Texas Longhorns: Garrett Gilbert

3-point stance: Oregon’s road test

October, 10, 2013
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1. Oregon plays its first ranked opponent this season when it goes to play its biggest out-of-state rival, No. 16 Washington. Duck quarterback Marcus Mariota is in the middle of setting a school record, having thrown 202 consecutive passes without an interception dating back to the 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford. Here’s a streak that may end Saturday: Mariota has yet to throw a pass in the fourth quarter in five games this season.

2. The story broke Thursday that Tennessee and Virginia Tech will play in 2016 somewhere within the 160,000-seat Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s safe to say that the game will set the modern attendance record, which Michigan raised to 115,109 earlier this season when Notre Dame made its last scheduled Big House appearance. However, the all-time record remains the estimated 120,000 who jammed into Soldier Field in Chicago for the first Notre Dame-USC game in the Midwest. The Irish won, 7-6, in 1927.

3. A lot of Texas fans date the beginning of the Longhorns’ woes to Colt McCoy’s shoulder injury early in 2009 BCS Championship Game. Austin native Garrett Gilbert replaced McCoy and acquitted himself well for a true freshman in that setting. But Gilbert proved prone to the big mistake, and he transferred last season to SMU. Last Saturday, Gilbert completed 45-of-70 passes for 484 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the three-overtime loss to Rutgers. That’s the type of game everyone thought was in him.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Years from now, the 2011 BYU-Texas game won’t likely be remembered for anything more than its 17-16 final score, just another pair of numbers on a list of all-time results. A win, a close win but still a win, and nothing more.

But if Mack Brown is right and Texas does make another run at a national title soon, if the Longhorns do become elite again, perhaps we’ll look back on Sept. 10, 2011, as one of the key milestones of the rebuilding project.

You see, it was in that game when, with 9:42 left in the second quarter and a chorus of boos raining down from the stands of DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, Garrett Gilbert walked off the field and never returned.

The fresh start Gilbert would get under new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin lasted less than two games, undone by a bum shoulder and a deeply shaken confidence. He had surgery three days later and left the program within three weeks.

David Ash
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesDavid Ash played against BYU two years ago, but he's a completely different player now.
Oh, and Texas trailed BYU 13-0. David Ash and Case McCoy would have to take over and scrap together a victory, initiating a quarterback battle that would continue for nearly another year.

That Longhorns team was inexperienced and full of freshmen. It had five new coaches. It had to lead the program out of the 5-7 ditch. Two years later, Texas and BYU meet again.

These Longhorns might not look too terribly different from the 2011 squad, but so much has changed.

“Back then we still had, what, three quarterbacks?” senior offensive lineman Trey Hopkins said. “We had a new offense, a whole new staff came in, so many things. Young offensive line, young quarterbacks, young wide receivers, young everything. Everything was brand new and fresh to us.”

The Texas team that takes the field Saturday in Provo will feature 14 starters who played against BYU in 2011, including eight who will have started both games. The Texas two-deep has nearly 30 players who appeared in that 2011 contest.

“Now people have settled in. We know the system, we know each other, we’ve played next to each other for years now,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been in the great wins and the tough losses together. It’s almost like a completely new team going against them now.”

The task of rebuilding Texas has largely fallen on the shoulders of Texas’ 2011 recruiting class. From that group of 21, 13 played against BYU as true freshmen. None of the signees have transferred. They’ve agreed to ride this roller coaster together.

Seven of those 2011 signees will start against BYU this weekend, and a total of 14 have earned starts in their career. They comprise the core of this veteran roster.

Remember, these are the kids who signed two months after the 5-7 season ended. They signed despite that 2010 season and despite the coaching shakeup. They signed because they wanted to fix Texas.

Those players say now that having to overcome adversity before they ever showed up on campus made them closer and more determined to turn the program around.

“That group had something special about them, or they would’ve left,” Brown said. “They cared about Texas. They were very loyal to me and to the coaches that were still here. They had every opportunity to be negative and leave, and they didn’t.

“I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve come in here and helped us get this thing back in the right direction.”

