Less than two years ago, Texas Longhorns quarterback Garrett Gilbert was forced into action when Colt McCoy was knocked out of the National Championship Game against Alabama with an injury. Although the team came up short, Gilbert flashed plenty of potential and played well as a freshman against the nation's toughest defense.
That game seems so long ago now, as Gilbert was officially supplanted as Texas's starting quarterback this week. Instead, head coach Mack Brown will employ a combination of Case McCoy, Colt's brother, and David Ash at the position. The fact that Brown would rather go with a timeshare at the position is a major indication of Gilbert's play.
While it can't all be pinned on Gilbert, he was one of the reasons for Texas's nightmare 2010 season in which the team went 5-7 and failed to make a bowl game for the first time under Brown. Gilbert completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes as a sophomore and had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of just 10:17.
Things didn't get much better at the beginning of this season as, after a respectable showing against Rice, Gilbert was pulled against BYU in favor of McCoy. Just like his brother did so many times, McCoy led the Longhorns to a victory in come-from-behind fashion.
Brown could no longer sit idly by and watch the inaccurate and often ineffective Gilbert continue to stifle the offense, especially when his job could potentially be on the line. Both McCoy and Ash will obviously experience some growing pains at the position, but they both possess the athletic ability to get out of difficult situations.
With Gilbert at the helm, the Longhorns had to win games in spite of him. Texas may still have to do that with McCoy and Ash, but if they can at least complete passes at a higher clip than Gilbert, the team will be better off as a whole.
The No. 23 Longhorns are gearing up to enter a brutal stretch of their schedule, particularly in early October when they face No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 8 Oklahoma State. In all likelihood, Texas will be the clear underdogs in both games, but they stand a far better chance without the mistake-prone Gilbert under center.
Highly-ranked teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State prey on and feed off teams who make mistakes. Texas's key to success in those particular games will be keeping it simple and keeping possession of the football.
Neither McCoy nor Ash may put up big numbers, but if they can keep the chains moving, like Gilbert couldn't, Texas will have a shot to pull the upset in either instance. It is also a good idea to get the younger guys involved in big-game atmospheres since they will benefit from it down the line.
In the end, whether McCoy and Ash are destined to be truly great quarterbacks or not, a change had to be made.
Gilbert was given plenty of opportunities to succeed and he failed time and time again. He was simply one of those rare cases where a player actually gets worse as they gain more experience.
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