Garrett Gilbert is definitely becoming a familiar face on the SMU campus these days.
Ever since announcing his plans to transfer last October, Gilbert has been a popular topic on the Hilltop. The former Texas quarterback has visited SMU practice a couple times this spring, making his presence even more known.
So is Ford Stadium starting to feel like home?
“It’s getting there,” Gilbert said. “I’m getting to know everybody, so I’m excited about it. I’m getting to know a lot of the freshmen, some of the recruits…I got to hang out with them today and then a lot of the guys on the team, especially the offensive guys, just asking them questions and stuff.”
Gilbert took in SMU’s final spring session of the semester Saturday. The two-hour practice, which was capped off by a short scrimmage, was open to the public.
Over 40 recruits were in attendance and so were some incoming freshmen, such as Colin LaGasse, Seaver Myers and Shakiel Randolph.
Gilbert, who was wearing a plain gray t-shirt and a SMU hat, was walking around, taking in the scene. He was stopped several times by recruits and current Mustang players who just wanted to introduce themselves.
At the end of practice, Gilbert chatted with June Jones and former Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons head coach, Jerry Glanville.
“Those guys could talk football all day,” Gilbert said, smiling.
Though he hasn’t gotten everyone’s name down quite yet, Gilbert does know starting center Blake McJunkin fairly well due to a couple mutual friends. The two plan to room together this summer, getting a jumpstart on the crucial center-quarterback relationship.
“That’s the most important thing,” Gilbert said. “Getting on the offensive linemen’s good side.”
Gilbert, who plans to arrive at SMU at the start of June, is eagerly awaiting the moment he can get his hands on Jones’ playbook. He can’t get it until he graduates from Texas.
So does he think the Run and Shoot will be tough to pick up? He did run a spread in high school at Lake Travis and became the state’s all-time leader in passing yards (12,540) and was second in passing touchdowns (138), completions (895) and attempts (1,368).
“For me, I guess the main thing is going to be trying to relate stuff to things I’ve seen before,” Gilbert said. “I’ve learned four new offenses since high school. You can kind of take a little bit with you, but obviously this one is a little bit different as it has so much history to it, so there will be a bit of a learning curve. I’m hoping this summer I’ll be able to get with the wide receivers, get with the other guys in the offense who have been here, and hopefully they’ll help me pick it up.”
SMU’s offense is much more straightforward than the one Bryan Harsin has concocted at Texas. Under Jones, Gilbert will be in the shotgun every single snap, to which he is familiar.
“Being in the shotgun is helpful to a quarterback,” Gilbert said. “And going back to what I did in high school, it will definitely be something I’m comfortable with and I’m excited about that.”
Gilbert sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in the first half of the Longhorns’ second game last fall against BYU. Ever since, he’s been rehabbing like crazy, trying to get his strength back.
Over the past three weeks, Gilbert has been able to throw pain-free, the first time he’s been able to do so since the injury, he said.
Because of the injury, Gilbert was granted a medical hardship and will get two years of eligibility at SMU.
“I’m trying to increase the volume [of the throws] and throw five times a week,” he said. “There’s still that scar tissue you have to get through and break up, but the past couple week have been good.”
Gilbert has been throwing to his younger brother, Griffin, who is headed to TCU in the fall. Garrett said he’ll continue to work out with his brother, “until we become rivals.”
Gilbert is no stranger to quarterback competitions and will have to prepare for one later this year. Last summer at Texas, Gilbert beat out Case McCoy, Connor Wood (now at Colorado) and David Ash to become the Longhorns’ starter. This fall, he’ll have to take on Conner Preston, Stephen Kaiser and incoming freshman Neal Burcham.
“I’m excited about getting with them this summer and we’ll learn together and then, come two-a-days, it’ll be time to compete and I know we’re all excited about it,” Gilbert said. “I think it’ll be a good competition and it will be fun.”
But before he can begin learning the offense or competing for a starting job, Gilbert has to graduate from Texas. To start the spring, Gilbert was enrolled in 27 hours of classes to ensure he’d graduate as a junior. As of this week, he said he’s completed three of those hours and has cut things down to 24.
“These last two weeks are going to be a little tough,” he said. “But I told myself at the beginning of the semester, ‘You can do anything for four months.’ Once I’m finished, it will all be worth it.”
He’s taking all kinesiology classes for his major, which is sports management, with the exception of one fine arts course. He will be a graduate student at SMU, but still hasn’t decided what he’d like to study.
Gilbert started in all 12 games for the Longhorns in 2010 and the first two of 2011 before being benched halfway through UT’s second game against BYU (shoulder injury sustained then, too).
He threw for 2,744 yards, 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions during Texas’ uncharacteristic 5-7 season in 2010, his sophomore year. In the two games he played in 2011, Gilbert went 15 of 31 for 247 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Though he never could have foreseen his college experience going the way it has, Gilbert is looking forward to moving to Dallas.
“It’ll be different,” he said. “A fresh start and something new. I’m excited about it.”
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