LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – Sterlin Gilbert, the offensive coordinator at the University of South Florida, has been named the 16th head football coach for the McNeese Cowboys, Director of Athletics Bruce Hemphill announced on Wednesday.
“Through this process it became very clear that McNeese is very highly rated throughout the country and positions in our athletics department are extremely attractive,” Hemphill said. “We are looking forward to the culture that Coach Gilbert will build and to the competitive team that he will lead on the field.”
Hemphill will introduce Gilbert at a press conference on Friday at 11 a.m. in the EndZone Room in the Jack V. Doland Fieldhouse. The public is invited to attend.
“There is no question that Sterlin Gilbert is one of the premiere coaches in the country,” said Dr. Daryl Burckel,” McNeese president, “but most importantly, his character and commitment to bringing out the best qualities in his players was a constant theme during the vetting process. I am excited that we are beginning a new era for McNeese football.”
“I am extremely honored to be the head football coach at McNeese,” said Gilbert. “I’m excited to meet with our players, laying out the vision, culture, and how we will directly invest in their success.
“I look forward to meeting and creating new relationships with high school coaches and recruiting their great student athletes to McNeese. Geaux Pokes!”
Having spent the last two seasons at USF under head coach Charlie Strong, Gilbert guided the Bulls’ offense to a top 25 ranking in eight NCAA statistical categories in his first season, including sixth in total offense (513.0 ypg), eighth in rushing (264.1 ypg) and 10th in scoring (38.3 ppg).
The Bulls went 10-2, defeated Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl and finished ranked No. 21 in the AP poll. Quarterback Quinton Flowers ranked in the top 30 in six NCAA statistics, including ninth in total offense (332.4 ypg) and 27th in passing touchdowns with a USF record 27. Flowers, a second team all-conference pick and one of four USF offensive players to earn all-conference honors, tied the USF season passing record (2,911) while rushing for 1,078 yards and accounting for 36 total touchdowns. Flowers’ 605 total yards and 503 passing yards at UCF (11/24/17) set USF records and were tabbed as the College Football Performance of the Year by Athlon Sports. Meanwhile, receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling set a USF record with 879 receiving yards as the Bulls set program records for yards per game (513.0 ypg), plays (1,001), first downs (309) and fewest turnovers (14) while totaling 6,156 yards, the second-most in program history.
This past season, the Bulls averaged 444.2 ypg of total offense, 31.5 points per game, 202.5 rushing yards per game and 241.7 passing per game en route to a 7-5 record an a spot in the Dec. 20 Gasparilla Bowl against Marshall. USF won its first seven games and was ranked in the top 20 in the national polls while possessing one of the nation’s top offenses through the first half of the season.
Gilbert’s Texas offense ranked 17th in the nation and second in the Big 12 in rushing (293.3 ypg) and was 16th nationally and fifth in the Big 12 in total offense (491.3 ypg). Running back D’Onta Foreman became the 28th player in FBS history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season, running for over 100 yards in all 11 games he played and ranking first in the nation in rushing yards per game (184.4 ypg), second in total rushing yards (2,028 yards) and third in all-purpose yards (191.18 ypg). Foreman earned first team All-America honors and was named the 2016 Doak Walker Award winner and the 2016 Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Freshman quarteback Shane Buechele earned honorable mention as the conference’s Offensive Freshman of the Year.
In 2015, Gilbert led a Tulsa offense that ranked 11th in the nation in passing (333.2 ypg), 13th in total offense (507.4 ypg) and 21st in scoring (37.2 ppg). First-team all-conference wide receiver Keyarris Garrett ranked second in the country in receiving yards (1,451) and receiving yards per game (120.9 ypg) and tied for ninth in receptions (88). Quarterback Dane Evans ranked seventh in the country in passing (329.8 ypg) and 25th in efficiency (151.3).
