The move that Texas fans have been waiting to see for months has officially happened. No, it has nothing to do with the Pac-12 vs. Independent, but instead with former five-star superstar Garrett Gilbert being moved permanently to the Texas bench.
That’s right, as after a disappointing sophomore season, and slow start to the 2011 campaign, Gilbert is no longer the Longhorns starter, effective today. Texas coach Mack Brown released his latest depth chart Monday afternoon, and on it, the starting quarterback position reads “Case McCoy OR David Ash.” Gilbert as listed as the third string.
In light of another disastrous performance on Saturday, this news isn’t all that surprising, especially after reading my colleague Allen Kenney’s report of the game. Yes Gilbert was the starter Saturday, but once again seemed bewildered and overwhelmed, completing just 2 of 8 passes, with two interceptions, including one into triple coverage that was simply befuddling. From there, McCoy and Ash rotated, with McCoy getting the bulk of the snaps. McCoy finished 7 of 8 passing, while Ash was used primarily as a run option, rushing nine times for 36 yards. And just watching the game as a neutral fan, it seemed like the entire Texas played with more confidence, and with an extra pep in their step, once Gilbert was holding a clipboard.
Staying with Gilbert, in a lot of ways, it’s hard not to feel bad for the guy. From the beginning, the former Gatorade National High School Player of the Year had next to impossible shoes to fill, replacing Case McCoy’s brother Colt, after the 2009 season. The elder McCoy left Texas with four 10-win seasons, two BCS bowl game appearances, two trips to New York as a Heisman finalist, and of course an appearance in the 2009 BCS title game. McCoy is also currently college football’s all-time winningest quarterback, with 45 career victories.
But back to that 2009 BCS title game, because that’s probably where the unfair expectations on Gilbert first formed.
In that game, Gilbert was thrown into action after a shoulder injury sidelined Colt McCoy for the bulk of the game, and after some early struggles, Gilbert responded effectively. He settled in after halftime, throwing for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and had Texas within a field goal of the Crimson Tide with just minutes to go before Alabama pulled away. As would be the case during his entire career though, Gilbert also proved to be a bit too carless with the ball, finishing with four interceptions.
But despite his up and down night in Pasadena, the assumption was that Gilbert would seamlessly step in when Colt McCoy left for the NFL the following season. After all, with all the talent that Brown had stockpiled with all those top recruiting classes, how far could the Longhorns fall?
As we now know, pretty darn far. Texas finished last year 5-7, the first season that Brown won less than nine games in Austin, and the first time since 1991 that a team he coached didn’t go to a bowl game. In the process, Gilbert took the brunt of the blame, some of it deserved and some of it not. He finished his true sophomore campaign completing just 57 percent of his passes, with 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Things started off even worse in 2011, with just 15 completions in 31 pass attempts, before he was unceremoniously benched Saturday.
And now, maybe the final question in the Garrett Gilbert saga is what’s next?
It seems like he has fallen completely out of favor with Brown, and with his eligibility clock ticking, it would surprise no one if he skipped town and transferred, if not immediately, than no later than the end of this year (assuming he doesn’t somehow miraculously win back the starting job). Dropping down to the FCS level seems like the most logical move, as Gilbert would be eligible to play right away. Should he try and stay at the FBS level, there’s a chance that Gilbert would have only one year of eligibility left, as he’d be required to sit out next year as a transfer. A lot of his decision may be predicated on if he’ll be allowed to use this season as a redshirt.
Either way, it seems like for all intents and purposes, the Garrett Gilbert era is over.
And going forward, a new McCoy era, may be just beginning.
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.