THE STARTER — David AshIf you've followed this site this offseason, you know that I'm a big fan of David Ash. In fact, rather than repeat many of the same facts over and over again, here are a few reference materials:
Now that you're all caught up on the statistical thing, here's the eye test: from the two open practices that we were allowed to see this spring, David Ash looked like one of the Big 12's top quarterbacks. Seem like too much of a leap? Here's the thing: only one Big 12 team that had a better offense than the Longhorns in 2012 — either in scoring offense, total offense or Offensive S&P+ — returns its quarterback. And that team, Oklahoma State, returns a bevy of quarterbacks who were all successful.
Other than TCU's Casey Pachall, if he wins his old job back, no single Big 12 quarterback has as many starts as Ash does. And with Pachall missing most of 2012 and expected to win his starting spot, and with Clint Chelf currently slated as Oklahoma State's starter and Jake Heaps scheduled to beat out Michael Cummings at Kansas, Ash could very well be the only Big 12 quarterback in
Ash should also see a jump in numbers as a result of 1) another year's experience, 2) a deep and talented receiving corps that should be among the Big 12's best and 3) a jump in tempo that should give the Longhorns more plays per game than they had a year ago.
But he would also be helped simply by eliminating his bad games. In Ash's nine "non-bad" games, he completed 72.6 percent of his passes for 2,419 yards and 19 touchdowns to two interceptions. Extrapolate those numbers out over a full 12-game season plus a bowl game, and Ash would throw for 3,494 yards and 27 touchdowns to three interceptions. Would you take that? I bet you would. And that's where Ash getting more consistent would really help.
Ash has also been taking cues from Vince Young on leadership this winter and spring, and if he can take that next step forward in that direction, it could be huge. Ash talked about how he needed to spend more time joking around with the team, and letting his teammates know how much he cares about them, both points made by Young.
This year, it's Ash's job. Not Ash's job to lose, just Ash's job. And, by all accounts this spring, that's a positive sign if you're a Longhorn fan.
MOVING ON UP — Tyrone Swoopes
There's only so far to go up when you have a returning starter entrenched at the position, but Swoopes has wowed those in the program, some of whom didn't expect him to come in with as much polish as he has. Is there work still to be done? Sure. But Swoopes has demonstrated the arm talent to make the throws that he'll be asked to make as a Longhorn quarterback. And at the open practices, he appeared to already be ahead of redshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet as a thrower. Add in the fact that Swoopes is dynamite as a zone-read runner, and you have an excellent guy to groom for the future. Don't expect his redshirt to be pulled if David Ash stays healthy — Texas does well enough in the Wildcat with its running backs that the Longhorns don't really need to burn Swoopes's 'shirt just for a small package of plays.
KEEP AN EYE ON — Connor Brewer
There are five quarterbacks currently in the Longhorn camp. One, Ash, is the designated starter. Another, Swoopes, is the true freshman up-and-comer who will likely redshirt. And that leaves the other three — Brewer, Overstreet and Case McCoy, battling for the primary backup job. McCoy certainly has experience at that position, but after his offseason incident — more serious than Brewer's — you wonder if the trust is still there. And that has to open at least a sliver of a door for the quarterbacks behind him. Brewer isn't the most athletically gifted player in the Texas quarterback room (though McCoy isn't either), but he's a cerebral player who makes the right reads and is accurate with his throws. Sounds like an ideal No. 2, if the staff decides to move away from McCoy.
There's no drama at the top here for the first time in awhile. For the first time since Colt McCoy in the spring of 2009, Texas has a returning quarterback who has a winning record as a starter. Add in the development that Ash appears to have made, and the Longhorns are better than most Big 12 schools at the position, and it's been awhile since Texas fans could say that. Instead, the drama is going to come below the surface, as four quarterbacks compete for the primary backup job. Swoopes probably won't get that job because he's somebody that the coaches would like to redshirt, but if, God forbid, the Ash went down with a long-term injury this fall, don't be shocked if he's somewhere in the mix. In McCoy, Texas has one of the best No. 2 quarterbacks in the league — Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt and TCU's Trevone Boykin are the only ones better — though the Longhorns finally have some players capable of challenging for that No. 2 spot as well.