SYRACUSE, N.Y. (SYRACUSE ATHLETICS) — Syracuse head football coach Dino Babers named Sterlin Gilbert offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Thursday. Gilbert brings 17 years of experience to the Orange. He has run offenses and coached quarterbacks at the FBS, FCS and high school levels, and was most recently the head coach McNeese State University in 2019.
Gilbert previously worked with Babers for three seasons, serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Babers at Eastern Illinois (2012-13) and Bowling Green (2014).
“I’m very much looking forward to working with Sterlin again,” Babers said. “He runs a very balanced offense. In seven seasons as a college coordinator, he’s had five 1,000-yard rushers, including D’Onta Foreman who went over 2,000 yards at Texas. At the same time, his starting quarterbacks have averaged more than 3,500 yards passing and 26 touchdowns per season.”
“Coach Babers runs a first-class program. I’m excited to reunite with him,” Gilbert said. “Everything at Syracuse is about family and enhancing the players athletically as well as academically. I’m ready to get to work with them.”
Gilbert and Babers first joined forces at Eastern Illinois in 2012. The pair transformed the Panthers into a fast-paced juggernaut, leading to Gilbert’s selection as the FootballScoop.com FCS Coordinator of the Year in his second season. The Panthers led the nation in total offense (589.5 ypg) and scoring (48.2 ppg), while ranking second in passing (372.4 ypg) and 20th in rushing (217.1). EIU posted a 12-2 record and captured the 2013 Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Championship.
At EIU, Gilbert tutored current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who won the 2013 Walter Payton Award (the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy) as the nation’s best player. Garoppolo led the country and ranked second in FCS single-season history with 5,050 passing yards, while ranking second nationally and fourth in FCS history with 53 touchdown passes. He was also third in the FCS in passing efficiency (168.3) and earned OVC Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Garoppolo, who was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, passed for 8,873 yards and 84 touchdowns in his two seasons working with Gilbert. Garoppolo concluded his collegiate career seventh in the FCS record book with 13,156 passing yards and sixth with 118 TD passes.
In addition to Garoppolo, five more Panthers were named to the All-OVC First Team in 2013, including two-time consensus All-America receiver Erik Lora. Lora led the nation in receptions with 123, which tied for second in FCS history, trailing only his own record of 136 catches the previous season. He also ended the year second in TD receptions (19) and third in receiving yards (1,544).
Fellow receiver Adam Drake was just behind Lora with 85 catches for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns to earn All-OVC Second Team recognition. Both signed free-agent contracts with NFL teams.
The EIU ground attack nearly produced a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. All-OVC First Team selection Shepard Little racked up 1,551 yards and 15 TDS, while All-OVC Second Team choice Taylor Duncan had 988 yards and 10 scores. Tight end Jeff LePak, offensive tackle Dominic Pagliara and guard Collin Seibert rounded out EIU’s All-OVC First Team performers and were named All-Americans.
In his first season with the Panthers, Gilbert directed an EIU 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). Garoppolo was seventh in the FCS in total offense (318.5 ypg), while Lora set the subdivision record for receptions (136) and led the country in receiving yards with (1,664) en route to being named the 2012 OVC Offensive Player of the Year. Seibert joined Lora on the all-conference first team, while running back Jake Walker (1,133 yards, 12 TDs) made the second team, along with tight end Sam Hendricks and center Kevin Kapellas.
In 2014, Gilbert accompanied Babers to Bowling Green. He served as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for a unit that gained 432.9 total yards per game (41st in the FBS). BGSU achieved that production without starting quarterback Matt Johnson, who was injured and a year later would be named the 2015 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Offensive Player of the Year. Gilbert mentored backup James Knapke, who threw for 3,173 yards despite only having 10 previous career passing attempts. Wide receiver Roger Lewis recorded 1,093 receiving yards and earned first-team All-MAC honors. The BGSU stable of running backs combined for 2,192 yards and 26 TDs, as the Falcons capped the season with a victory over South Alabama in the Camellia Bowl.
