David Ash never doubted he would be the starting quarterback at
No. 15 Texas.
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
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
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
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
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
“I think we’ve improved in a lot of areas,” Christensen
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.