In his Rice game week press conference on Monday morning, Texas head coach Mack Brown named junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert the starter following a competition that last throughout the spring and summer and into the fall. Well, Gilbert would walk out onto the field with the first-team offense were the Rice game held on Monday -- Brown made it clear before and during the press conference that the depth chart is extremely fluid and subject to change.
That may not change the fact that Gilbert is almost assured of being the starter come Saturday barring injury or a complete meltdown during game week preparation. It was an unsurprising but somewhat anticlimactic announcement -- after so much speculation and so much spilled ink over the competition, Gilbert has seemingly had the job locked down since the second scrimmage, when he took control of first-team reps simply by not making mistakes and mostly handing the ball off to a group of running backs that collectively dominated the action.
And therein lies the issue for many fans decidedly non-plussed by Gilbert returning to the starting role he occupied last season -- the perception is that Gilbert didn't necessarily win the job, he just managed not to lose it. When asked why Gilbert won the job, Brown cited his experience and leadership abilities, then concluded simply that "he's older." Sounds like after months of competition, the only thing that separated Gilbert from the rest was game reps.
Not consistently making better decisions or having a better arm. Not because the team rallied around him. After charting every situation, every throw, after all the scrutiny, Gilbert won the job because he's simply older.
Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin had a slightly different take, saying that Gilbert earned the job by outperforming the other quarterbacks after a demotion following his disastrous two-interception performance in the fall's first scrimmage. More effusive praise, especially after Brown hardly gave Gilbert a ringing endorsement earlier in the day.
So, for better or worse, Gilbert's the guy. For now, at least, as it remains to be determined how many mistakes Gilbert can make before getting pulled in favor of back-up Case McCoy or true freshman David Ash. At times, Gilbert has looked like a quarterback thinking too much out on the field and playing to avoid mistakes won't help his performance. He'll need to play with confidence to keep the job and strike that delicate balance between taking calculated risks and cutting down on the interceptions that helped derail the 20120 season.
Outside of the program -- and likely inside the program as well -- no one knows if Gilbert really has turned the corner in the last several weeks. What is clear is that the next several weeks will mark the most crucial period of Garrett Gilbet's Texas career.
Can he approach the level of play expected of him when he was anointed as the "Next Great Texas Quarterback" out of high school? Can he simply be serviceable? Or will he continue to be the mistake-prone quarterback he has been in live action since he replaced Colt McCoy against Alabama?