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Monday, March 11, 2013
Ash limits interceptions, shows maturity

By Carter Strickland

David Ash
David Ash is limiting interceptions in the spring, which might bode well in 2013.

AUSTIN, Texas -- David Ash has not thrown an interception in eight practices.

Now, in the past that would be cause to strike up the Showband of the Southwest, fire Smokey the cannon a couple times and even suffer through a few too many playings of  "Jump Around." (OK, strike that last one. No amount of success deserves such Pavlovian and repetitious jubilation. Note to DKR personnel: It works once and once only. Not after every play.)

Ah, but Ash is all about the future now. Good thing too because he is the future for Texas. The rising junior has finally stepped past all the quarterback controversy and into the starting role. And his future, brace yourself, is laced with expectations, expectations beyond just managing a game and not throwing an interception.

"To me, [not throwing an interception] is a minimum expectation," said co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite.

Let's pause here, let everyone pick up their jaws and contemplate Applewhite's words. For two years every discussion centered on Ash started and ended with an emphasis on him taking care of the ball. Ball security was the highest rung on Ash's educational ladder. The complexities of the game, leadership development, shoot even checking into the right plays were all superseded by a staff that, at every turn, would turn to the quarterback and say, "Just don't screw things up with an interception."

Now this is all not to say that it is OK for Ash to uncork a bad ball every now and then. It's not. And it wasn't when Ash threw 16 through his first two seasons. It's just that Texas and Ash have moved past that point of his maturation process. Now protecting the ball has become a given step in the process. A minimum standard. Not some lurking evil to be focused and harped on.

So, in turn, Texas, instead of guarding against what Ash might do, is embracing all the things he can do. In other words, the coaches have started to trust Ash. That's a commodity neither the quarterback nor coaches at Texas have traded in since 2009. And Ash is nowhere near Colt-McCoy, here-are-the Mercedes-keys, a-blank-check and my-daughter levels. But there is progress, real tangible progress and it started when Ash heard that he, unequivocally, was the No. 1 quarterback.

"It’s something that I have been working hard to get for a long time and to finally reach that is a real blessing," Ash said.

For it not to turn into a curse, Texas, and more important Ash and Applewhite, have to seize the opportunity each has afforded the other. That grip has an opportunity to be strengthened by a change in coaches -- Applewhite has replaced Bryan Harisn as quarterback coach -- and change in direction of the offense -- Texas is running a tempo/spread attack that is much closer to what Ash ran in high school. It's the relationsship between those two -- Ash and Appelwhite, as well as both of their relationships with the playbook -- that has been the focus of much of this spring's energy.

"I am still feeling him out and learning concepts about him pulling the trigger on this kind of stuff where he doesn’t hesitate at all," Applewhite said. "Then there are ones where maybe we are invested too much in this, because he doesn’t feel it as well."

"Coach Applewhite is teaching me where to go with the ball quicker which makes me more confident in my reads so I am able to get my feet and get the ball out quicker," Ash added.

So Applewhite is teaching Ash where to throw instead of telling him where not to throw it. Hmm. Quite a revolutionary concept. And one that has, to date, worked.