February 27, 2012

A Can't-Miss Quarterback Update

Talked to a few key sources who have gotten to watch David Ash interact with the team during the past two months and also during spring practice so far. And they say Ash appears to have bounced back from last season with toughness and resolve.

There are some things to consider about Ash when you take in the whole picture about the guy likely to be Texas' starting quarterback in 2012.

First, he comes from a very religious family. There wasn't a bunch of latitude about being a kid in the Ash household. It was a strict, religious upbringing. Not much TV, for example. In fact, almost none. Not to be flippant, but there was a Little House On The Prairie element to it.

Ash's father is a middle school principal who has relatives who live near the Ash family in the Belton area. And some of David's closest friends were cousins who were home-schooled growing up.

So there was a HUGE adjustment period for Ash in terms of what he experienced in college when he got on campus in Austin and in a college locker room.

There are probably things he heard and experienced in the locker room last year that he'd never experienced before in terms of how teammates communicated and the stories he was hearing.

We had heard from sources inside the program that Ash was "awkward" at times in the locker room last year because he was sheltered socially growing up in a small town and doesn't use cuss words.

But on a football field, Ash is all about competition. And that's what coaches and teammates saw in the scrimmages during fall camp last year. That and arm talent that produces a highly catchable ball with a ton of zip.

Still, there was a huge adjustment period for Ash, who arrived at Texas wanting to be a great quarterback, fully aware of the legacy established by guys like Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

But in no way did Ash think he'd end up starting six games at Texas as a true freshman. No one did. Not Mack Brown. Not Bryan Harsin. No one. The five starts during the regular season were filled with frustration and low points (six INTs and zero TD passes).

But leading a come-from-behind, 21-10 victory over Cal in the Holiday Bowl, spurred by a 47-yard TD pass from Ash to Marquise Goodwin that put Texas up for good, 14-10, with 8:06 left in the third quarter, was huge for Ash.

Flash forward to now. The last two months have seen Ash reclaim his confidence in the wake of that Holiday Bowl victory, according to our sources. Ash is not going to be a real vocal guy in terms of leading an off-season program. He is introverted, again, in part, because of the way he was raised.

But the way he communicates is by his actions. He has doubled down on his studying the offense and likes a lot of communication between himself and Bryan Harsin. Harsin knows that and is trying to give Ash tons of feedback.

That's not to say Ash can't handle a tongue lashing. He can. He can take hard coaching. But Ash doesn't do well with the cold shoulder or silence.

Ash is a guy who wants the respect of his teammates based on his production. And that's what frustrated him most last year. My sources say Ash is bouncing around in practice because he feels like he has a much better grasp of the offense and how he can best use his time to get better in terms of film study.

Ash also now realizes being the quarterback at Texas is "a job." It's still a game, but the demands placed on the QB in Austin require an extraordinary effort, and Ash realizes this now and is approaching football accordingly.

He's not afraid or intimidated by the challenge. He knows just how frustrating 2011 was and is eager to grow from that experience, according to my sources.

When I asked if there was any fear Ash could hit some rough patches, face some adversity with turnovers again in 2012 and quickly lose confidence, my sources didn't think that would be the case.

"David Ash has a very strong resolve that has shown through the past two months," the source said. "That Holiday Bowl was really big for him. Big for him personally and he feels like he started to regain the trust of his teammates.

"He wants to be a great quarterback, and he wants to be a great teammate."

One of the sources I talked to said Ash has also been buoyed by the intensity and focus of the offensive line.

That group is going to end up being huge in Ash's development. Ash is confident in those guys and knows that as the O-line gets better, the better he gets as a passer and the better Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray get as running backs.

It's a long way to September. But that's probably a good thing right now. Ash is busy grasping everything he can about the QB position and what Bryan Harsin wants and then trying to show his teammates he can get it done on the field.

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