After Much Ado, Texas Has Its Next Offensive Coordinator

On Thursday, Texas football fans were delighted to see that hyped Tulsa co-offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert was joining Charlie Strong’s coaching staff. Then they were dismayed that it wasn’t a done deal. Then a tweet from @SterlinGilbert confirmed that the Art Briles disciple was, in fact, headed to Austin. Then it came out that the account was a fake. Next, there were reports that Texas hadn’t even made an offer: After all, incumbent OC Jay Norvell hadn’t been fired or demoted, and he hasn’t taken another job, meaning the job was never made officially open for Gilbert to take.

Then things got really crazy.

On Friday morning, reports surfaced that Gilbert had turned down the Texas offer. Panic ensued; if Texas couldn’t convince Tulsa’s OC to take a promotion and ostensibly much more money, who could they convince? Further, media reports alleged that Strong pushed hard for Gilbert, but didn’t receive the support he needed from administration to get the deal done. Brian Davis then tweeted quotes from UT president Greg Fenves, who denied all such allegations and again stated his full support of Strong, whose contract is guaranteed through 2018. Before long, Fenves, Strong, and recently appointed permanent athletics director Mike Perrin were on a plane to Tulsa to get their man.

Late last night, it became official: Gilbert will take over as Texas offensive coordinator. His contract is worth $850,000 a year for three years. Accompanying Gilbert on the staff is former Tulsa offensive line coach Matt Mattox, who will receive a three-year deal at $550,000 per. Both deals are pending approval from the UT Board of Regents.

“We just made two great hires for our staff,” Strong said, in a press release from Texas Athletics. “They’re outstanding coaches who will do a great job of not only developing our players, but also representing this university and doing things the right way. We did a lot of research on both of them and we know they will be the right fit for our staff. I really feel we have two quality coaches who work well together, and they’ll do an outstanding job.”

Reporter Anwar Richardson tweeted that UT officials told Gilbert that Strong would be retained after the 2016, a concern for any assistant joining Texas after two consecutive losing seasons.

“I feel extremely blessed by this opportunity,” Gilbert said. “I’ve been looking forward to an opportunity like this for a long time, and we’re finally here. I’m excited to be on campus, and to get around our kids and our coaching staff. Coach Strong has been great through this process, and I just can’t wait to meet and see our kids.”

With the two new hires, Texas athletics also announced that OC/OL coach Joe Wickline and assistant head coach for offense/QB coach Shawn Watson will not be extended. Wickline and Watson were demoted in September after the Longhorns were blown out by Notre Dame to open the 2015 season. Their replacement, wide receivers coach Jay Norvell, has reportedly interviewed for the open Arizona State OC job. There is no word on Norvell’s status at Texas or on the pending lawsuit between Oklahoma State and Joe Wickline at this time.

Here are five facts to know about Gilbert, who will be introduced to the media on Monday:

He has experience with high-powered offenses.

After getting his start in 2005 as a graduate assistant at Baylor, Gilbert was the offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois for two years, and in 2013 his Panthers offense led the nation in yardage with 589.5 and points per game with 48.2. Eastern Illinois averaged 372.4 passing yards and 217.1 yards on the ground. In his only year as co-OC and QB coach at Bowling Green, the 2014 Falcons averaged 432.9 yards per game (173 yards rushing and 259 yards passing). As Tulsa co-OC this season, the Golden Hurricane—great team name, by the way—scored 35.9 points per game and averaged 329.8 yards through the air, good for 11th in the nation.

He has a nice track record of making OK quarterbacks great.

When current Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo arrived at Eastern Illinois, he was a two-star recruit from Rolling Meadows. Under the tutelage of Gilbert, Garoppolo won the Walter Payton Award, essentially the Heisman Trophy for the FCS. The future second-round pick threw for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns in 2013 for a total of 8,873 yards and 84 TDs in his two years under Gilbert. Dane Evans, current Tulsa QB, has thrown for nearly 4,000 yards under Gilbert this season, with just eight interceptions to his 22 TDs and a solid completion percentage of 63.0. Evans is considered a prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft.

He already has a leg up on in-state recruiting.

Temple High School coach Mike Spradlin had this to say about his former offensive coordinator and QB coach: “He would be an unbelievably tremendous hire for Texas at this point, there’s no doubt about that. He’s certainly got a great football mind.” Before joining the staff at Temple, Gilbert was head coach at San Angelo Lake View High School, where he won West Texas High School Coach of the Year in 2008. Knowing Texas high school football and having already formed bonds around the state with coaches is obviously a major plus in recruiting, something Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin didn’t bring to the table. Strong also met with Franklin this week before deciding on Gilbert.

His former mentor is jealous of the hire.

He has a fan in his mentor, Baylor coach Art Briles, who was dismayed to learn that Gilbert would be joining the Big 12 again, telling ESPN, “We have to work harder now. It’s like when someone gets into your bank account and steals your identity.” It’s always nice to know that your prom date is coveted by another.

His favorite movie is Lonesome Dove.

This is off-topic, but it’s a great choice.


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