Most Important Texas Players is counting down the most important players for the Longhorns' success in 2011. At No. 5 is incumbent quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

5) Garrett Gilbert, quarterback

Ask any Texas fan to cite a number on Gilbert, and they'll probably toss out the figure 17. After all, that's how many interceptions the quarterback threw in 2010, his first as the Longhorns' starter. Add in the fact that he only threw 10 touchdowns, and you'll understand why most Longhorn fans wanted him replaced.

So why is he on this list? Quite simply, it's because an effective Gilbert is the best possible outcome from the quarterback situation. None of the other signal callers have taken a single meaningful snap in college, so it stands to reason that, while players like David Ash or Case McCoy could be effective, neither would have the benefit of having had to travel to hostile environments like Lincoln and Lubbock, nor have they had to run plays in the Red River Shootout.

Having said all of that, Gilbert did have his moments. He ran the ball well at times. He accounted for 300+ yards against Baylor and Iowa State, though he did throw three interceptions in the latter game. And to be totally fair, we might be singing a different tune on him had potential comeback attempts against Oklahoma and Baylor not been snuffed out by other players' fumbles (Aaron Williams and Marquise Goodwin, respectively). If he leads Texas down for scores in each of those games (and potentially forces overtime), not only do the Longhorns likely go bowling, but it also probably significantly alters our perception of how Gilbert played.

Still, for every possible compliment or rationalization that you could toss out (I favor the "he had no support" one), it's equally true that Gilbert simply made some poor decisions. But quarterbacks can become better decision-makers. They can learn not to throw the ball into double coverage, and that they can't force things. It's certainly a lot better wart to fix than a quarterback who simply doesn't have the talent. And let's face it: talent isn't Gilbert's issue here. He also has supposedly upgraded his leadership, with Fozzy Whittaker calling him one of the offense's chief leaders over the summer.

And so while Gilbert fights just to keep his job, he still ranks as one of the Longhorns' most important players. Because Gilbert winning that fight is in the Longhorns' best interest for this season.

Horns Digest Top Stories