One factor complicated Texas QB decision
August, 30, 2011
By David Ubben | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Nati HarnikGarret Gilbert's experience may have given him the slight edge among the Texas quarterbacks.A selection at quarterback often means a selection of style as well.
At Nebraska in 2010, Taylor Martinez's speed chained the more experienced Cody Green and Zac Lee to the Huskers bench. As a result, the Huskers offense looked markedly different, centered around emphasizing Martinez's speed in the zone read game while minimizing his pass attempts as necessary.
Kansas State's Collin Klein didn't win the quarterback job, but coach Bill Snyder gave the sophomore time on the field behind Carson Coffman thanks to his shifty, speedy feet.
Back in 2008, Robert Griffin's athleticism made it near impossible for Art Briles to stick with Miami transfer Kirby Freeman for more than three quarters of the season opener, giving way to a new era built on the legs of the league's best dual-threat quarterback.
At Texas? No such luck.
Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin took ownership on Monday of Garrett Gilbert's selection, but it was not an easy decision in Austin this offseason.
"They’re all similar," coach Mack Brown told reporters on Monday.
Gilbert, Case McCoy, David Ash and Connor Wood are all over 6-foot-2 and only McCoy, at 200 pounds didn't fall between 219 and 222 pounds.
"They’re big, they’re strong, they’re smart. They’re very accurate passers," Brown said, "and that’s been one of the difficulties of separating them."
Gilbert's experience, however harrowing it may have been, is the only way to differentiate the four, save Ash's slight edge in mobility.
"There was a certain equality for them starting over in a new offense that’s very complicated," Brown said.
But it's likely that the complex offense would have looked almost identical regardless of who won the job. Which as Brown reiterated, complicates matters.
"This whole battle at quarterback has been very difficult because everybody has gotten better, and that's really what you want, and that's what we said from this position is we don't want to have a huge separation," Harsin told reporters on Monday. "We want it to be a difficult decision, and it was. And Garrett did a nice job from spring through summer into fall camp, and he's earned it."
A competition taking place between two wildly contrasting quarterbacks might have added to the intrigue, but though it complicated the selection process, it simplified the quarterbacks' criteria.
"Bryan Harsin has done a tremendous job of making sure that each have had their opportunities with the different levels of competition," Brown said. "Every pass that's been thrown in preseason has been charted. Every meeting has been charted about who missed a question and who got them right. Leadership has been a huge part of this. We've had competition in 3rd down and 4th downs on the practice field, and who did the best in those areas is a huge part of this."
There was no need to skew the scale. Identical quarterbacks means identical grading.
"He's just older. He's done it before, and that probably helped him as much as anything," Brown said of Gilbert, who started all 12 games last season, versus his competition, which has thrown a combined one career pass. It was incomplete, by the way. And thrown by McCoy in last season's opener against Rice, well before the season was lost.
The one thing about the quarterbacks that can't be identical? The results from last year, when Gilbert threw 17 interceptions to 10 touchdowns, more picks than all but one quarterback in the nation, Dwight Dasher at Middle Tennessee State. It has to be different if life in Austin is going to get any different this time around with a new coaching staff, a new offense, but the same quarterback.
"We talked very little about last year. It's something that's still in the back of your mind. ... You've got a bad taste in your mouth. I think each one of us do. But for me, I would say I can use it as motivation," Gilbert told reporters on Monday. "We don't talk about it. We don't think about it much. It's a new year. It's a new season, and so we're very excited about the prospect of moving forward."