Returning Starter: Gilbert
What It Looks Like: Gilbert returns after an inconsistent-at-best season that saw him rank among the Big 12's worst signal callers. On the bright side, he appeared to find his legs about halfway through the season, and was one of the team's top rushing threats, though that was more an indictment of the Longhorns' running back play. It's an open competition, and Gilbert's main threat appears to be McCoy, arguably the most accurate of the four quarterbacks. He played sparingly a year ago. Connor Wood, who redshirted, is arguably the best package of arm strength, quick release and foot speed. Still, he was beaten out by McCoy in fall practice last year. Ash finished high school and enrolled at Texas for the spring. Though he's a bit unorthodox at times with his release, he's a gunslinger who shows best in the heat of competition.
Ideal Situation: The main thing Gilbert brought to the table a year ago was his legs. But Wood has more speed and is a better running threat, and he lacks Gilbert's mechanical release. There were some on the team last year who felt Wood was the squad's best quarterback, and his ceiling is arguably the highest of the quarterbacks. If Wood were to beat out Gilbert, it would also send a message to the rest of the team that nobody's job is safe.
What We Would Like To See: Gilbert win the job, with gusto. Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin did wonders in terms of quickening the release of Kellen Moore, and Gilbert gives Harsin a chance to be explosive down the field, as he throws the team's best deep ball. Not only that, but it doesn't hurt to plug in a quarterback who has already been through the trenches and knows what to expect. With potential new and young starters at running back and in the receiving corps, that experience could pay off. If Gilbert wins the job outright, it gives you some continuity, and gives Gilbert the chance to atone for a poor showing in 2010, while playing with better personnel and a more modern offensive scheme.
What Will Probably Happen: Gilbert claims the starting job, in the fall. Word out of spring practice is that Gilbert has been the most impressive of the four, and that he's been dead-on when throwing the long ball. McCoy has also had a strong spring, though he's struggled a bit under center. Ash has been one of the more impressive players, and appears to be a future star, though he's fighting an uphill battle due to his inexperience. And Wood has struggled with consistency, looking fantastic at times and like the team's fourth-best quarterback at others. Barring a surprise, the Longhorns should have Gilbert back under center in 2011, albeit more battle-tested, confident and with better players around him.