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Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Burnt Orange Breakdown: David Ash

By Carter Strickland

During the summer, HornsNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Texas roster -- excluding the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class -- in our Burnt Orange Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 14 David Ash
Junior quarterback

David Ash
For Texas to improve, quarterback David Ash must take the next step.
Expectations for 2013: Ash is coming a off a year in which he dramatically improved in every statistically category but was still pulled from one game (TCU) and didn’t start another (Kansas State) due to murky circumstances. (One coach said injury didn’t play a part in the decision to bench Ash. Another tiptoed around the topic.) So while there is solid evidence that Ash is progressing as he should be, there are also the two aforementioned games that could give those wanting to invest wholeheartedly in Ash some amount of pause. But Ash, for the first time in his career, has been given the 100-percent backing off Texas’ play-caller and quarterbacks coach Major Applewhite. Applewhite has been unwavering in his support of Ash and his command of the new spread offense. That offense has been tailored to take advantage of Ash’s strengths -- quarterback runs, shorter, quick passes as well as screens to the running backs. If Ash is successful in the offense it would not be a surprise to see him eclipse the 3,000-yard passing mark. He had 2,699 yards as a sophomore in an offense that executed an average of 68 plays per game. Texas would like to average at least 10 more plays a game in 2013. That means several more passing opportunities for Ash.

Best-case scenario in 2013: The fist benchmark Ash needs to hit is remaining the starter for all 12 or possibly 13 games. Texas does not have an adequate backup in Case McCoy and does not have experienced backup in Tyrone Swoopes. So the longhorns need for Ash to remain upright and productive throughout the season. Ash also has to flourish in the new offense. While Texas does have plenty of weapons in the backfield with Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and even Daje Johnson, it is not blessed with a deep receiving corps. That means Ash is going to have to have some patience with this group and understand that all routes are not going to be perfect at all times.

Ash ended last season with a 153.3 efficiency rating and, given that he probably will throw more passes in 2013, it would be considered a successful year for him if he hits near that mark again this year. Ash’s touchdown total could surpass 25 for the season. If he can keep his interceptions to fewer than 12 for the year and not throw them in bunches as he has had a tendency to do, Texas should be able to produce enough yards and points to protect the defense and hang with the rest of the Big 12 teams.

Worst-case scenario in 2013: If Ash is not the starter, Texas is in trouble. McCoy has proven to be capable in spots and in mop-up duty, but he does not have the physical skills to compete as a quarterback in the Big 12. Swoopes does posses those skills but he does not have the maturity. If Swoopes were to play, Texas would be facing an offensive year much like 2011 when the negatives far exceeded the positives.

The other worry is that Ash becomes overwhelmed with the new offense. Ash is at his best when he does not have to think too much and is able to get rid of the ball quickly. With four-wide receiver sets, Ash might be forced to do too much calculation in too short a period of time and as a result force the ball where it should not go. Applewhite will most likely set up a safety valve for Ash in most passing situations, but under pressure Ash has proven to be a quarterback who tries to do too much. And with the entire weight of the season and quite possibly Mack Brown’s tenure on his shoulders, there will be plenty of pressure on Ash to perform.

Future expectations: If Ash performs well this season and Texas wins 11 or more games, he will be the starter in 2014. Anything less and Texas could be looking at making the change to Swoopes.