Texas head coach Mack Brown's antipathy towards the media bubbles over at numerous times during a given season and the sensitivity of installing new systems on both sides of the ball caused Brown to close all practices to the public this spring, while limiting his public statements. In addition, Brown often claims that he doesn't respond to rumors in the media.
This week, Brown made a rare exception to both this spring, responding to the report from Kirk Bohls on Sunday evening that Texas had privately told Garrett Gilbert that he will be the starting quarterback in 2011 in a statement to ESPN. Is it a coincidence that ESPN got the statement for Brown with the Longhorn Network set to launch this fall? Decide for yourself.
Anyway, the point here is more about what Brown said in his rare response to a rumor:
As we've said throughout the spring and many times since, we have not talked with the kids about a depth chart and that includes our quarterback position. All of our guys are well aware of that and are working hard to get better. We're really excited about the potential we have at quarterback and are impressed with how the guys have embraced the competition. We're looking forward to seeing the progress all four of our quarterbacks make when we report for camp in August.
Strongly worded, no doubt, as it had to be if he chose to made a public comment. The Longhorn head coach certainly isn't above misleading the media, so this statement was as much to his team and his quarterbacks as the general public. It also doesn't break any new ground, merely reiterating the stance of not having a depth chart that led to the institution of a "pecking order" for the quarterbacks, which limited the repetitions for Connor Wood and David Ash in the spring game.
The report from Bohls revealed a true schism in the Texas fanbase -- those who still approach Gilbert with some guarded optimism, or at least a somewhat open mind, by blaming most of the failures of the 2010 offense on poor coaching, and those who see Gilbert as essentially irredeemable.
From this perspective, the truth, as it most often does, lies somewhere in the middle. Mechanically, Gilbert has major strides to make to return to the accurate quarterback that he was in high school and a serious questions remains whether the former Lake Travis star was nothing more than a system quarterback at that level who will never be able to make the jump to the increased speed and complexity of college football.
However, there are plenty of ways for the coaches on both sides of the ball to help Gilbert succeed. Or, for that matter, whomever wins the starting job.
There's little question that co-offensive coordinators Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite will put Gilbert in a much better position to be successful if he does win the starting job, partly by instituting a coherent running game that takes advantage of the talent Texas has an campus, but mostly by running plays that complement each other and keep the defense off balance. More tight ends and H-backs on the field also means that the tackles will spent fewer snaps one-on-one against edge rushers trying to get to the quarterback.
Manny Diaz and his defense will also play a role in helping the 2011 Texas starting quarterback by limiting leads by the opponent early in the game, the type of situation that leads to a one-dimensional offense that not only places significantly more pressure on the quarterback, but also lets the defense tee off with more blitzes and less concern for any type of running play.
Consider that Gilbert didn't have a strong game throwing the ball against Nebraska, but his running ability and the early lead helped him manage the game enough to come out with the only thrilling victory of the season for Texas, at least something of a blueprint for success.
Going into the fall, it's hard to consider anyone other than Gilbert as a frontrunner for the job, but the GG haters can at least rest in peace that the job hasn't been handed to him already. Unless Brown wasn't truthful in his statement and he really has named Gilbert a starter behind closed doors. Round and around we go...