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The American Preview: Garrett Gilbert gets one last ride with the Mustangs

It wasn't supposed to end this way. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

Ask college football recruiting nuts for some of the most baffling disappointments they can recall, and the name Garrett Gilbert is almost bound to come up.

Gilbert arrived at Texas in 2009 with every accolade imaginable from his stint as quarterback of Lake Travis High School, including being named the national high school offensive player of the year by USA Today in 2008. He was so impressive as a prep that Mack Brown essentially bet the future of his program on the schoolboy legend. The plan was for Gilbert to take the reins as starting QB from Colt McCoy and lead the Longhorns to even greater heights. (Ergo, "Mack Brown offered Quarterback X as a DB.")

Unfortunately for Gilbert, nothing about his time on the 40 Acres went according to plan. Fair or not, after a precipitous drop to a 5-7 campaign in 2010, the ballyhooed quarterback came to symbolize the collapse of Texas football. Gilbert lasted two games as the starter in 2011 before hitting the bench and deciding that he needed a change of scenery.

A fresh start under offensive guru June Jones at SMU sounded like a great way to get Gilbert on track. It wasn’t.

Gilbert had an underwhelming campaign for the Mustangs in 2012, tossing as many interceptions as touchdowns (15) and completing just 53 percent of his passes. He actually managed to put up a worse passer rating last year than his disastrous 2010 campaign as a Longhorn.

However, for all his stumbles so far, Gilbert now has a chance to somewhat cement a place in Southern Methodist lore. He’ll likely be behind center for the Ponies’ first snap as they step up from Conference USA to The American. Go ahead and scoff, but competing in the new conference still represents a challenge for a program that has really never recovered from receiving the death penalty from the NCAA 25 years ago.

SMU will be fielding a rebuilt defense in the fall, which will put plenty of pressure on Gilbert to lead an attack that puts up points. Luckily for Gilbert, that’s an area where Jones and new offensive coordinator Hal Mumme have some experience. Gilbert will also have two of his leading receivers from a year ago at his disposal this fall.

One headline that came out of Dallas this spring declared that “it’s now or never” for Gilbert. Actually, we already know the “never” part: Heading into his final collegiate season, Gilbert’s career won’t live up to the hype that preceded him. As for the “now,” though, he still has a chance to make his mark.

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