From there, Gilbert headed to Tulsa where he presided over an 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) in 2015. First-team all-conference wide receiver Keyarris Garrett ranked second in the country in receiving yards (1,451), receiving yards per game (120.9) and tied for ninth in receptions (88). Quarterback Dane Evans was seventh nationally in passing (329.8 ypg) and 25th in efficiency (151.3).
The following season, Gilbert joined the staff at Texas and the results were equally as impressive. The Longhorns ranked 17th in the nation in rushing (293.3 ypg) and 16th in total offense (491.3 ypg). Running back D’Onta Foreman led the FBS in rushing yards per game (184.4), ranked second in total rushing yards (2,028) and was third in all-purpose yards per game (191.2). He won the 2016 Doak Walker Award as the top running back in college football. Foreman was also voted a first-team All-American and the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year. Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.
In 2017 and 2018, Gilbert worked as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at USF. The Bulls finished in the top 25 in eight NCAA statistical categories during Gilbert’s first season, including ranking sixth in total offense (513.0 ypg), eighth in rushing (264.1 ypg) and 10th in scoring (38.3 ppg). USF went 10-2, defeated Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl and was No. 21 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.
USF quarterback Quinton Flowers excelled under Gilbert’s teaching. Flowers ranked in the top 30 in six NCAA statistics and set the school single-season record with 27 touchdown passes. Additionally, Flowers tied the USF season record for passing yardage (2,911), while rushing for 1,078 yards and accounting for 36 total touchdowns. Behind the play of Flowers, the Bulls set program records for total yards per game (513.0), plays (1,001), first downs (309) and fewest turnovers (14). They amassed 6,156 yards of offense, the second-most in team history.
In 2018, the Bulls averaged 444.2 yards of total offense, 31.5 points per game, 202.5 rushing yards per game and 241.7 passing yards per game on their way to a 7-5 record and a spot opposite Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl. USF won its first seven games and was a top-25 team, while possessing one of the nation’s top offenses through the first half of the season.
Gilbert’s success as a coordinator earned him the head-coaching job at McNeese State in 2019. He brought the up-tempo spread to the Cowboys and they responded with a 7-5 season, including wins in four of their last five games.
Under Gilbert, McNeese State’s offensive production improved in nearly every statistical category from the previous season. The Cowboys averaged 382 yards per game of total offense (+92 yards from 2018), 220 yards passing (+40) and 163 yards a game rushing (+54). They also averaged 26 points per game (+6), passed for 24 touchdowns (+12) and rushed for 12 TDs (+8).
A former standout Texas high school quarterback, Gilbert enjoyed a successful career as a high school coach. He was head coach at his alma mater, San Angelo Lake View 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 (Texas) High School in 2011 and Abilene Cooper High School from 2006-07.
Gilbert began his career as an assistant coach at Springtown (Texas) High School from 2003-04 before moving for one season to serve as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston.
A three-year starter and two-year captain at quarterback for Angelo State University, Gilbert led the Rams to back-to-back Lone Star Conference South Division championships and concluded his career fourth on the school’s all-time total offense record list. Gilbert was also a two-time all-state quarterback and the 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.
Gilbert earned his undergraduate degree in kinesiology with a minor in history from Angelo State in 2002.
THE GILBERT FILE
Hometown: San Angelo, Texas
Alma Mater: Angelo State ‘02
2003: Springtown HS (Texas) – Running Backs
2004: Springtown HS (Texas) – Quarterbacks
2005: Houston – Graduate Assistant
2006-07: Cooper HS (Texas) – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2008-10: Lake View HS (Texas) – Head Coach
2011: Temple HS (Texas) – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2012-13: Eastern Illinois – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2014: Bowling Green – Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2015: Tulsa – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2016: Texas – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2017-18: South Florida – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2019: McNeese State – Head Coach