David Ash's career seemed like it had another chapter in it after drinking from a fire hose his first 12 games at Texas (56.3 percent completion; 3 TDs; 8 INTs) and then settling into a groove the next 15 games (65.7 percent completion; 27 TDs; 10 INTs).
Ash was 13-4 in his last 17 starts, spanning the end of the 2011 season (Holiday Bowl victory over Cal) through the North Texas game this season. He truly loved the game and walking away to preserve his long-term health wasn't easy. But it was necessary.
A small-town boy, raised in a very conservative household in Academy, Texas, without television, Ash struggled to connect with his teammates at times and wasn't a natural leader. But he could throw the football and seemed poised to take the next step as a QB when his third straight game with concussion symptoms ended his career.
There were always ups and downs with Ash.
Ash got off to a great start in the 2012 season, throwing 11 TD passes with 1 INT while completing 77.5 percent of his passes as Texas got off to a 4-1 start.
That start in 2012 included road victories at Ole Miss and Oklahoma State (including a dramatic, fourth-and-8 conversion on UT's game-winning drive in Stillwater); there was a 56-50 victory over Baylor in Austin in 2012 in which Ash began a long-distance connection with WR Mike Davis (6 catches, 148 yards, 1 TD) that would last all season; as well as a come-from-behind Alamo Bowl victory over Oregon State in 2012.
Being thrown into the fire as a freshman in 2011, going 3-3 as a starter while sharing QB duties most of the season with Case McCoy; getting benched at Kansas in 2012 after going 8 of 16 passing with 2 INTs before Case McCoy led the team to a last-second, 21-17 victory; getting benched after going 10 of 21 passing with 2 INTs in a 20-13 loss at home to TCU on Thanksgiving 2012.
The ups are supposed to come after the downs, and with Ash, the downs came before and after the ups - namely suffering concussion symptoms after the last three games he played in - at BYU in 2013; vs Kansas State in 2013 (causing him to miss the final 10 games of the 2013 season) followed by the North Texas game this season.
We'll never know just how good Ash could have been.
But Charlie Strong said Wednesday Ash will remain involved with the team in meetings and at practice to help bring along sophomore QB Tyrone Swoopes.
With Jackson out the rest of the year because of season-ending lisfranc surgery, Texas loses some heart-and-soul leadership in addition to the strongest member of the defense and a big part of UT's run defense.
Now, it's time for DT Hassan Ridgeway to grow up and for Paul Boyette to keep coming on. Ridgeway already has 3 sacks and a QB hurry this season to go with 11 total tackles. Ridgeway is capable of stepping in for Jackson.
But the depth at DT takes a huge blow with Jackson gone. If Boyette can step up, it might mean being able to preserve the redshirt seasons of freshmen DTs Poona Ford and Chris Nelson. If Ridgeway and Boyette can't get it done along with junior DT Malcom Brown, coaches may be forced to put Ford and Nelson on the field.
Very disappointing ending to his senior year for Jackson, who had 12 tackles, a QB hurry and a fumble recovery through the first three games. Jackson loves his teammates and always gave them everything he had on the field.
There are new NCAA medical hardship guidelines that have changed for the 2014 season. To qualify, you have to suffer any season-ending injury in the first two games of the year (or in no more than 20 percent of the scheduled contests). Under that criteria, Jackson wouldn't qualify for a medical redshirt.
In the past, to qualify for a medical hardship waiver, a season-ending injury had to happen in the first three games of the season (or in no more than 30 percent of the scheduled contests).