David Snow didn't have to see that something was different with Garrett Gilbert.
He heard it.
"He has that voice now," Texas' senior center said. "That controlling one."
That voice, that mind and that arm will be in control of the Texas offense when it steps on the field Saturday against Rice. The much-maligned junior quarterback has made his way back to the top of the Texas depth chart.
"Garrett, probably because he has more experience, came out on top in that battle,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said.
The battle also had one victim. Connor Wood, a redshirt freshman, was last on the depth chart when it came out. Wood has decided to transfer and is looking at Colorado or LSU, according to a source close to the family.
"Garrett had a very good handle coming into fall camp on what we were trying to do offensively,'' co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "His game management from playing and his experience helped him.
"I have been very happy with his progress and his maturity at that position.''
Gilbert jumped into the starting position last week, one week after being demoted following the first scrimmage of the fall.
"They told me last Monday after the second scrimmage that I was at the top of the depth chart," Gilbert said.
Around Texas these days that is not exactly firm footing.
"He is the starting quarterback at Texas, and if he moves the ball and scores, he will keep it," Brown said.
Judging from last year's debacle of a season, there is no guarantee Gilbert will keep it. He had 17 interceptions and struggled through a 5-7 season. And the Texas pass offense, so vaunted in the past, was anemic, averaging just 232 yards per game. If there is even an inkling Texas is headed off that same cliff, Brown will look at making a change not only at quarterback but everywhere.
"Last year we didn't make some changes that we should have at times," Brown said. "That is not going to happen this year."
Brown tempered his comments, adding that one bad play does not necessarily mean the player is having a bad game. In other words, if Gilbert throws a pick, he won't immediately be yanked.
For Gilbert, the focus will be on executing the offense.
"I am not concerend about making mistakes," he said. "I am concerned about going out there and playing football, whether it is handing it off every play or whatever is best for us to win, that is what I want to do."
Gilbert, by his own admission, is not a vocal leader. That trait doesn't play well at Texas. And this season with seven freshmen and sophomore starters on offense, Gilbert has not only had to pick up his game, he has had to raise his voice.
"Being a leader, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone," Gilbert said. "I think I have grown more comfortable doing that. If something needs to be said, I have got to force myself to say that."
"They say some people are born with it," Snow said about leadership skills. "But you have to be taught. Everybody has to learn how to do it."
Whether or not that is true, Gilbert was forced to learn in front of the hundreds of thousands of Texas faithful last season. Whether those lessons stick remains to be seen.
What Gilbert said he has learned is not to force things.
"It is all about decision making,'' he said. "I have got to be smarter with it. The quarterback position is about making plays, but I have 10 great players around me.
"I have to understand, if you throw an incomplete pass, it is still second down."
Another down is another chance for Gilbert to establish himself as the Longhorns' quarterback.
Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation.com
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