"David did not practice last night," said Texas coach Mack Brown on Monday. "We practiced with Tyrone [Swoopes]. It would be Case [McCoy] as the starter and Tyrone would come on last because he missed so much of preseason camp."
And according to receiver Jaxon Shipley on Tuesday, Ash still hadn't practiced with the team.
"Obviously we're not happy that David is out this week, but we've got Case and Case has done a great job of coming in over the years and making plays," Shipley said. "We're getting our timing down with Case, so we're excited about the way practice went today, and we're excited about tomorrow to see if we can get better."
Ash will be evaluated again on Wednesday to decide if he can practice, but with only a few practices left, he's working against a ticking clock. If Ash can't go, it leaves Texas in a tough spot moving forward.
True, McCoy does give Texas a more experienced backup than most teams have sitting around. In 2011, as both he and Ash shared the starting spot, McCoy led Texas to three road wins over bowl bound teams in UCLA, Iowa State and Texas A&M. And last year, McCoy showed some ability in a relief role, rallying the Longhorns to a win at Kansas and nearly doing the same against TCU on Thanksgiving.
In his last two starts, McCoy has flashed both his potential and the primary reason he's struggled to find a permanent home in the starting lineup. At Baylor in 2011, McCoy completed 24-of-39 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns. And at Kansas State in 2012, McCoy hit on 26-of-34 passes for 314 yards and two scores. That's a 68.5 completion percentage and an average of 335 yards per game.
But McCoy also threw four interceptions against Baylor and two against Kansas State, and included in those six picks were a few absolute momentum-turners. Not coincidentally, Texas lost both games.
Taking things a step further, McCoy spent his summer on a mission trip to Peru, meaning that he didn't work out with the team over a 10-week period. But Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said he didn't think McCoy suffered any drop-off after missing those summer workouts.
"He's a very sharp coach's kid," Applewhite said. "After one time he's kind of got it mentality. The thing he's got to do, we talked about this, he did a better job of it in the fall, is you can't get bored. When you play for that long, take that many snaps, sometimes you can get bored and you try to force the ball in here and there. He's gotten more mature doing that. He has to do that Saturday."
Of course, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound elephant in the room is Tyrone Swoopes. Texas originally planned to get the true freshman action earlier this season, but Swoopes suffered from a nagging hamstring injury in camp.
Swoopes has healed from that injury, and is taking the No. 2 reps in practice after McCoy. And it bears noticing that if Ash isn't able to play, the freshman is only one hit away from finding himself on the field in a big game.
"He's going to have to get a lot of reps this week," Applewhite said. "About a third of the way through camp, his hamstring injury became a problem and limited his reps. We had to give Jalen Overstreet some time there. With three tailbacks, you have to move Jalen back to tailback because you have to have two or three or four of those at least through a season.
"Tyrone came back but missed the quality practices and quality reps [earlier this fall]," Applewhite said. "We have to give him a lot this week."
But Applewhite said Swoopes playing would be more a worst-case scenario.
"I've got a tremendous amount of confidence in Case and his team has a tremendous amount of confidence in him," Applewhite said. "We'd like to play Case. We'd like to redshirt Tyrone Swoopes. Obviously, injuries will dictate that."
Injuries may already dictate who Texas starts on Saturday. And if it's not David Ash, Texas has two options to turn to, an experienced backup and a true freshman with marked potential but a raw passing game.
But given how well Ash played last year against Ole Miss, completing 19-of-23 throws for 326 yards and four touchdowns, the best-case scenario would be for Ash to meet the medical staff's guidelines to practice, and later play on Saturday.