A legitimate case can be made for the likes of Cy Ridge's Russell Shepard, Dayton's Cody Green, or Sulphur Springs' Tyrik Rollison as being the best the state has to offer. However Central Texas might be home to the state's top dog as Lake Travis' Garrett Gilbert continues to show why he is one of the nation's elite passers.
The Texas commit led the Cavaliers to a convincing 38-17 road victory over 5A power Austin Westlake on Thursday, and Gilbert once again made a great case for being the best prep quarterback in the Lone Star State in the process.
STRENGTHS: At this stage of his development what is there to not like about Gilbert? Without going into great detail and listing everything that he does well, for now only the biggest of his strengths will be pointed out.
The one thing that has always stood out about his play and was evident in the Westlake game is his decision-making ability and football I.Q. He threw 30 passes in the game and there were maybe two or three throws in the bunch that could be called a bad throw.
The coaching change and change in offenses for Gilbert this season is like going from Steve Spurrier's Fun-and-Gun to Urban Meyer's spread. He has a great grasp of both systems and rarely makes a bad decision. He knows when to throw the ball away or tuck it under his arm and try to make something happen with his feet.
Speaking of his feet he has improved his ability to run the football, but that is something that has been a part of his game for a while. The big surprise was the way he ran as he did not shy away from contact in the open field. A lot of his development as a runner has to do with his increasing size, as he now stands at around 6-foot-4, and 210-pounds.
As far as the throws, he can make all of them. He has tremendous arm strength and is very accurate and also knows when to put touch on the ball and when to bring the heat. The most impressive of his throws are the deeper out routes toward the sidelines where his arm strength really shows.
WEAKNESSES: There is really not a whole lot to nit pick, but there are few things he can work on and continue to improve.
While he has improved his ability as a runner there are certainly other quarterbacks in the class (namely Green and Shepard) that are tremendously gifted as runners and they certainly trump Gilbert in this department. Gilbert has the right mentality to succeed as a running quarterback at the next level, he just needs to continue to work on quickness and his straight-line speed to be able to get away from edge rushers in the Big 12.
The biggest adjustment he will need to make at the next level is the speed of the game, which can be easier said than done in some cases. He should not have a difficult mastering the Texas playbook, but the nuances of the college game he will need to conquer. Things like the defensive backs being able to jam his receivers more frequently, the defensive schemes will get more sophisticated, and the passing windows will become smaller.
OVERALL ANALYSIS: Here is the reasoning (strictly from my personal opinion) why there are two quarterbacks in the class rated higher than Gilbert.
Both Green and Shepard, if they can become good passers at the next level, the sky is truly the limit on how good they can be. Likewise, it is doubtful that Gilbert will ever become the running threats that either of the Houston area quarterbacks are under center making the upside of Green and Shepard higher than Gilbert's.
That said, there is not a more complete quarterback in the state than Gilbert right now. The most common comparison to Gilbert is former Highland Park quarterback Matthew Stafford. That is probably the closest comparison, but even then Gilbert seems to be a better decision maker at this point and is more advanced as a runner than Stafford, while the pure passing ability of the two is very similar.
If all goes right for Gilbert, then he will likely re-write the Texas passing record books during his time in Austin and become one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12.