Texas quarterback legends Vince Young and Colt McCoy were not always legendary.
On the contrary, before either rose to huge prominence—coincidentally during their junior seasons—they were very much susceptible to inconsistencies and questionable performances in their years prior. For Young and McCoy, that was 2004 and 2007, respectively.
Flashing forward to 2013, incumbent quarterback David Ash enters his junior year during a season that is very much a make-or-break year for the entire Texas program.
In Ash's first two seasons in Austin, the optimism was always cautious with the Belton product. Thrust into action and effectively signaling the end of the Garrett Gilbert Era, Ash was hardly expected to play as a true freshman. Two years later, Ash is on board to post what could be a breakout campaign—gasp—just like Young and McCoy during their junior seasons.
But before the vegetables start flying for coupling Ash—a mere pedestrian when compared to his legendary predecessors—alongside Young and McCoy, let's take a gander at what the numbers say.
Numbers Never Lie
We will observe Young first by pinning his 2004 and 2005 seasons next to each other.
2004: 1,849 YDS PASS, 59.2 COMP PCT, 12 TD, 11 INT, 128.4 QBR, 1,079 YDS RUSH, 14 TD
2005: 3,036 YDS PASS, 65.2 COMP PCT, 26 TD, 10 INT, 164 QBR, 1,050 YDS RUSH, 12 TD
Here are McCoy's numbers in that same light.
2007: 3,303 YDS PASS, 65.1 COMP PCT, 22 TD, 18 INT, 139.2 QBR, 510 YDS RUSH, 4 TD
2008: 3,859 YDS PASS, 76.7 COMP PCT, 34 TD, 8 INT, 173.8 QBR, 561 YDS RUSH, 11 TD
The jump in passing yards is pretty telling for both quarterbacks, but the completion percentages, quarterback rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio provide a whole other story.
For a short recap, Young finished 2004 with a marvelous performance in a Rose Bowl victory over Michigan. He would top that number with an even more brilliant effort in the 2005 National Championship Game against USC, and, to this day, some call it the most impressive individual performance in college football history.
McCoy, meanwhile, shrugged off a very mediocre sophomore campaign—relative to his eventual accomplishments—to record his best season, capped off by a thrilling, come-from-behind win over Ohio State in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, during his four-year career in Austin.
So why not Ash for a huge junior season?
Here are Ash's sophomore numbers in 2012.
2012: 2,699 YDS PASS, 67.3 COMP PCT, 19 TD, 8 INT, 153.3 QBR, 237 YDS RUSH, 2 TD
Obviously every year is a different story in college football, but off the bat, Ash seems to have a knack for taking care of the ball, proven by his strong completion percentage, quarterback rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio, all of which topped McCoy's sophomore numbers.
Still, Ash's body of work pales in comparison to that of Young and McCoy's. Even with fewer playing days, it may not be possible for Ash to eclipse the allure that his predecessors sustained even after their careers finished at Texas.
The writing is on the wall.
Let us not forget that Ash was benched multiple times during the 2012 season, including against Kansas, when the Longhorns had to come from behind to steal a win in Lawrence.
Ash is far from the all-American quarterback who has Heisman and Davey O'Brien potential, at least given from what we have seen so far.
For both Young and McCoy, their ability to extend plays with their legs is what made them so dangerous in quite different ways.
Young was a natural runner and could hit an extra gear that would leave his opponents in the dust.
McCoy never had the top-end speed like Young, but his elusiveness and ability to throw on the run created so much offense for a Texas team that simply gobbled up yards by the quarter.
Ash has shown limited flashes of his ground game and his deep ball, but neither provide the hammer-in-the-coffin type of argument that would solidify the Longhorns as the straight-up favorite for a BCS berth.
Can Ash do more of what he did against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl? Can he extend more plays and make good decisions on the fly? Can he continue to deliver the deep ball to Mike Davis with a higher clip of success? In a faster offense, can he make the right reads that will allow his game and the offense to move more effectively and efficiently?
These are all questions that Ash has yet to answer fully, but we have seen glimpses that offer some confidence that he can take that next step as a top-tier quarterback.
Furthering the Argument
It is a short argument, but one can maintain that Ash has at least the same caliber weaponry surrounding him as Young and/or McCoy.
With junior running backs in Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, junior receiver Jaxon Shipley and the senior receiver Davis, Ash already has the quantity that McCoy barely had during his heydays.
Throw in a home-run threat like sophomore Daje Johnson and Ash has an array of talent that can further his ability to win games for Texas.
Again, in Ash's current world, he is far from attaining the status that Young and McCoy held during their tenures on the 40 Acres. But he has impressed enough during his sophomore season that it seems only reasonable to believe that Ash is fully capable of turning in a 2013 campaign that can be classified by greatness.
Saying. Doing. You know the drill.
States grabbed from mackbrown-texasfootball and espn.com.