Junior cornerback Quandre Diggs was one of the guys who kept that class intact during the turmoil. He still remembers sitting in the stands with Cedric Reed, Steve Edmond, M.J. McFarland and others and watching Texas’ season fall apart. When the coaches left, he worked the phones to make sure everyone stuck to their word.

“We all stuck together,” Diggs said. “It’s just tremendous, tremendous chemistry we have between our 2011 class. I love those guys like brothers. It’s something special we have.”

Back when BYU came to town, Diggs and Jaxon Shipley were learning on the job as true freshman starters. Malcolm Brown led the team in rushing. Now they’re just a few of the veteran leaders of a vastly different team.

The Longhorns have won 16 games and lost nine since BYU came to Austin. They’ve found their starting quarterback, surrounded him with weapons and developed one of the nation’s most experienced offensive lines. Their defense is out to prove itself after take a step backward in 2012.

“If we want to claim we’ve grown since the last time we played them, the table is set for a great challenge and, really, a measuring stick at this point in the season to see where we’re at,” offensive lineman Mason Walters said.

Garrett Gilbert is long gone now, as are any doubts about who should be Texas’ starting quarterback. Ash had to laugh Monday when asked how much he has grown up. These past two years haven’t always been easy, but he’s proud of how far his team has come.

“I think we came in at a difficult time when things were changing a lot,” Ash said. “A lot of us had to play young. We took our licks early, but I think we’re starting to learn from it all, all of the things we struggled through. I think now we’ve played football long enough that I think we can be a good ballclub.”

Just how good? We’ll know more after Saturday, after Texas takes on a familiar foe.

Texas recruiting misses: 2009 

January, 29, 2013
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Knile DavisKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesKnile Davis could have helped Texas if he had signed with the Longhorns.
AUSTIN, Texas – The ills of the 2009 recruiting class were not isolated to just the Texas program.

While the Longhorns have had their share of problems with that class -- 14 of the 20 players signed didn’t exhaust their eligibility -- many of the other products produced by the state either didn’t make it or didn’t make the impact many thought they would.

The state’s top three prospects in 2009 had stunted or less-than-expected careers to date: Russell Shepard (No. 3 overall in ESPN’s 150) was never a star for LSU. Craig Loston (No. 7 overall in ESPN’s 150) suffered through several injuries but started as a junior in 2012. Garrett Gilbert (No. 11 overall in ESPN’s 150) didn’t make it at Texas and has a year left to prove himself at SMU.


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Texas recruiting misses: 2008 

January, 28, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Recruiting is all about choices.

Some are good. Some are bad. And sometimes teams don’t even get a chance to make a choice. Players just want to go elsewhere.

With all that in mind, HornsNation decided to take a look at the top players in Texas, as rated by ESPN, who did go elsewhere – aka not the Texas program -- in the past five years. It’s a look back at what could have been.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Before his senior season started, Kenny Vaccaro figuratively took a look around and literally figured out what was left of the vaunted 2009 recruiting class.


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Looking back at Texas' recent recruiting misses:

[+] EnlargeGarrett Gilbert
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireQuarterback Garrett Gilbert did not pan out at Texas and is now the signal-caller at SMU.
1. Garrett Gilbert, quarterback, 2009: He was the quarterback that everyone wanted and he was in Texas’ backyard. The Lake Travis (Texas) High school product got his first shot to shine in the national title game as a true freshman. While there were some positives, the four interceptions he threw were a sign of things to come. Taking over as the starter in 2010, Gilbert led Texas to a 5-7 season and threw 17 interceptions in the process. Gilbert started the first two games of 2011. He was benched after throwing his second interception in the second quarter against BYU. He soon announced that he would transfer, ending up at SMU.

2. Ramonce Taylor, running back, 2004: Taylor was the other state of Texas back in 2004. The one not named Adrian Peterson. The one Texas could sign. But Texas never could figure out what to do with Belton (Texas) product. He was an athlete coming out of high school. Texas thought he would be ideal to give Vince Young another weapon either running the ball out of the backfield or slipping into the flat for a pass.

He rushed for 797 yards and 13 touchdowns in his Texas career. And as a sophomore he did catch 27 passes from Colt McCoy.

But the police caught Taylor in the spring of his sophomore season and charged him with felony drug possession. Shortly thereafter he elected to transfer from Texas.

