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September 2, 2011
UT-Rice - The ultimate preview
It's Garrett Gilbert.
Until it isn't.
After competing with three other candidates all spring and summer, Gilbert, last year's starter, will begin the season as Texas' starting quarterback when the Longhorns host Rice.
The question everybody has is how long will he remain at the position.
Despite starting all 12 games during last season's 5-7 campaign, Gilbert had to fight off sophomore Case McCoy, true freshman David Ash and Connor Wood, who was listed as the fourth-string quarterback and was in Colorado on Monday considering transfer possibilities.
Gilbert threw 10 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions during last year's debacle and struggled during the spring game and in a summer scrimmage, but first-year offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said Gilbert did "everything asked of him since the beginning of fall camp."
"Garrett had a very good handle coming into fall camp of what we were trying to get done offensively," Harsin added. "He understands the reads. He understands the plays. He understands the audibles we can make out of those plays."
The problem was on the day he was named the starter, Gilbert appeared anything but confident as he answered reporters' questions with his shoulders slumped and eyes often pointed to the ground.
And many of the questions were about leadership.
"I think that's a continuous process," he said when asked about whether or not he had his teammates' trust and respect. "I just have to be the best player every day at practice, and try and improve at practice. That (other) stuff takes care of itself."
Texas coach Mack Brown said the Longhorns were 100 percent behind Gilbert and he didn't have to be looking over his shoulder if he made a mistake. Brown added that the coaching staff was too relaxed when it came to benching struggling starters.
"There have been more changes to this depth chart than I've ever seen. There are lots of guys moving to second- and third-team, very quickly," Brown said of this offseason. "We don't care what your name is. It's not about you. It's not about individuals. It's not about hurt feelings. It's totally about who the best player is. Period. Last year, looking back, we should've made changes at times that we didn't. That's not going to happen this time."
-- Sports Xchange
THREE OWLS TO WATCH
QB Taylor McHargue - Passing: 33-of-58, 493 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT; Rushing: 46 for 151 yards, 1 TD - McHargue was the starter to begin the 2010 season (including against Texas) but battled injuries for most of the year. He made an impressive return to action late in the year against ECU, establishing career-bests by hitting on 11 of 15 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 13 times for 93 yards and one touchdown. From Cedar Park Vista Ridge, McHargue isn't going to blow anyone away with his physical skills but he manages the Rice offense well.
RB Sam McGuffie - Rushing: 197 carries for 883 yards and 6 TDs; Receiving: 39 catches for 384 yards and 3 TDs - Highly-touted back that led the Owls in rushing and receiving last year after transfering home to Houston from Michigan. Finished third in C-USA and 65th in the country with 73.6 yards per game rushing. He'll share carries with several other backs, but McGuffie can be an explosive playmaker if he gets through the first wave of the defense.
CB Bryce Callahan- DNP (2010) - A redshirt freshman, Callahan has been the talk of the Rice defense in the spring and over the course of the summer. The 5-10, 180-pound Cy Woods product has shown a knack in camp for making big plays.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Don't screw it up - This is a game Texas should win with ease, and the outcome should never really be in doubt. The most important thing for the Longhorns is to simply play a clean game and eliminate the kinds of mistakes that plagued the team last year.
2. Protect the football (that means you, QBs) - This ties in with the above point, but Texas cannot throw the ball to defenders the way it did in 2010. Garrett Gilbert needs to cut down on the interceptions ... a little help from his receivers should help that cause.
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