While the face may be new to the Syracuse Orange sideline, (reported) new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sterlin Gilbert is a familiar face to head coach Dino Babers and a familiar practitioner of the veer and shoot.
Gilbert started his offensive coordinator career under Babers at Eastern Illinois and subsequently followed him to Bowling Green. At Eastern Illinois, he was the position coach and coordinator for (current 49ers starting QB) Jimmy Garoppolo’s last two seasons. After following Babers to Bowling Green, he left with Philip Montgomery when Montgomery got the head coaching gig at Tulsa, then was poached by Charlie Strong at Texas, then South Florida.
As such, it’s pretty apparent that Gilbert has some experience with the offense Babers wants to run and that he’s a capable coordinator within that system. His teams at Eastern Illinois were seventh (2013) and first (2014) in total offense for the FCS, followed up by FBS teams ranking no worse than 74th in S&P plus (his year at Bowling Green) and as high as 25th in the nation at Texas under Charlie Strong.
Taking a closer look at the FBS level, Gilbert had a decent year in his lone season as the coordinator of the Longhorns. In his time there, he led an offense that had been middling in the prior two seasons to an offensive S&P+ Ranking of 25th in the nation. At USF he was working with personnel meant for Willie Taggart’s offense, in his first year, dropping to 47th in 2017 and then further dropping to 69th in 2018. It should be noted that per Bill C., in 2018, the Bulls were 30th, prior to starting quarterback Blake Barnett getting injured.
In looking at the tape on Gilbert’s offenses, it seems that we’ll be seeing a good bit of the stock veer-and-shoot we’re already familiar with, though including some variation. Similar to what we’ve seen, the pass will set up the run and there will be a good number of sideline plays, wide receiver option routes and shots downfield. He also utilizes the same power running game, complete with pulling guards and the guard-tackle counter that Syracuse has utilized to both success and less-than-success at times.
What you can hope is that the wideout option routes are now on the same page between the quarterback and receiver, and that Gilbert utilizes the slot receivers or tight ends a bit more than his predecessor, Mike Lynch. Babers likes to use some classic “Air Raid” principles as well, so we’ll see what Gilbert does with those.
As mentioned, Gilbert has a quarterback’s coach pedigree, having coached Jimmy Garoppolo. Could this mean some improvement for the talented Tommy DeVito? DeVito has probably the best arm that he’s coached since Jimmy G, and will have what we assume is a much improved offensive line in front of him, which should mean an improvement in the overall offensive production as well.
For the record, as no official announcement has been made, it’s still unclear as to whether Lynch is staying on or not, or what his role will be. Similarly, no announcement has been made on quarterbacks coach Kirk Martin, who would also be affected by this rumored hire.
Overall Gilbert will be putting out a familiar offense to what we’ve been seeing around Syracuse for the last few years. The question will be what wrinkles can he bring to not make it more of the same of what we’ve seen under Lynch. Familiarity should mean his offense is up and running quickly. But if he’s basically just installing the same thing we already know, that may not necessarily bring the improvement required following Syracuse’s offensive struggles in 2019.
We’ll give him a shot to prove himself, of course, before rushing to judgement on his offense.