(Read full post)

Each week Sean Adams looks at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First down: Recruiting of unfulfilled promise

Kenny Vacarro called the small number of seniors in 2012, "The few, the proud -- the seniors." Depending on whether players redshirt or not, there are always at least two classes for a recruiting class to finish their eligibility.


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Texas signed 39 recruits in 2008 and 2009. Only 19 of those players made it through four years of football.

"Lot of guys didn't last in our class," senior safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "We're the proud few."

Those few -- there are 10 scholarship seniors on the roster with one, Alex King, being a transfer from Duke -- will take place in senior night tonight.

"The thing we've always said is, 'There's so much emotion. Try to keep your emotion intact and enjoy the game and play well in the ballgame. And then if you're going to cry, cry afterwards because you won. Cry because you're happy and it's your last home game,' " said Texas coach Mack Brown.

There might be a few tears shed for those players signed in 2008 or ’09 that didn’t pan out at Texas. That list includes ESPN 150 players Garrett Gilbert, Marcus Davis, Tariq Allen, Paden Kelly, Dan Buckner, Jarvis Humphrey and DeSean Hales. That’s seven ESPN 150 players Texas lost from those two signing classes for one reason or another. To put that in perspective TCU, Texas’ opponent, has only signed three ESPN 150 players since 2008.

Four Downs: Turkey Day musings 

November, 21, 2012
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Each week Sean Adams takes a look at some topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First Down: The senior class for 2012
While there are some seniors that are the leaders on this team like Alex Okafor, Mason Walters and Kenny Vaccaro, this is a generally a class that has been gutted and marginalized.

[+] EnlargeMason Walters
John Rivera/Icon SMIMason Walters is one of the key members of a small Longhorns senior class.
There were supposed to be names like Garrett Gilbert, the Gatorade National player of the year coming out of high school. He was supposed to be throwing the ball to Greg Timmons, being pressured by Calvin Howell and having his passes broken up by Marcus Davis. Not one of those young men is still in the Texas program.

When Vaccaro was asked about the small size of the senior class he laughed and called the 2012 senior class, “We are the few and the proud.”

Walters put it as good as anyone could when he said, “We know why the others ones didn’t. There are a lot of things we can talk to the younger guys about. We’ve seen guys come in this program and leave and we know what that looks like and we know how they act. That’s some valuable experience to know behavior that might put a guy on the ropes with the coaches.”

He finished off his thought by saying, “It’s rough seeing some of those guys go but it is what it is. You can’t make excuses for them and we’ve had to carry on and build without them.”

Nothing would make these seniors feel better than winning the last two games of the season and getting to a big-time bowl game.

Second Down: Texas football at home EVERY Thanksgiving
Schools, coaches and administrators around the country might not like Texas, but Texas loves itself and set itself up to have the most advantaged position in their conference. Only the Big 12 would allow the University of Texas to create a rotation to insure that it hosts Thanksgiving games in Austin.

I love it because I will not have to travel and will get to spend Thanksgiving with my family, but there is a reason that Texas wanted to keep the Big 12 together. These little conference favors would not happen in the Pac-12, Big 10 or the SEC.

It’s called home conference advantage. I’m not upset about it either because the Baylors, Iowa States and Kansas States of the world would not have the cash flow or be in a powerful conference if Texas had not held it together.


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AUSTIN, Texas -- Case McCoy is preparing to play.

Just like last week. As well as the week before. And every week since the Texas quarterback position became so unsettled in 2011. What makes this week different is that David Ash had settled all the QB debate. Going into the Oklahoma game he was No. 3 in the nation in passing efficiency, had one pick against 11 touchdowns and had averaged 300 yards passing in the past three games.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesCase McCoy has thrown for 10 touchdowns and four interceptions in his career at Texas.
Now there is debate as to whether Ash can play. The sophomore suffered a left wrist injury in the fourth quarter with Texas trailing Oklahoma 56-8.

No fractures were seen on the initial X-rays, Texas trainer Kenny Boyd said in a release. And Ash, who throws with his right arm, has not been ruled out for the Baylor game. He will be evaluated throughout the week.

Still, that injury has thrust McCoy right back under center as the possible starting quarterback, just as he was last year against Baylor. In fact, the last game McCoy started was against the Bears. In the subsequent seven games, Ash attempted 190 passes to McCoy’s 16. McCoy appeared in only four of those seven games and all four were decided, either in favor of or against Texas, by at least two touchdowns.

But now he is back where it all ended trying to figure out how to fashion a new beginning for Texas.

According to McCoy, that beginning started in the second half against OU.

(Read full post)

Ash gives Longhorns a brand-new look

September, 17, 2012
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David Ash completed just 57 percent of his passes as a wide-eyed true freshman in 2011. He compounded his problems by outweighing his four touchdowns with eight interceptions.

[+] EnlargeAsh
Spruce Derden/US PresswireTexas QB David Ash has found his comfort zone so far in 2012.
This was Garrett Gilbert's team through all the offseason leading up to 2011. Ash was the true freshman who was better than expected but not good enough to get more than four snaps in Texas' spring game last season.

By the end of 2011, it was clear that Texas was Ash's team, but he looked wholly unprepared to shoulder the load and lead the way. And now? After what Ash did to Ole Miss? The stat sheet tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

Ash is one of just three Big 12 quarterbacks (Heisman front-runner Geno Smith and TCU's Casey Pachall) without an interception, and he's been good enough to add seven touchdown passes, including four in Texas' 66-31 rout of Ole Miss.

He's also completing 76 percent of his passes this time around, including 83 percent on Saturday night. His 326 yards were the second consecutive game in which Ash set a career high for passing yardage, too.

Scoff at the opponents (Ole Miss and New Mexico won a combined three games in 2011), but Ash has Texas looking more and more like it's ready to return to a spot among the nation's elite. He doesn't need to complete 76 percent of his passes every night. He can throw a pick or two. But he's been good, and far better than he needs to be for Texas to improve on its eight-win season a year ago. For now, as long as Ash is stringing together completions (he hit on 15 consecutive passes on Saturday), defenses will soften up for a powerful running game with a revolving door of backs who will always have fresh legs.

When that happens, a defense that's led the Big 12 in total defense four years running gets more leeway it doesn't necessarily need.

Add that all up, and you get a scary proposition for the rest of the Big 12: Texas beginning to put together the pieces that comprise a return to a college football juggernaut.
Campus location: Laramie, Wyoming
Nickname: Cowboys
Conference: Mountain West
All-time record vs. Texas: 0-4

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Today is the next step in a new series on the Big 12 blog that we've never done before. I love predicting the standings from top to bottom, but we're going to do it week by week leading up to the season. The end goal is to offer my official prediction for each Big 12 team's record heading into the bowl games.

Remember, these are preseason predictions. We'll obviously still do week-to-week picks once the season arrives, and they may change between now and then. There are a lot of preseason practices and a whole lot of games between now and the end of the season.

There are always teams who disappoint and teams who surprise. But here's how I see the Big 12 shaking out in Week 5.

PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS
West Virginia 47, Baylor 38: Ah, the sweet smell of conference play. Legitimate competition at last and the first week of Big 12 play with more than one conference game. West Virginia and Baylor remind us all why we love Big 12 play, putting on an offensive showcase. West Virginia's simply more experienced and has better talent at the skill positions. The Mountaineers get a couple more stops than Baylor and defend Milan Puskar Stadium in their first Big 12 game ever.

Texas Tech 41, Iowa State 31: Iowa State has beaten the Red Raiders in each of the past two seasons, but the Red Raiders get their revenge in Ames this time. Seth Doege shreds an underrated Iowa State secondary, and with an offense that's finally healthy, gets Texas Tech looking like it's back on the right track. The heat on Tommy Tuberville feels pretty nil so far.

Texas 31, Oklahoma State 14: Growing pains had to happen sometime. Texas scored on its first two possessions and forced Oklahoma State to miss a field goal on its first to take a 14-0 lead. Wes Lunt forced balls at the worst possible time against the league's best defense and the true freshman finishes with four interceptions. Texas looks like a serious Big 12 title contender, and Oklahoma State's conference opener is a rough one. Both teams will only get better, though.

