AUSTIN, Texas (AP)
Now that he has won the job, the challenge is keeping it beyond Saturday night's season opener against Wyoming.
Ash, who rotated last season with Case McCoy, won the preseason battle to take over the job without an "or" between their names on the depth chart. Coach Mack Brown announced the decision last week and Ash met with reporters Monday.
"I expected it," Ash said. "I worked really hard. The coaches have given me a shot. That's all you can really ask for."
Ash still has a lot to prove on the field.
He was 3-3 as a freshman starter last season with just four touchdown passes and eight interceptions. His completion rate was under 58 percent and Texas (8-5) ranked 86th nationally in passing.
Ash seemed to be asserting himself as the Longhorns' No. 1 when he played every snap of Texas' 21-10 Holiday Bowl win over California. Ash was named the most valuable player of the game after passing for one touchdown, catching another and not committing any turnovers.
But even with that game under this belt, Texas opened its 2012 training camp with Brown refusing to name a starter and he insisted McCoy was battling Ash for the job. Despite the competition, Ash said his confidence has grown as he's matured and had more time to learn just how to be a college quarterback.
"I can play football," Ash said. "I can play quarterback as good as anybody else."
Some of his teammates said Monday they thought the competition was close until Brown announced Ash was No. 1.
"For me, it was a tossup," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "We had no clue."
McCoy, the younger brother of former Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy, could still get playing time against Wyoming (8-5). Brown said McCoy and Ash are friends but Ash revealed little about their relationship.
Ash said both wanted whatever is best for the team. When asked if he said anything to McCoy after the decision, Ash said, "Um, not really."
Ash knows his play will be the focus of a lot of scrutiny. The Longhorns expect to have one of the best defenses and running games in the Big 12. Even a decent passing game could be the difference between another mediocre season and one where Texas again competes for the league championship.
Texas went 69-9 from 2004-2009, won two Big 12 titles and appeared in two national championship games behind Vince Young and Colt McCoy. The Longhorns are just 13-12 over the last two seasons, including a paltry 6-11 in Big 12 play.
Brown will have to hope Ash is developing into the quarterback the Longhorns need.
"The concern we had with David last year was he tried to make every play," Brown said.
Now he's making better decisions when reading defense and finding his escape routes, such as pulling back a deep pass into coverage to complete a shorter one.
"Trust your other players," Brown said. "Drop it off to the back in the flat. He may score."
Wyoming coach Dave Christensen also believes his quarterback has taken a step forward.
Brett Smith was named the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year last season, when he set a record for total offense by a MWC freshman with 3,332 yards. Smith passed for 2,622 yards with 20 TDs and 11 INTs while running for team bests of 710 yards and 10 scores.
"I think we've improved in a lot of areas," Christensen said.
One area the Cowboys need to get better in is rush defense after they allowed an average of 232.0 yards on the ground in 2011, which ranked 115th in the FBS.
"Now we have to go out and get it done on Saturday afternoons," Christensen said Monday.
Wyoming finished third in the Mountain West last season behind ranked teams TCU and Boise State. The Cowboys lost 37-15 to Temple in the New Mexico Bowl, one season after going 3-9.
Texas has won all four meetings with Wyoming, including 34-7 at home in the last matchup Sept. 11, 2010.