Heading into fall camp, SMU head coach June Jones has a drastically different looking quarterback depth chart than he did this time last year. Former starter J.J. McDermott graduated and projected starter Kyle Padron transferred along with sophomore Stephen Kaiser.
Returning redshirt freshman Conner Preston hopes to make a run at the starting spot but Jones has brought in a new face for SMU, although he's not a stranger to the national spotlight.
Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert announced last fall that he'd be leaving Austin for a different opportunity after starting for a season and most notably, taking over for Colt McCoy in the 2010 National Championship game.
In October of 2011, PonyPride broke the news that Gilbert was looking at SMU as a future destination. By Christmas, Gilbert had gone public that he would be transferring to the Hilltop in the fall of 2012.
"We knew he was going to have at least one year of eligibility," said Jones, in an exclusive interview with PonyPride. "In December, Garrett and I were talking and I asked him how close he was to graduating. He told me he had about 27 hours to go."
It was at that moment that Jones proposed the idea to Gilbert that if he graduated by the end of the spring, he would immediately be eligible the upcoming fall at SMU. With a heavy class load of 28 hours, Jones did not think that was a possible option.
"When I said that to him, [Garrett] went back to his academic counselors and looked into it," said Jones. "He called me back and said, 'I think I can do it.'"
During his spring semester, Gilbert took 27 hours of classes, which included three online classes, and graduated this past spring with his undergrad.
Get details on Gilbert's eligibility at SMU as June Jones talks about the medical redshirt process. Does Jones believe that Gilbert will be given a medical year by the NCAA? Click here for more.
Being able to cram two semesters worth of class work into one really got Jones' attention.
"That says a lot about how badly he wants to be here and what kind of person he is."
Even before taking on a large class load, Jones had an idea of what to expect from Gilbert. After all, the longtime NFL and college coach has had a personal relationship with Garrett Gilbert's father, Gale Gilbert, that goes back to the early 80's.
"I knew [Garrett's] dad and I knew the type of player his dad was out of high school and in college. His dad was the first division one run-and-shoot quarterback at Cal Berkley."
In 1981, Gale Gilbert was beginning his career at Cal while Jones was finishing up his final year as the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. Jones spent part of that off-season working out at Cal and giving their quarterbacks some tips on how to properly operate the run-and-shoot. Jones and Gale Gilbert's relationship started at that time and continued into Gale Gilbert's NFL career.
"I always talked to him when we played against Buffalo or whatever team he was on. He always walked over and said 'hello'."
Fast forward over two decades, Jones has found himself evaluating Gale Gilbert's son. Now, Jones has the opportunity to give some run-and-shoot advice to the next generation Gilbert.
"They both have very similar arms and throw the ball very similar. Both of them are accurate and usually the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
"I haven't seen Garrett throw in person but from what I saw him do at Texas and in high school, he has all the tools. There's no question. He seems like the right kind of guy. Hearing the players talk about him, it seems like he's a leader that works hard and is the right kind of quarterback to lead your team."
Over the last two months, Gilbert has been working out on the Hilltop, familiarizing himself with his new teammates. This August, the former Texas quarterback will have the opportunity to earn the starting spot with the Mustangs.
How will June Jones divide up the reps at the beginning of camp? When will he name his starter? Click here for more from the SMU head coach!
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