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June 26, 2012During his first four years at SMU, head coach June Jones has done what many thought was impossible. He brought the Conference USA Mustangs back from the death penalty with three straight bowl appearances, winning two of them.
Since his first year in 2008, Jones has used three different starting quarterbacks. If the Mustangs could have a starting signal caller for at least two full seasons then the stability and opportunity for success in Jones' vaunted run-and-shoot offense could be even greater.
Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert is transferring into SMU this year with those exact thoughts in mind. In 2008, Gilbert played most of the BCS National Championship game when starter Colt McCoy was injured in the first half. The next season, Gilbert started all 12 games for Texas, leading the Longhorns to a 5-7 record. After obtaining a medical redshirt last season due to necessary shoulder surgery, Gilbert leaves Austin in his rearview mirror with two years of eligibility remaining.
"I can use the experience that I had at Texas to help me here," said Gilbert. "That's something that will be a huge positive for me going forward in having that experience I had at Texas. At the same time, this is a whole new challenge. This is a new team with a new set of goals."
About a month ago, Gilbert moved to Dallas. With his graduate school classes not starting until the fall, all of his time has been spent preparing for this upcoming season. The former Rivals.com ranked five-star spends his mornings going through team workouts and his afternoons on the field rehearsing plays and interacting with his teammates during 7-on-7 drills.
"I'm really trying to get to know everybody. I like everybody on the team so far and we're all in there working together and putting in that time in the weight room and out on the field. Building relationships with the receivers is an important deal. Everybody on the team is important to me."
The Mustangs clobbered Pittsburgh at the BBVA Compass Bowl last year with a 28-6 victory and look to complete their final season in Conference USA on December 1st at the C-USA Championship game. Gilbert isn't the only quarterback that hopes to be atop the depth chart this fall as redshirt freshman Conner Preston is a season ahead of Gilbert after going through practices with the Mustangs all last year.
"Conner's been really good," said Gilbert. "Coach Morrison introduced us during the spring and I got to know him a little bit at the couple of practices that I went to last spring. Being here, I get to see him on a daily basis. Any questions I've had he's answered and he's been helpful. He's out there putting in the work and doing the things that need to be done. I look forward in the fall going to work together."
Still, SMU fans love the idea of their team being led by the Longhorn's former starter. The Mustangs have welcomed Gilbert, who completed his bachelor's degree in sports management at Texas this past spring. The Austin native knows what it takes to be one of the best teams in the country and has high goals for this SMU program in the future.
"I don't see any reason why we shouldn't believe that we should win [the conference] this year. I liked what I've seen so far at 7-on-7 and guys being there in the morning and afternoon. They're a close knit group and leaders are stepping up and doing a great job. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't compete for [the C-USA title]. I think the guys have confidence and it's all about believing in our team and that we're going to win."
Gilbert feels he still has plenty of time before fall camp and is looking to take full advantage of this next month. He begins taking his graduate courses this August. Gilbert is currently unaware as to what he'll be specifically studying.
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