Gilbert ready for change, excited about SMU

Garrett Gilbert couldn't stop talking about how excited he is to get to SMU, learn the offense and get the chance to compete for the starting quarterback job. He understands there will be quite the competition once he's eligible to play for the Mustangs in 2013, but that doesn't scare him because he's been in situations like that before.

Garrett Gilbert will officially be a Mustang come January.

The former starting Texas quarterback was granted an unconditional release from UT last month and made public his decision to transfer to SMU a little over a week ago. Per NCAA rules, Gilbert won't be eligible to play for SMU until 2013.

Gilbert, who grew up in Austin and went to Lake Travis, didn't want to transfer far from home. He mentioned schools like Houston and TCU, but decided SMU provided the best opportunity.

He said researching schools and taking college visits reminded him of his recruitment while in high school.

"But this time it felt good to be a couple years older because I was able to get into that process with some more wisdom from having done it before," Gilbert said. "I felt like I was able to make not necessarily a better decision, but I felt like I was able to make a more educated decision, make a more well-informed decision just because I've been through it before and knew what college was like and how college football works."

Gilbert took in an SMU practice at the beginning of October. It was his first visit to the campus.

"I really loved everything about [SMU]," he said. "I liked the campus, the people, the team. I felt like it was a great situation for me, not only as a football player, but being at Texas and having the opportunity to get a great education there, SMU is also a wonderful school, so having the opportunity to go to a place like SMU and continue to get a very high quality education was important."

Gilbert's younger brother Griffin, a senior wide receiver and tight end at Lake Travis, is committed to TCU. Garrett said he looked into becoming a Horned Frog.

"It would have been a lot of fun, but they've got their quarterback situation figured out, in Casey Pachall," he said. "It would have been fun to play with Griffin, but that wasn't a place where it could work out."

Obviously SMU and TCU are longtime rivals. This year things got especially heated after the Mustangs beat a then-ranked Frogs team in overtime.

"Griffin is wearing his TCU shirt and I'm wearing my SMU shirt today," Garrett said. "We've started a little family rivalry."

Playing for SMU will be completely different from playing at Texas as June Jones is the mastermind of the Run and Shoot and the Longhorns play an untraditional scheme under trickster offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. While at Lake Travis, Gilbert was comfortable in the spread and is excited to get back to that type of offense.

"I don't know much about the actual schematics, but what I've seen so far, it looks like what I did in high school so I'm very excited about that." Gilbert said of SMU's offense. "I feel like it will be an opportunity for me to have fun and throw it around a little bit. I'm excited to just have fun and play the game."

Gilbert's career at Texas began in the 2009 National Championship game against Alabama after Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game with an injury. Then a true freshman, Gilbert came in and went 15 of 40 for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Texas lost 37-21.

After getting praise from Mack Brown for his courageous performance in that game, Gilbert got the starting nod for the Longhorns in 2010. The team went 5-7, Brown's worst season ever as Texas' head coach, and Gilbert threw more interceptions (17) than he did touchdowns (10).

This past summer and fall, Gilbert beat out Case McCoy, David Ash and Conner Wood (who has since transferred to Colorado) for the Longhorns' starting job, but was benched in the second game against BYU after throwing two interceptions.

The next week he had season-ending shoulder surgery (for which he is currently rehabbing) and a few weeks after that, announced he would be transferring.

Overall, Gilbert was 7-7 in the games he started at Texas, although one of those games was BYU and he only played in one full quarter. He completed 57 percent of his passes for a total of 3,301 yards.

But all of that is in the past and he's starting anew at SMU. Gilbert will come in January and will be eligible in 2013. In August, he'll apply for a medical hardship and if granted, will get a second year of eligibility.

Once he's on the Hilltop, however, Gilbert will face a heavy quarterback competition. Providing that Conner Preston and Stephen Kaiser don't transfer and that Neal Burcham (2012) and Eddie Printz ('13) keep their commitments, there could be a four- and five-way battle the next couple of years.

"Whenever I made the decision to transfer, I knew there was going to be competition wherever I went," Gilbert said. "But I really, really liked what the offense was doing [at SMU] and the scheme they run, so I felt like it was a good opportunity for me to compete for a job."

Gilbert will have the most experience out of any of the other quarterbacks, having a full season and a BCS title game under his belt.

"Whenever [J.J. McDermott and Kyle Padron] graduate, it's open competition," Gilbert said. "Having gone through something like that this past offseason, I know you win the job in practice and win the job by playing well. So to me, that's all that matters.

"But that's far in the future and right now my focus isn't even on that. My focus is on getting healthy and then in the spring, getting the chance to learn the offense. For me, that's my only focus. But when it comes time to compete, then that's what it takes—whoever is going to play best in practice and whoever has the best knowledge of the offense and knows what to do with the ball."

Gilbert's leadership and confidence was always questioned while at Texas. He was never ready for the spotlight. It will be interesting to see how (if) he turns that adversity around and what kind of career he makes for himself at SMU.

For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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