Off the struggle bus

David Ash took a seat on a stool in front of the media after practice on Monday morning grinning ear-to-ear.

It was the first time he’d spoken to this crowd since after BYU handed Texas a 40-21 thrashing on Sept. 7.

Naturally, he was in a good mood.

“Did y’all miss me,” Ash asked prior to any questions being tossed his way.

There seemed to be an extra pep in Ash’s step and with good reason.

He’s cleared to play first and foremost and, as Charlie Strong said at Big 12 Media Days, he’ll begin fall camp – and likely the season – as the guy under center.

Ash, of course, missed 10 games last season with concussion-like symptoms and then fractured a bone in his left foot 11 practices into a 15-practice spring camp, which required surgery.

That particular foot injury was deflating to Ash, who appeared to start spring practice with a clean bill of health.

"I thought I was off the struggle bus. But I had to hop back on."

“I thought I was off the struggle bus,” he said. “But I had to hop back on.”

Not only has Ash jumped back off, he’s done so hitting the ground running. Only this season when he runs he’ll look to hit the ground more on his own instead of being taken to it.

That’s something Texas head coach Charlie Strong preached to him this summer.

“I put his tape together, and some of the things I have on his tape, he will get outside the pocket and take off with the ball and try to run over a defensive back or linebacker,” Strong said. “He would hit them front up, I would say you're a quarterback, get down, just slide underneath the guy, I need you to play the next play.

David Ash

“I don't need to see how tough you are, if you can outrun him, outrun him, but run out of bounds, or slide or something, just don't take the hit. Man, he took like three or four hits and I just stopped it and asked what he was trying to prove and he didn't have an answer for me.”

Ash, who was given a medical redshirt due to missing so many games in 2013, had a brief but concise answer on Monday.

“He’s told me I’ve got to get down,” Ash said. “And he’s right.

“You get pretty competitive out there and sometimes you are just trying to get that mojo going. But there are other ways than taking hits like that. I am going to start being smarter, doing a little baseball practice with my sliding.”

Witty, Ash is. He’s also one heck of a quarterback when healthy.

Ash, who could be mistaken for a linebacker at 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds, has won 12 of his last 16 starts and ranks eighth on the UT career-passing list (4,538). He helped Texas post a school-record 715 yards of total offense against New Mexico State last season before getting injured.

In 12 starts in 2012 he completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 2,699 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

Limit the turnovers and you’ve got the type of productivity Strong is hoping he gets out of Ash this season. He said it himself on Sunday; he wants Ash to manage the offense.

"I don’t need you to be a great player, just play within yourself."

“I don’t need you to be a great player, just play within yourself,” Strong said.

The competitor in Ash, though, might not make it that simple to settle for game manager.

While he said outside perception was “just a bunch of fluff” there were plenty of people saying his return wasn’t a good idea.

“A lot of people told me you need to give it up, you need to quit,” he said. “Honestly I never even thought about it. I just feel like this is where God put me. When I work hard and play hard I feel like it pleases him.”

Ash said the thought of not playing again may have crept in his mind but he was 100 percent in when the medical staff insured him early on that he would be back.

“Last year, I don’t have to go into all the details. It is what it is,” he said. “I’m better now. As you can see I’m sharp as a tack.”

That bit of humor drew a chuckle from the media, but his ability to stay on the field is no laughing matter.

The cupboard isn’t exactly bare behind him but it is vastly inexperienced at this level with sophomore Tyrone Swoopes having thrown only 13 passes (completing five) and heralded freshman Jerrod Heard having not even gone through a practice yet.

Ash sees the talent in them and thinks they’ll be fine whenever their time comes. But that time shouldn’t be anytime this season if he plays like he’s capable.

“My expectations are high,” he said. “I think we’ve got the talent to win games. We’ve been close to getting over that hump in the past. When you take that mind set that you work hard every day, one day you’ll wake up and say ‘Whoa, look what we did.’ If you are always looking in the future then you aren’t living in the now. If you aren’t living in the now then you aren’t taking care of business.”

Right now Ash is off the struggle bus and he intends on keeping it that way.

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