QB stability vital for success for Longhorns
DALLAS — The Texas Longhorns brought three solid players with them to the Big 12 media days Tuesday morning.
What the Longhorns left at home was a starting quarterback.
That's because a Texas team that returns 16 starters and 42 lettermen from an 8-5 team hasn't named a No. 1 quarterback yet. And while that doesn't seem to be the best-case scenario for a school where there are always championship expectations, no one seems to mind.
"Two is more difficult if the chemistry isn't working well," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "Right now David (Ash) and Case (McCoy) are getting along real well. They're worried more about winning than they are playing. I feel like one of those guys will separate themselves some in preseason and that will give us the other guy to come off the bench and play if need be."
Ash, a sophomore, started six games for the Longhorns as a freshman and was the offensive most valuable player in the season-ending Holiday Bowl. He got the majority of the work in spring practice which figures to make him the favorite to win the starting job.
But McCoy isn't out of the picture either. The junior and younger brother of Colt McCoy put Texas in position to get to the Holiday Bowl by leading the Longhorns to a win over Texas A&M. He set the Longhorns up for the game-winning field goal with a key 25-yard scramble.
McCoy threw for more touchdowns (seven to four) while Ash threw for more yards (1,068 to 1,045). Ash also threw twice as many interceptions as McCoy (eight to four) but also threw more passes (173 to 145).
Teammates of the two don't see the quarterback decision as a big issue.
"I feel comfortable with both," said junior guard Mason Walters. "The really good thing about it is that we've turned it into a positive. It's not a problem because both guys have been competing last season, and spring ball and in the summer. Now we get to go into camp and see who's broken away since spring ball."
Brown said his school can compete with two quarterbacks. He also knows there are no guarantees about how the quarterbacks hold up. Last year Texas had Garrett Gilbert as its starter going into the season but he got hurt and then transferred. Connor Wood, another of Texas' quarterbacks, also left the school.
Whoever ends up under center this year has to be able to move the ball better through the air than Texas did last season.
The Longhorns threw for just 2,469 yards last season and had just 18 pass plays that went for at least 30 yards. Fourteen of those involved either Ash or McCoy.
There's no questioning the Longhorns can run the ball. Texas ran for 441 yards against Kansas and followed that up with a 439-yard game on the ground against Texas Tech. But Texas also had eight games in which they didn't throw for more than 175 yards.
A better balanced-attack is vital if the Longhorns are to compete for a Big 12 title.
"We've got to be balanced and we've got to be able to throw it as well as run it," Brown said. "We do not want to be a running football team. We'd like to be a team that can do both. And we feel like we've made so much progress in the running game that we can line up and run the ball just about every week. But you're not going to be able to do that continuously against really good defenses unless you can throw it and keep them off balance."
Whoever is throwing the ball for Texas will have plenty of weapons around him. Running back Malcolm Brown ran for 742 yards last season and Texas returns its top three receivers in Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley and Olympian Marquise Goodwin.
Defensively the Horns have seven starters back including standout defensive linemen Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor.
While having all that returning talent back is big, it's only going to work if Texas has a quarterback to lead it.
"Both of them are already representatives of the leaders of our team as the head guys," junior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "When we go into the season and figure out who it is, it's going to be natural for them to take over the team."