TEXAS BRASS FLIES TO TULSA AND LANDS GILBERT AS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

Sterlin Gilbert on Friday became the second offensive coordinator candidate to turn down Texas amid a sea of confusion, sources told HornsDigest.com. But on Friday night, Texas flew school president Greg Fenves, athletic director Mike Perrin, Charlie Strong and run-game coordinator Jeff Traylor to Tulsa to re-connect with Gilbert and finally landed him as their offensive coordinator, sources told HD.

Fenves, Perrin, Strong, Traylor, Gilbert and his agent as well as Tulsa co-OC Matt Mattox met for roughly two hours Friday night, cleared up prior confusion over differing contract terms offered to Gilbert, and came away with both Gilbert and Mattox headed to Austin.

Gilbert will be introduced as Texas' new offensive coordinator on Saturday, sources said. 

After word got out that Gilbert had turned down Texas on Friday, the reaction on social media to the drama was that Strong wasn't getting the support he needed from the administration - financially or otherwise - to hire a new offensive coordinator. And Fenves responded by posting a tweet from his account - @gregfenves - that said: 

I fully support Charlie Strong. I am committed to helping him move Longhorn Football forward.

Fenves spokesman Gary Susswein told HD, "Any suggestion that Greg Fenves and the UT administration are not supporting Strong fully in his search for an offensive coordinator is just fiction." Those comments were followed by a chorus of criticism directed at Fenves, calling for him to back up his words with actions.

Next thing you knew, a plane was being chartered to Tulsa.

After what appeared to be an agreement in principle that would have made Gilbert the new offensive coordinator at Texas, there appeared to have been complete confusion about the length and terms of the guaranteed contract Gilbert was promised, sources close to the situation told HD.

According to the sources, Gilbert had a great interview with Strong on Wednesday and left feeling good about things. The sources said associate athletic director Arthur Johnson told Gilbert's agent the job called for a three-year guaranteed contract worth between $650,000 and $750,000 per year. But then Strong - apparently not knowing what Johnson had told Gilbert's agent - offered Gilbert a two-year guaranteed contract worth $650,000 per year -  sources said.

The confusion over the contract terms, among other things, caused Gilbert to turn down the job on Friday, sources said. Gilbert's concerns also included that Gilbert's preferred offensive line coach, Matt Mattox, Gilbert's current co-OC at Tulsa, was reluctant to go to Texas, sources said. 

But a plane full of UT brass to Tulsa, led by Fenves, got the matter cleared up.

Gilbert, 37, a graduate assistant under Art Briles at Houston in 2005 and an OC under Dino Babers at Eastern Illinois (2012-13) and Bowling Green (2014) before becoming co-OC under Philip Montgomery at Tulsa (2015), didn't immediately respond to text messages. Nor did UT athletics officials.

The drama with Gilbert Friday followed Strong and Texas being turned down by TCU co-OC Sonny Cumbie. Strong also interviewed Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin as part of his search.

Sources said among Cumbie's concerns were that he would need more than one season to turn around Texas' offense and thus wanted a three-year, guaranteed deal at more than $1 million. 

Gilbert's decision to first turn down Texas and then agree to turn around Texas - and the flight carrying the UT contingent to Tulsa - came as the Longhorns are hosting several key, 2016 recruits on official visits this weekend, including Shane Buechele, Scout's top QB in the state of Texas for 2016, who is currently committed to the Longhorns.

Strong is turning to Gilbert, an Art Briles' disciple, to help Texas - ranked eighth of 10 teams in the Big 12 in scoring (26.4 points per game) and dead last in passing (145.9 ypg) - join the league's offensive arms race.

Five of the nation's top scoring offenses this season are from the Big 12, including top-ranked Baylor (48 ppg).

It was as a graduate assistant under Briles at Houston in 2005 that Gilbert honed his offensive philosophy.

Gilbert, 37, who has extensive ties to Texas, is considered an excellent recruiter. He helped run the offense for Tulsa coach (and former Baylor OC) Philip Montgomery this season and spent three years as co-OC/QB coach under Dino Babers at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green.

Gilbert gained the reputation as a rising star offensive coordinator while OC/QB coach under Babers at Eastern Illinois in 2012 and 2013, helping to develop QB Jimmy Garappolo into an NFL draft pick.

In 2013, Gilbert's second year at EIU, the offense led FCS in yards (589.5 - 372.4 passing/217.1 rushing) and points per game (48.2) while earning honors as FCS coordinator of the year.

Garappolo won the 2013 Walter Payton Award (FCS' version of the Heisman Trophy) after passing for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns. In two seasons under Gilbert, Garappolo threw for 8,873 yards and 84 TDs.

This past sesaon at Tulsa, Gilbert helped the Golden Hurricane average 35.9 ppg in a 7-5 season as junior QB Dane Evans completed 63 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,958 yards with 22 TDs and 8 INTs.

In 2014, Gilbert was co-OC/QB coach for Bowling Green's Dino Babers, averaging 30.0 ppg and 433 yards per game (173 ypg rushing/260 ypg passing) in an 8-6 season. Babers called the plays.

Gilbert was an all-state high school QB from San Angelo who went on to all-conference honors at Division II Angelo State. He started his coaching career as an assistant at Temple, Abilene Cooper and Springtown before getting a head-coaching gig at San Angelo Lake View, where he was named West Texas High School coach of the year in 2008.

Strong interviewed TCU co-OC/QB coach Sonny Cumbie on Sunday and Monday, offering Cumbie the job. But negotiations broke down late Tuesday, and Gilbert was flown to Austin to meet with Strong on Wednesday morning. HornsDigest.com reported Saturday that Strong planned to interview both Cumbie and Gilbert.

Cumbie was part of the transformation at TCU (with play-caller Doug Meacham) that Strong is hoping to emulate at Texas.

Cumbie and Meacham took an offense on a 4-8 team that averaged 25.1 points per game in 2013 and turned it into one that averaged 46.5 points per game for a 12-1 team in 2014. Cumbie had also proven himself as a top recruiter in Texas, helping get commitments in 2016 from QB Brennen Wooten and in 2017 from 5-star Shawn Robinson.

But it can be argued Gilbert is a better fit offensively for who Strong is and what Strong wants from his offense: to run the ball.

Briles' version of the spread greatly values the importance of a traditional running game that uses tight ends and a fullback - the way Texas did with Jeff Traylor's help this season. The spread Gilbert coaches also emphasizes the vertical passing game and values speed at receiver.

That commitment to the running game is not always a staple of the Mike Leach/Air Raid, which, in its truest form, uses the pass to set up the run.

Those who have worked with Gilbert say he's as passionate, confident and competitive an offensive coordinator as you could possibly want  - and that pertains to the recruiting trail as well.

They said it's just that Gilbert hasn't had a brand like Texas to take to the recruiting trail the way Cumbie has had in recruiting for Texas Tech and TCU.

I'm told Gilbert and Texas run-game coordinator Jeff Traylor are familiar with each other and would work well together. Keep an eye on Tulsa co-OC/offensive line coach Matt Mattox as a possible staff addition.

Strong will have to completely turn things over offensively to Gilbert, who is in his early 30s, the same way Strong would have with Cumbie, 34, (and the same way Gary Patterson did with Cumbie and Meacham at TCU). For Strong, that means changing the way Texas currently practices in order to maximize the speed and tempo of the offense.

Gilbert's offense is a philosophical change that needs to be taught by guys who live it and breathe it. But those close to Gilbert say he likes Texas' personnel, including its current QBs, and that Strong and Texas fans will be surprised how quickly Gilbert will be able to transform it into a high-scoring machine.

 


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