There has been a lot of movement among coaches and personnel for Texas this offseason, and the Longhorns’ starting quarterback David Ash has also undergone a transformation of his own, according to teammates and coaches.
“He has loosened up a lot,” receiver Mike Davis said after the annual Orange-White Scrimmage held Saturday night. “He’s got some swag now. And he’s been dancing more, too.”
Ash led the first team offense to a field goal on its opening drive before connecting with Davis on a 38-yard touchdown pass on the second drive of the first quarter.
“His confidence definitely rubs off on us when we see how he has changed,” running back Malcolm Brown said. “It’s a little more fun out there now.”
The junior quarterback didn’t bust out any of his dance moves but did finish the game 17-for-24, passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
“He got us into a lot of good plays and made a bunch of checks at the line of scrimmage that most people won’t see,” said Major Applewhite, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Ash did throw two interceptions in the second quarter, one on a failed shovel pass that was snatched up by linebacker Jordan Hicks. The second came just before the half when receiver Bryant Jackson was unable to haul in a pass over the middle of the field from Ash and freshman defensive back Adrian Colbert snagged the tipped ball.
“I just have to be more aware in those types of situations and eat the ball,” Ash said. “When you give the ball away you can’t score.”
Ash had a new receiver to throw to during the scrimmage as sophomore defensive back turned kick returner turned wide receiver Orlando “Duke” Thomas lined up with the offense and caught three passes for 27 yards. Thomas also returned two kickoffs for a total of 65 yards, all while playing cornerback on the defensive side of the ball.
“Duke is a great competitor and a guy we all want to utilize in the best possible way,” Applewhite said. “He’s a gym rat and he reminds us a lot of Quandre Diggs. He does a lot of things right and picks up things quickly, too.”
“We want the guys to be playing fast, tough and physical at this point in the spring,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “I think they did that tonight. It’s a lot like learning how to dance, you start slow and as the music speeds up it gets tougher but you get used to it.”
The Texas defense forced three total turnovers with backup quarterback Case McCoy also throwing an interception on a deep ball intended for receiver John Harris. The pass was intercepted by Sheroid Evans, who ran the ball back 60 yards to the 2-yard line.
Johnathan Gray would punch the ball into the end zone from the two for his only touchdown on the night. Gray finished with six carries for a game-high 45 yards. Harris led all receivers with 73 receiving yards, but Davis was the most productive, nabbing four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.
“I think the offense managed really well,” head coach Mack Brown said. “It will get faster and more efficient. The guys will have to be in the best shape they have ever been in order to play in this new style.”