Column: Sterlin Gilbert may be the answer Texas has waited for

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Senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes runs toward the endzone. Swoopes will be in competition for the starting job in offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s new offense.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

One, two, three.

That’s where Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU ranked nationally in yards per game last season.

Ninety-two.

That’s where Texas finished. With such a poor ranking, it’s clear the Longhorns’ new offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach Sterlin Gilbert has a lot of work to do. But history says he’s up to the challenge. 

Over the last four seasons, Gilbert has served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for three different schools. His results speak for their selves.

In his first year at Eastern Illinois and Tulsa, Gilbert’s offenses scored a combined 53 percent more points and racked up 35 percent more yards on average than the year prior.

“He’s very high energy,” senior tight end Caleb Bluiett said. “When he says something, he means it. When he says he wants fast, he wants fast. … He cares a lot about the players and knows a lot about speed.”

The up-tempo offense has become increasingly common in college football over the past decade, and Gilbert is one of its biggest devotees. The idea is simple — run plays quickly and often, leaving the defense tired and out of formation. 

Though Gilbert directs offensive personnel, he also has made a surprising impact defensively. With the faster pace in practice, both sides of the ball must line up quickly and stay conditioned. This tempo will prepare the Longhorns for the high-octane offenses of the Big 12. 

“It’s a change, not just for the offense, but for all of us,” sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “It gets us better mentally. It helps us slow down the game. When we’re out there, a team may go fast, but we’ll be used to it.” 

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Gilbert’s up-tempo scheme is the lack of additional points scored by opposing teams. Eastern Illinois only gave up five more points per game in Gilbert’s first year, while Tulsa actually decreased their points allowed per game. 

Gilbert has also shown the ability to develop quarterbacks. During his two years at Eastern Illinois, Gilbert helped current New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo pass for an extra 120 yards per game while raising his completion percentage. 

By the time Gilbert left Eastern Illinois in 2013, Garoppolo touted a touchdown to interception ratio of 53:9 ratio. And in one year at Tulsa, Gilbert helped quarterback Dane Evans increase his passing yards per game by 22 percent. 

Longhorn fans have learned to hedge their optimism the past few years, especially at the quarterback position. But with Gilbert’s help, Texas may finally be able to reclaim a spot among the Big 12 elite.