Sonny is out. Sterlin is in — maybe.
Day four of Texas’ search for an offensive coordinator came up empty on Wednesday, but Charlie Strong appears to be closer to making a hire following an interview in Austin with Tulsa co-offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.
Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery told the Tulsa World that Gilbert had interviewed for another job on Wednesday. Several publications, including 247Sports, reported Texas was the school that interviewed Gilbert.
Gilbert appears to be Strong’s new top target after TCU’s Sonny Cumbie turned down the offer from Texas that he had been sitting on for several days. Cumbie released a statement through TCU in which he thanked Strong and Texas for the opportunity, but noted, “There are many factors that go into making decisions like this and after weighing them all, TCU is where my family and I want to stay.”
Strong regrouped and arranged an interview with Gilbert, a former Texas high school coach who is schooled in the Art Briles uptempo spread. Gilbert spent the 2014 season at Bowling Green under Briles disciple Dino Babers before going to Tulsa to work for Philip Montgomery, Briles’ former offensive coordinator at Baylor. Tulsa has put together a quality season, increasing its win total from two to six with the nation’s No. 14-ranked offense. Gilbert’s pupil Dane Evans is the nation’s No. 7-ranked passer and has upped his yards per game to 329 from 258 a year ago.
The Golden Hurricane will face Virginia Tech in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26.
That all sounds like good news for Texas, except for one minor detail: Montgomery, not Gilbert, calls plays at Tulsa. Cumbie, who is the Horned Frogs’ co-coordinator, doesn’t call plays at TCU either, meaning Strong has now interviewed two coaches who are essentially position coaches to coordinate Texas’ offense.
“Gameday, obviously I still call everything, but we all bounce ideas off each other and everybody has input,” Montgomery told the Tulsa World.
Likewise, Babers and not Gilbert, called plays at Bowling Green last year. However, an Eastern Illinois spokesman told the American-Statesman that Gilbert called plays there for Babers in 2012 and 2013. In his final season, Gilbert was named the FCS coordinator of the year by FootballScoop after piloting an offense that led the nation in yards (589.5) and points (48.2). Additionally, Gilbert is credited with developing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, a second-round pick of the New England Patriots who threw for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns in 2013.
Gilbert has extensive experience in the Texas high school ranks, coaching at Temple, San Angelo Lake View, Abilene Cooper and Springtown. In 2005, he was a graduate assistant for Briles at Houston.
Gilbert, of San Angelo, was a two-time All-Lone Star Conference quarterback at Angelo State, where he graduated in 2002.
If Texas were to hire Gilbert, he might ask to bring along Tulsa co-offensive coordinator and line coach Matt Mattox, who also was on Babers’ staffs at Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois.