Q&A: USF offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert
Though he's set to close on a new home in the area later this month, new Bulls offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert still is living primarily out of boxes. Among the items still stowed: the contents of his Art Briles-influenced offense. Gilbert, 38, didn't offer many specifics (for obvious reasons) during his sit-down Wednesday with the Tampa Bay Times, but he did chat about his influences, fellow staffers and his west Texas roots.
What's your assessment of the personnel you've inherited here?
"You know, what's probably a little unfair about that right now is, you don't really know until you get out to spring ball. Obviously a guy like Quinton (Flowers) jumps out to you, and D'Ernest (Johnson) and some of these guys that are back. But as far as just sitting right here today, you just watch 'em go through some offseason stuff and lift, so you're not seeing any football stuff until March 6. So our true assessment, our true evaluation of those guys, won't come until then."
What would you say is one -- or two -- prevailing adjectives to describe your offense?
"You know, we try to be physical. Physical and fast are probably the first two words that come to mind. That's what we want to be, be physical in our run game, have a physical presence about what what we do and how we play. And then just the speed and tempo that we play with, and the kind of speed that's on the field."
You were a pupil of Art Briles back in the day (a Houston graduate-assistant in 2005), and the presumption is you run a Baylor offense. But I'm sure over time, you've added some components and variations of your own, correct?
"Absolutely. I was with Art back in '05; that was at Houston. So what it's evolved to and how it is today has changed. And just a lot of that's been with my location and where I've coached. When you're up north, you've got to do things a little bit different weather-wise than you do down in the south. So those are some things that we've adapted and adjusted with."
Something that fascinates people about the Baylor-style offense are the post-snap adjustments. Is that something you'd like to try here?
"Yeah, I think so. There's just some different stuff that we do in the ways that we try to get things accomplished and done scheme-wise, and we've had some success doing that. And again, you go back to your initial question, the thing we've got to do that you can't do right now in the weightroom or in the offseason drills is, we've got to see what our guys do best. That'll be the first initial thing."
You've been at a lot of places. Who would you count, on one hand, as your biggest influences?
"I really don't just identify with one of those guys. I mean really, with Art and then Dino Babers, those are probably two of the biggest guys that stick out. I was with Dino at Eastern (Illinois) and obviously at (Bowling Green) and learned a lot of football from him. He has a really heavy influence on me and the path that I've taken and what we do on the offensive side of the football."
What will the collaboration be like between yourself (offensive coordinator) and Matt Mattox (offensive line/run game) on game days?
"It just works. We really don't even divide it up. I'd say it's somewhat like that, but we've coached together for a while now and we just understand and know what we want on Saturdays and what we need. We both obviously rely and depend on each other for information and answers and suggestions within our whole staff. That is one positive, Coach (Charlie Strong) was able to bring pretty much everybody with us (from Texas). And Shaun (King) is with us, who's got a great football mind and played in the NFL, we all know that. He brings a perspective and a view himself, and gives us obviously some knowledge."
You mentioned you've watched a little bit of USF film from last year. They ran what they liked to call the Gulf Coast Offense. How similar is that offense to what you'd ideally like to do?
"I haven't seen enough. When I say a little bit of film, I bet I haven't seen 50 plays (from USF's 2016 season). I don't really probably have a fair judgment off that minimal amount of plays. But just in those 50, there are some things that I like that will probably be good carry-over for what we're doing."
As a west Texas guy, how close were you to Odessa and Midland of Friday Night Lights fame? (Gilbert attended Lake View High in San Angelo, Texas)
"They're about and hour and 15, hour and a half west of me. So the whole Friday Night Lights the movie, that district is Odessa High, Odessa Permian, San Angelo Central...and then you've got the two Abilene schools, Abilene High and Abilene Cooper. So that's what that movie's based on, those schools. ... I grew up hearing all that Mojo and all that kind of stuff."
So when you were a high school coach in west Texas, how many fans on a typical Friday night?
"Umm, it just probably depends where you're at. You go to Abilene Cooper...you're probably looking at -- I'm gonna say -- 10,000 to 18,000. And then your crosstown rival game with Abilene High is gonna probably draw you in the 20-something. ... And then those other places, we had good crowds. My first job was at Springtown (Texas), and you might only draw -- I don't know -- 3,000 to 5,000 people, but it's not a very big town. I mean, it's one of those deals that when you go on the road, last person out turn off the lights. Nothing's going on in town when the games are going on."