SMU coach June Jones turned players like Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang into NCAA record-breaking quarterbacks. Now, Garrett Gilbert will enter the Jones Quarterback Laboratory and see if the Run and Shoot offense can revive his career.
Gilbert, a former prize quarterback recruit at Texas, will transfer to SMU. His father, former NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert, confirmed the transfer to PonyPride.com.
Gilbert will have to sit out a year according to NCAA transfer rules and will be a redshirt senior when he can play again in 2013.
However, he could apply for a medical waiver for another season of eligibility. Gilbert had season-ending shoulder surgery shortly after being benched in the second game of this season.
Gilbert, Texas' starter all season in 2010, was benched in favor of a combination of freshman David Ash and sophomore Case McCoy.
Soon after announcing his intention to transfer, Gilbert was spotted attending an SMU practice. The Mustangs currently have senior J.J. McDermott, himself a transfer from New Mexico State, as their starting quarterback. He is backed up by junior Kyle Padron, a former starter.
As a senior at Austin's Lake Travis High School in 2008, Gilbert was both the Gatorade and Parade Magazine National Player of the Year as well as the USA Today All-USA Offensive Player of the Year.
Gilbert would easily be the highest-rated high school recruit to play for SMU since receiving the NCAA death penalty in 1987.
However, other than a brief moment of success in the 2009 national championship game in relief of an injured Colt McCoy, Gilbert never lived up to his recruiting hype at Texas.
As a starter in 2010, Gilbert passed for 2,744 yards and 10 touchdowns, but also threw 17 interceptions as Texas struggled to a 5-7 record.
This season, Gilbert completed 13 of 23 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown in a 34-9 win over Rice. The next week, Gilbert was relieved of his duties mid-game after throwing two interceptions and completing just 2 of 8 passes.
His brightest moment in a Texas uniform came when no one expected it. After Colt McCoy went down early against Alabama in the national championship game, Gilbert threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jordan Shipley to pull Texas from a 24-6 deficit to within a field goal of the lead, 24-21, with 6:15 to play.
Gilbert would then fumble and throw two interceptions as Alabama ultimately won, 37-21.
At 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, Gilbert has the physical tools to be an NFL prospect with a good arm and good enough mobility. The knock on him has been recognizing coverages, although in fairness he was the starter in the final year of Greg Davis' controversial tenure as Texas' offensive coordinator, then had to learn under a new coordinator, Bryan Harsin, this season.
What is Gilbert likely to do under Jones' guidance? It's hard to say, but SMU is one of the few schools operating the Run and Shoot offense, which resembles the spread but has some distinctions. Quarterbacks who have had success under Jones are able to make instantaneous reads and distribute the ball quickly.
Jones has experience winning with a transfer quarterback. Brennan began his college career at Colorado and spent a season in junior college before joining Jones at Hawaii. There, he led Hawaii to an undefeated season regular season and BCS bowl berth in 2007.
But not every quarterback who enters the Jones laboratory has such success. Bo Levi Mitchell was named the starter as a true freshman in 2008, Jones' first season at SMU, but lost his starting job to Padron midway through his sophomore season.
Padron led SMU to the Hawaii Bowl in 2009 and the Armed Forces Bowl in 2010, the Mustangs' first bowl appearances in 25 years, before being benched himself in this season's opener.
Mitchell transferred to Eastern Washington, a Football Championship Subdivision school, and led the Eagles to the Division I national championship last season.
For Gilbert, SMU represents a fresh start in a rising program SMU is expected to be invited to the Big East any day now but one that doesn't have the pressures of quarterbacking at Texas.
He will also be playing in system that, when it works right, can produce record-breaking passing numbers. He will also be coached by a respected offensive mind in Jones who has strong ties to the NFL.
Will that result in Gilbert reaching the potential he showed as one of the nation's elite high school quarterbacks? Check back in a year or so for the lab results.
Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire