Bye Week Look: Quarterbacks

Looking for one of the main reasons that Texas's offense has dropped from last year's numbers?

Look no further than Texas's quarterback position, where the Longhorns have fought through some growing pains with new starter Garrett Gilbert. Of course, nobody thought that Gilbert would play at a Colt McCoy-like level. It just doesn't make sense for a first-year starter to keep pace with arguably the most accurate quarterback of all time in his senior year.

But at the same time, Texas fans likely didn't expect the drop off that the Longhorns received. McCoy was fifth in the league in passing yards per game, and fifth in total offense. Gilbert is seventh and eighth in those categories.

But the biggest, and most important, difference has come in passing efficiency. McCoy's senior 147.4 rating ranked first in the Big 12. Through five games, Gilbert's efficiency is nearly 30 points lower (118.8). That rating puts him 11th out of the conference's 12 starting quarterbacks. Only Iowa State's Austen Arnaud (115.6) has been worse from an efficiency standpoint.

Gilbert has been accurate, completing 63.3 percent of his throws. And he has averaged more than 230 yards per game. Both of those are nice figures. But he has struggled to put the ball in the end zone, tossing just four touchdown passes in five games, and has turned the ball over, throwing five interceptions.

To be fair, those interception numbers are somewhat misleading: three were off tipped passes, including one off a receiver's hands, and a fourth pass was intercepted on a Hail Mary at the end of the half. Only a throw picked off by UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers could truly qualify as a bad pass or a bad decision.

Lately, it's been a tale of two halves for the sophomore. As we covered earlier this week, Gilbert has struggled to throw the ball down the field early, a problem he's corrected in the second half. In the first half of games against UCLA and Oklahoma, Gilbert has put up a dismal quarterback rating of 86.3. That rating rebounded to a more-than-respectable 137.5 in the second half.

To put the those ratings in perspective, Gilbert's first-half rating would put him more than 40 points below Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb (127.0), the Big 12's 10th rated passer. Gilbert's second-half rating would put him in the top half of Big 12 starting quarterbacks, and just a couple efficiency points away from the No. 4 spot currently held by Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (139.1).

One side effect of the offense's inability to score points is that the Longhorns haven't been able to get backup Case McCoy many snaps. McCoy has appeared in just one game as Gilbert's backup, and has thrown just one pass in a game. Comparatively, Gilbert appeared in four of the first five games a year ago, and had thrown 15 passes.

Overall grade: C-

While Gilbert hasn't quite been up-to-par so far, it's worth noting that he's been good enough for the coaches to feel confident in building the offense more around his throwing abilities. The grade takes an overall dock for McCoy's lack of experience as well.


Horns Digest Top Stories