Garrett Gilbert's leadership won out

In the worst of moments, during the worst of seasons, James Kirkendoll saw one of Garrett Gilbert's best qualities.

"He was a winner,'' the former Texas receiver said of the 2010 season. "No matter what was happening on the field, you could go in that huddle and you knew you were with a winner.''

Gilbert won when it mattered this offseason. After being thrown into a four-man quarterback showdown, it was the junior who emerged victorious. The announcement was finally made Monday. It came after an offseason when Mack Brown declared every position open to competition.

No one was safe.

Least of all Gilbert.

As a freshman he had raised the expectations of everyone in the burnt orange. They dismissed his four interceptions in the Rose Bowl and instead focused on the near perfect throws and the way he rallied Texas in the second half.

Just nine months later, Gilbert started to draw all of fans' ire with his untimely errors and second half flops.

"He had a lot on his shoulders,'' Kirkendoll said. "Following Colt (McCoy) like that, and the way that season (2009) went, and he lost a lot of key players. Then he just made some rookie mistakes.''

A lot of rookie mistakes.

Gilbert threw 17 interceptions. As Texas fell to the depths of the Big 12 and a 5-7 record, it seemed anyone who had even driven past Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium was voicing an opinion on who the next Texas quarterback might be -- Case McCoy, Connor Wood or David Ash.

Gilbert did have a foot in that offseason race. But he had to get his head back in the game. To do that he had to turn to one reliable and trusted voice on a coaching staff that was in transition.

"The first thing you have to do, is you have got to help him understand that there are 10 other guys on the field with him,'' co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. "That was always the comforting thing for me, that not everything is on you, there are other guys that need to do their job.

"Some of the mistakes that he may have made last season were compounded because of the situation that we found ourselves in. We are having to throw the ball a whole bunch because we are behind and now he is thrust into the position when they are dropping eight and dropping nine.''

Applewhite took time to explain to him why things like the five interceptions at Kansas State happened. And why they forced him to throw the ball more than anybody wanted him to.

He also told Gilbert things would be different this year.

"You explain to him that we are not going to put as much on your plate from the standpoint of putting you behind the eight ball as much,'' Applewhite said. "It is going to be a little more team oriented. Maybe not as much quarterback driven as it was with Colt or with Vince (Young).''

Kirkendoll, who has been in Tennessee Titans camp, said Gilbert does have a few things in common with those previous Texas QBs.

"He has an NFL arm,'' he said. "If he can play with poise and maturity that arm is going to show. He can make all the throws.''

If Gilbert doesn't make the throws, Texas will undoubtedly find one of the other three who can. But for now, they are pushing their chips onto No. 7, rolling the dice and hoping they come up winners.

Kirkendoll believes it is really not that much of a gamble.

"It's in him to win,'' he said.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation.com

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