseason, though he still considers himself a leader by example. He’s consciously worked on asserting himself as he looks to regain any lost trust from last season’s 5-7 debacle.
“There’s times when you need to be a vocal leader,” Gilbert said. “To earn respect, there’s times when you have to put yourself out there and speak up. It may be uncomfortable, but that’s something you have to do at times.
“Being a leader, you have to step outside your comfort zone. I think I’ve grown more comfortable doing that type of stuff, being vocal. If something needs to be said, I’ve got to sometimes force myself to say that.”
Gilbert opens the season as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback for the second consecutive year and says he hardly thinks about his 10 touchdown, 17 interception performance in 2010.
“There wasn’t any time to sulk,” Gilbert said. “It was about improving.”
The Lake Travis product will get his first shot at showcasing his progression on Saturday. How long Gilbert holds on to the starting job is now up to him.
Printed on August 30, 2011 as: Gilbert wins starting job