In 2014, Gilbert served as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green. The Falcons gained 432.9 total yards per game (41st NCAA), while averaging 173.0 yards on the ground and 259.9 yards passing. The production came without starting QB Matt Johnson, who was injured and would a year later earn 2015 Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors. Gilbert mentored backup QB James Knapke to 3,173 passing yards, the seventh-best mark in program history, despite his only having 10 previous collegiate passing attempts. Wide receiver Roger Lewis recorded 1,093 receiving yards and earned first-team All-MAC honors. BGSU running backs combined for 2,192 yards and 26 TDs as the Falcons finished the season with a victory over South Alabama in the 2014 Camellia Bowl.During the 2012-13 seasons, Gilbert served as the offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois, where in his second year he was named 2013 FootballScoop FCS Coordinator of the Year. The Panthers led the nation in total offense (589.5 ypg) and scoring (48.2 ppg), while ranking second with 372.4 passing yards, and 20th with 217.1 rushing yards per game, leading to a 12-2 record and an Ohio Valley Conference Championship.
Under the guidance of Gilbert, QB Jimmy Garoppolo was named the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, given to the nation's best player. Garoppolo led the nation and ranked second in FCS single-season history with 5,050 passing yards, while ranking second in the nation and fourth in FCS history with 53 passing TDs. He was also third in the country in passing efficiency (168.3) and was chosen as OVC Offensive Player of the Year.
During his two seasons with Gilbert, Garoppolo passed for 8,873 yards and 84 TDs. He finished his career seventh in FCS history with 13,156 passing yards, and sixth with 118 passing TDs. He went on to become a second-round draft choice by the New England Patriots in the 2014 NFL Draft.
In addition to Garoppolo, five other players were named 2013 first-team All-OVC, representing each position group with running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line. Three more players were named to the second team.
Two-time consensus first-team All-American WR Erik Lora led the nation in receptions with 123, which tied for second in FCS history, only behind his own record of 136 in the previous season. He was also second in TD receptions with 19 (tied for sixth all-time in FCS), and third in receiving yards with 1,544 (16th all-time in FCS). He finished his career second in FCS history with 332 receptions, and 12th with 4,006 yards.
Fellow WR Adam Drake was just behind Lora with 85 receptions for 1,305 yards (fifth in the nation) and 13 TDs (eighth in the nation) and earned second-team All-OVC honors. Both went on to sign free agent contracts with NFL teams.
The running backs came up 12 yards short of a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, including first-teamer Shepard Little with 1,551 yards (seventh in the nation) and 15 TDs, and second-teamer Taylor Duncan with 988 yards and 10 TDs. Tight end Jeff LePak (51-723-8), OT Dominic Pagliara and OG Collin Seibert accounted for the other members of the OVC first team and were selected third-team All-America, while offensive linemen Nick Borre made the second team, and Jimmy Lowery was on the All-Newcomer Team.
In his first season at EIU, Gilbert directed a Panthers offense that ranked sixth in the nation in passing (334.9 ypg), seventh in total offense (470.9 ypg) and eighth in scoring (36.5 ppg). The offense set several school records at the time, including touchdown passes with 34. That year, Garoppolo was seventh in the nation in total offense (318.5 ypg), while Lora set the FCS record for receptions (136) and led the nation in receiving yards with (1,664/sixth all-time in FCS) en route to being named OVC Offensive Player of the Year. Seibert joined him on the all-conference first team, while RB Jake Walker rushed for 1,133 yards and 12 TDs and made the second team, along with TE Sam Hendricks and C Kevin Kapellas.
A former standout Texas high school quarterback and coach, Gilbert enjoyed a successful career as a high school coach. He was head coach at his alma mater, San Angelo Lake View (TX) High School, from 2008-10 and earned West Texas High School Coach of the Year honors in 2008. He was also a highly successful offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Temple (TX) High School (2011) and Abilene Cooper High School (2006-07).
He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Springtown (TX) High School (2003-04) before moving for one season to serve as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston.
Gilbert was a three-year starter and two-year captain at quarterback at Angelo State University, where he led the Rams to back-to-back Lone Star Conference South Division championships and concluded his career fourth all-time in total offense at the school. He was also a two-time All-State quarterback and 1996 District MVP at San Angelo Lake View High School, where he also earned Big XII Region All-America and All-West Texas 4A MVP honors.
Born on Aug. 11, 1978, the 40-year old earned his degree in kinesiology with a minor in history from Angelo State in 2002.
1999-2002: Three-year starter and two-year captain at quarterback at Angelo State University. Led the Rams to back-to-back Lone Star Conference South Division championships and concluded his career fourth all-time in total offense at the school.
2002: Degree in kinesiology, minor in history from Angelo State.
Born: Aug. 11, 1978
Family: Not married