Charlie Strong is 11-14 in his two seasons at Texas. He’s already burned through three play-callers, fired two assistant coaches and presided over the worst statistical defense in school history. He cannot afford more mistakes of his own making.
Heading into his critical third season, Strong will turn Texas’ offense over to Sterlin Gilbert, a 37-year-old position coach at Tulsa. Gilbert has strong Texas high school coaching ties, but he hasn’t called plays in his last two college jobs.
Multiple reports surfaced Thursday afternoon that Gilbert had agreed to a two-year contract. He did not return messages left by the American-Statesman; 247Sports first reported on the hire, though Texas officials had no comment and a Tulsa spokesman said, “Reports coming from there are false at this time.”
Gilbert spent one year as a graduate assistant under Art Briles at Houston in 2005. Asked about Texas hiring one of his protegés, Briles told ESPN, “We have to work harder now. It’s like when someone gets into your bank account and steals your identity.”
At Tulsa, Gilbert holds the title of co-offensive coordinator. But it was Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery who called the plays this season for the Golden Hurricane, which went 6-6 and will face Virginia Tech in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26.
Gilbert must prove he was the right choice, if not the first. Strong initially interviewed TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie on Sunday in Fort Worth, then on Monday in Austin. Cumbie turned down a three-year, guaranteed deal worth approximately $1.2 million, a source with knowledge of the deal told the Statesman.
Earlier Thursday, Strong interviewed Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who has spent the last three seasons developing quarterback Jared Goff.
It doesn’t appear that Cal wants anyone raiding coach Sonny Dykes’ staff, though. After news broke of Franklin’s interview, California officials announced a new contract for Dykes with the provision that an extra $3 million go into a pool for assistants.
All of this interviewing activity is happening even though Strong has not announced any dismissals or changes to his current staff. Quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson, offensive line coach Joe Wickline and running backs Tommie Robinson are the only three offensive assistants who are out of the guaranteed portions of their contracts.
Raulerson leaving: Backup center Jake Raulerson announced on Thursday that he has been released from his scholarship and will transfer elsewhere.
“The past three years at Texas have been incredible. I have made memories and friendships that will last me a lifetime,” Raulerson tweeted. “In life, not everything goes the way you plan and I have faith that God is going to lead me where I belong and I will make the most of the opportunities that I am given along the way.”
Raulerson, a redshirt sophomore from Celina, was a backup behind starting center Taylor Doyle. It was thought Raulerson would contend for the starting job next season, though starting right guard Patrick Vahe might slide to center as well.
Jefferson, Williams honored: Linebacker Malik Jefferson and left tackle Connor Williams were both named to the USA Today’s freshman All-American team. Texas was one of five teams with multiple players chosen, including Alabama, Clemson, Missouri and USC.
Jefferson was second on the team this season in tackles, had 2.5 sacks, forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against Rice. On Wednesday, he was named the Big 12’s defensive freshman of the year.
Williams started all 12 games along with Vahe, also a freshman. Texas was the only school in the nation to start two freshmen on its offensive line. The running game averaged 224.8 yards per game, which ranked 20th nationally.