TCU 38, SMU 31: TCU struggles early, but earns its revenge in Dallas over a fast-improving June Jones team. Garrett Gilbert's Redemption Tour crashes back into the Big 12, but TCU's offense is too much. The powerful running game wears down the Ponies in the fourth quarter and keeps Gilbert, Zach Line and the rest of the offense off the field.

BIG 12 STANDINGS (after Week 4)

1. TCU: 4-0 (1-0)
1. Texas: 4-0 (1-0)
1. Texas Tech: 4-0 (1-0)
1. West Virginia: 4-0 (1-0)
5. Oklahoma: 3-0 (1-0)
6. Oklahoma State: 3-1 (0-1)
6. Baylor: 3-1 (0-1)
6. Kansas State: 3-1 (0-1)
6. Kansas: 3-1 (0-1)
10. Iowa State: 2-2 (0-1)
Each day, as a countdown to fall camp opening Aug. 2, we are going to provide you with a number that was important in 2011 and let you know why it will be important in 2012.

Garrett Gilbert came out with confidence and a cannon.

A 26-yard touchdown pass and a 56-yard bomb in the first game and the thought was the junior quarterback was indeed the man for Texas in 2011. He only threw eight passes after that game, two of which were interceptions, bringing his season total to 31.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas needed a wide receiver.

A threat for the quarterback. A toy for the offensive coordinator. A nightmare for the defense. Another No. 4.

Then it happened. That player was signed. And the hyperbole that had started with his commitment hit a crescendo with Mack Brown’s comments.
[+] EnlargeDarius White
AP Photo/Robert BlackmanDarius White had six career receptions at Texas before electing to leave the program.

“He looks like some of the No. 4s [on film] that we have had around here,” the coach said. “He is tall, can run, and can make a difference for you.”

Now, he is gone.

Darius White transferred. He is one of 17 Texas players who have either elected to transfer or left the program for various reasons in the last 11 months. Texas signed 28 players in February. So the Longhorns are still plus 11 on the ledger.

Still, at first glance, the attrition rate for Texas has been alarming. Eighteen members of the 2009 and 2010 classes were gone before their eligibility expired. But a look back, and more importantly, a look ahead provides clear evidence that the panic button need not be pressed and the outrage should be stifled.

Quite simply the majority of the 17 players who have left in the past 11 months were not as good as the 22 players Texas signed in February of 2011.

Jaxon Shipley was a better wide receiver than White or Chris Jones. David Ash was a better quarterback than Garrett Gilbert. M.J. McFarland was a better tight end than Darius Terrell. And on it went.

Of the 17, only two, Calvin Howell, who was forced to leave Texas after an arrest for possession of a controlled substance, and Nolan Brewster, who had to quit for medical reasons, might have contributed in 2012.

What this spate of transfers does indicate is that Texas got lazy in its recruiting evaluations prior to the new assistants arriving in early 2011. Brown knows that. And he has at least talked about changing his ways.

“Everybody has a good recruiting class. It never changes,” he said. “The truth is, what will it look like in four years? What will it look like in five years? If you go back and study, that's our job. That's the young man's job. This is a starting point. This isn't the finishing.

“We need to make sure that we do a great job of bringing these guys along, making them productive players and hoping that their experience is good at The University of Texas and that they can win a lot of football games.”

The other clear signals sent by the transfers are that Texas now has a young core of players that it believes in and those players are buying into the system. The older players, those from the ‘09-‘10 classes, look around and realize their chances of playing are slim.

Ultimately, players want to play. And if they can’t play at Texas there are still places where they can play.

Adding to the pressures of the youth movement is the new zero tolerance attitude of the coaching staff. Because there are now younger players in the program who produce, the coaching staff is not so hesitant to hold everyone accountable to a higher standard.

The staff can push harder and if an older player who is used to coasting wants to leave, so be it, it will not adversely affect the product on the field. Essentially, the staff is telling the players they now have to prove their worth each and every day. In the past there was an attitude that if a player had received a scholarship, he was worthy enough to be a part of the team. Judging from the numbers, that attitude was pervasive.

Now what is sweeping through Texas is change. That means changing faces, attitudes and, above all, the expectations of those new players who are signed to scholarships for the express purpose of making those changes.

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