The spotlight on Texas quarterback David Ash is brighter than ever heading into 2013. For the first time since stepping onto the 40-acres, Ash was named the starting quarterback before fall camp started, showing the nonbelievers that this is his team.
Mack Brown took the podium at Big 12 Media Days in July and said Ash has shown the ability to be as good as anybody in the country, including former Texas quarterbacks Vince Young and Colt McCoy. Sounds like coach speak, right?
But what if Brown is onto something? What if the head coach actually believes David Ash can have a breakout junior season and lead Texas to a national championship? What if the trials and tribulations Ash faced his first two seasons were the greatest lessons a college football quarterback could experience?
Could this small town kid be the Longhorns' saving grace in 2013? Let's take a look.
2013 Awards: Preseason first team all-Big 12
2013 Watch lists: Maxwell Award, Davey O'Brien Award, Manning Award, Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award and CFPA Offensive Award.
David Ash's career as the Longhorns' signal caller has not always been positive. In fact, there were times where it was down-right weird.
When David Ash first stepped onto the University of Texas campus in 2011, his goal was to take as many reps as he was given in summer workouts, but ultimately expected to redshirt.
"I remember my role as a freshman was to come in to 7-on-7 and beg for a rep," David Ash told me at Big 12 Media Days. "I really didn't expect to play until I was a redshirt sophomore."
Ash's redshirt hopes were blown in the Longhorns' season opener against Rice, when Ash took three snaps and completed one pass for two yards. His playing time significantly increased in Texas' second game against BYU, when starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert was benched after throwing two interceptions in the first quarter. From that moment forward, the roller coaster career of David Ash began.
David Ash split the quarterback reps with redshirt sophomore Case McCoy in what I like to call the McAsh quarterback rotation.
In Texas' game against Oklahoma, Ash and McCoy rotated three times in the Longhorns' first offensive drive that ended in negative four yards rushing for Ash and a McCoy sack/fumble recovered by Oklahoma. The last time Texas attempted to rotate quarterbacks against Oklahoma was in 2000 with Major Applewhite and Chris Simms in a 63-14 massacre by the Sooners.
Clearly, rotating quarterbacks against Oklahoma equals a disaster for Texas.
The quarterback rotation ended after the Longhorns suffered a 55-17 loss in the Red River Rivalry, and Ash started the next five games. Ash was benched in the third quarter against Kansas State after throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns, but that was not the way he wanted to end his freshman season.
Ash led Texas to a 21-10 Holiday Bowl victory over California, where he was awarded the offensive most valuable player.
Ash started six games his freshman season and was the first true freshman to throw four touchdown passes in school history.
|2011 - Passing||13/6||99||174||56.9||1,079||107.4||4||8|
|2011 - Rush/Rec.||73||103||1.4||1||2||27||13.6||1|
David Ash and Case McCoy continued to compete for the starting job throughout fall camp, but Ash was named the starter for Texas' season opener against Wyoming. In his 2012 debut, Ash's numbers improved significantly, completing 20-of-27 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.
Ash looked like a new man in the Longhorns first five games of the season, completing 77.5% of passes for 1276 yards and 11 touchdowns just in time for the Red River Rivalry.
But all of the momentum Ash gained was depleted when he completed 13-of-29 passes with two interceptions and zero touchdowns in the Sooners 63-21 victory over the Longhorns. Surprisingly, this was not Ash's low point of the season.
His worst performance of the year happened against the one-win Kansas Jayhawks, where Ash completed 8-of-16 passes for 63 yards and two interceptions.
Ash suffered a rib injury in Texas' Thanksgiving day loss to Big 12 newcomer TCU and was held out of the Longhorns' final game of the regular season at Kansas State.
The second half of the 2012 season was not ideal for the sophomore quarterback, but once again, Ash was not going to end the year with a loss.
David Ash led Texas in a come-from-behind fourth quarter win against Oregon State for the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl, securing the Longhorns' faith in Ash as the quarterback of the future.
|2012 - Passing||12/12||214||318||67.3||2,699||153.3||19||8|
|2012 - Rush/Rec.||51||237||2.8||2||0||0||0||0|
David Ash has faced many trials and tribulations in his first two seasons at Texas, but he persevered.
I have always believed quarterbacks NEED a redshirt season to learn the college system. Ash was not given that opportunity. Earlier this month, I asked Ash how not getting a redshirt season affected him for both his freshman and sophomore year. Here's what he had to say:
I didn't have that grace period of being able to sit back, learn and settle in to the college game. I was thrown into the starting role. When you're thrown into that situation, it takes a while to climb out of it.
It took Ash two seasons to overcome the adversity he faced as a freshman. But he never gave up and I respect that.
When I made a bad play as a freshman, I could feel the air go out. It took a long time to build up my confidence. But now I know it's not the end of the world if I make a mistake. It's on to the next play.
2. Dual-threat Quarterback
David Ash has an amazing arm and throws one of the prettiest balls I have seen from a college quarterback. What Ash does not always get credit for is his ability to run the ball.
Ash said Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has recognized his ability to run the ball and hopes to utilize it this season.
I'm a very capable runner and coach Applewhite knows that. I think he is going to try to get that part of the game going because it can be very effective in a spread offense.
3. "Awkward" Personality
David Ash is a man of very few words. If a reporter ever asks him a closed-ended question, he will absolutely say either "Yes." or "No." and not elaborate. I think some media members have an issue with Ash's personality, but I secretly like it.
Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat has referred to Ash's personality as "awkward," but Jeffcoat likes that Ash is comfortable in his skin.
[David Ash] does have a little bit of an awkward personality, but that's who he is. And that's what I like about him. He's comfortable with himself and that also shows on the field.
1. September 14, 2013 Texas at Brigham Young University
I may be over-analyzing this, but I think the Longhorns' game at BYU will not be a breeze. BYU ended 2012 ranked third nationally in total defense and scoring defense, allowing only 14 points per game. The Cougars lose their three starting defensive lineman this season, but I expect the defense to once again be pretty stout. Ash cannot overlook BYU.
2. October 12, 2013 Texas vs. Oklahoma
This goes without saying, but in order to truly make the next step as Texas' quarterback, Ash will need to show up in the Red River Rivalry. Texas has lost three straight to Oklahoma, with the last two meetings ending in embarrassing blowouts.
Ash's numbers against Oklahoma are not good. And by not good, I really mean terrible: 24-of-49 passing with one touchdown and four interceptions. Ash needs to be the reason why Oklahoma's three-game winning streak comes to an end in 2013.
Texas head coach Mack Brown:
David is in a great place right now considering what he's been through the last two years. He has had some really great moments and he finished on such a positive fourth quarter of the [Alamo Bowl]. That momentum and confidence has carried through the spring and summer.
Texas junior cornerback Quandre Diggs:
It's going to be hard [for defenses] to confuse him. He's a great guy and a great leader. He's going to go out and give it all.
Orangebloods.com publisher Geoff Ketchum
I feel like Ash has officially separated in a way people have been waiting for. There's no question in my mind that he looks like a true starting-level quarterback.
Call me crazy, but I think 2013 will be a breakout season for David Ash. He has not only shown growth on the field, but he also has a different swagger about him, which is not something I would have ever said in his first two seasons.
Ash will have the best offensive line Texas has started during his time on campus in front of him. Top receivers Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis are coming off of injury, but are projected to be difference makers in 2013.
If all goes well for David Ash, I expect to see him throw for 3,200+ yards and 27 touchdowns.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar