Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from them. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 14 David Ash
Recruitment rewind: Ash committed to Texas at a 2010 junior day and never looked back. His other offers at the time were TCU and Houston, and Texas A&M showed interest. The four-star from Belton, Texas, was the nation’s No. 11 quarterback in his class and threw for 7,944 yards and 80 TDs (plus 22 rushing TDs), setting 13 schools records. He enrolled early in the spring of 2011.
Career so far: How can we sum this up in 100 words? Ash was thrust into the lineup as a true freshman, starting six games after Texas lost Garrett Gilbert. He beat out Case McCoy for the starting job in 2012 and threw for 2,699 yards and 19 TDs as a sophomore. Ash was poised to take on a leadership role last season, but suffered a concussion against BYU that would end up sidelining him for 10 games. He returned this spring but went down again, this time with a foot fracture. Ash has a 15-7 career record as a starter.
Best-case scenario for 2014: How’s this for an optimistic ceiling? Ash stays healthy for all 13 games and earns second-team All-Big 12 honors, leading Texas to a 9- or 10-win season and a shot at the conference title. Texas fans would take that in a heartbeat. Shawn Watson can bring out the best in him and help tailor an offense to Ash’s needs. He’s a fourth-year player who’s had a few great performances (rewatch this one, this one and/or this one if you’ve forgotten) and can silence a lot of critics this fall. The run game will provide some big help and guys rally around Ash when he gets on a good roll.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Texas fans worry Ash could be one hit away from ending his career. Obviously, that is the greatest fear. But a more realistic worst-case outcome for Ash and for Texas in 2014 would be if Ash played with frustrating inconsistency and lost his job to freshman Jerrod Heard before season’s end. If he starts slow, you’ll hear a lot of chatter about how long the leash is for Ash before Charlie Strong and the staff goes in a different direction. Texas can’t afford to get stuck in the limbo of not knowing whether to stick with Ash or move on.
Future expectations: Ash’s biggest supporters in Belton have always believed he’ll develop into an NFL-caliber quarterback, and physically all the tools are there. Assuming he will be a smarter decision-maker in his fourth year than he was as a sophomore, Ash could be poised for that big jump he should’ve made in 2013. There a bunch of variables in play here -- new head coach, third OC in three years, new scheme -- but first and foremost he has to heal up and stay on the field.