To be clear, I'm not talking about simply more snaps for Garrett Gilbert in lopsided games. I'm not suggesting Mack Brown should've taken Colt McCoy out earlier. I don't really believe snaps in those situations really help develop a player compared to practice.
What I'm saying is should we have utilized Gilbert more in meaningful situations. Could we have used him as an extra weapon? Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather have him running the "Wild Horn" over John Chiles.
I think about the situations in which we could have used him. Recall Urban Meyer's first championship at Florida. Chris Leak was his starting QB, but freshman Tim Tebow was utilized as a weapon in short yardage and goal line situations. I believe it would have been a reasonable idea to use Gilbert in similar situations. I can think of a few advantages:
1) If you're going to burn his redshirt, might as well give him meaningful snaps throughout the entire season. Allowing him to run some plays in certain scenarios gives him meaningful experience not only for the future, but if Colt does get injured.
2) Gilbert would have been a tremendous weapon. It's been well documented that he's even a faster runner than McCoy. Wouldn't be a more logical option to use in a gimmick play than Chiles (someone who would not normally be playing QB under any circumstance)? Gilbert is a prototypical QB who can do it all. Similar to Tebow, I believe Gilbert would have been a great weapon to use in red-zone situations.
3) Saving McCoy's body. What's so unfortunate about the McCoy injury against Alabama was the play-call. It is clear Brown and Greg Davis did not learn the first time they tried this play against Kansas State in 2006. Gilbert's bigger body is more conducive to taking a big hit in that situation than McCoy. If you're going to run the option directly into Bama's massing defensive line, would you rather use your bigger quarterback who's the backup? Or the starting QB, who's absence would cripple the offense, given Gilbert's complete lacking of meaningful snaps.
Hindsight is 20-20 obviously, but even if Colt doesn't get hurt and we won the championship, I still think we missed a golden opportunity to mold the young freshman into a mature quarterback ready to lead the team next season. I believe giving him more opportunities in meaningful situations not only would've benefited the team in 2009, but in the near future.