As the SMU Mustangs prepare to make the leap to the Big East next season, head coach June Jones looked to his team to make major strides during the spring. Nobody was asked to grow more, however, than quarterback Garrett Gilbert who returns for his senior season with a new offense to learn as new offensive coordinator Hal Mumme installed his Air Raid offense during spring practice. According to Jones, Gilbert has responded and appears ready to lead the SMU attack next fall.
Last season was mired in highs and lows for Gilbert, though he’ll be remembered more for the disappointing lows. The Mustangs threw the ball a ton as Gilbert averaged nearly 40 pass attempts per game, but his 5.8 yards per attempt average showcased just how inefficient he was. He finished the year throwing for 2,932 yards with 15 touchdowns, but he only completed 53 percent of his passes and threw 15 interceptions.
Mumme has worked closely with Gilbert this spring and focused on improving his accuracy. In order for the Air Raid to work, Gilbert will have to be efficient and accurate in his passes to keep drives rolling along. Nothing puts a passing offense in bigger trouble than a couple quick incompletions to put the offense in third and long situations. Jones has been happy with the way Gilbert has looked coming out of the spring and feels confident his quarterback will lead SMU to wins next fall.
He will have some help. SMU’s leading receiver from 2012, Jeremy Johnson, returns after catching 67 passes for 679 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. Keenan Holman will flank him as he looks to improve on his junior campaign when he caught 25 passes for 311 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The rest of the receiving depth chart is still waiting to shake itself out, but the talent should be there to help Gilbert flourish next season.
But the question remains to be answered how his improvement will translate to the field. SMU has a major rebuild happening on defense and may need their offense to out-score some people to win games next year. Can Gilbert get the job done?