starting quarterback

For the first time in program history, the Longhorns have three losses on their record heading into their annual rivalry game with Oklahoma.

At 2-3, Texas has been historically bad this season, and, like anytime a team struggles, much of the blame for its struggles has fallen on the starting quarterback.

With David Ash retiring from football after just one start in 2014, Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes became that guy for the Longhorns. And, while the 6’4”, 243-pound gunslinger has shown promise at times, his 1-3 record as a starter is certainly cause for concern at this point.

Given Swoopes’ rocky start to the season, some have questioned why the Texas coaching staff has yet to even consider giving highly touted freshman Jerrod Heard some reps. But, almost half-way through a season that has been defined by uncertainty for the Longhorns, one thing is for sure: Swoopes is the starter, and that won’t change anytime soon.

“I know exactly where Jerrod [Heard] is at and where [Swoopes] is,” said Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense and quarterbacks, after Saturday’s blowout loss to Baylor. “And Ty [Swoopes] is our starting quarterback.”

It even appears as though the coaching staff would prefer to use third-stringer sophomore Logan Vinklarek, a preferred walk-on, if possible. Watson said, if Swoopes were to have to miss a few plays, Vinklarek, who transferred to Texas after serving as the backup at Blinn College last season, would be called upon in his place.

While it’s understandable that Heard’s coaches want to protect his redshirt if possible, the way in which the staff talks about his progress suggests that saving his eligibility isn’t only reason to keep him on the sidelines.

In August, Watson described the playbook as somewhat of a foreign tongue to Heard, who enrolled at Texas in early June.

“Jerrod [Heard] is in China right now,” Watson said at the time “He’s still learning the language.”

Heard has obviously developed in the couple months since Watson made that statement, but, based on what head coach Charlie Strong said this week, it appears he sill isn’t on the coaches’ radar at this point.

“I don’t know if it’s fair to throw [Heard] in there right now,” Strong said. “We just haven’t had a chance yet to even talk about even putting him in the picture yet.”

As a true freshman, Heard obviously hasn’t had a chance to prove himself at the college level, but, considering his high school dominance, it’s hard to believe he isn’t at least worth a look.

At Guyer High School in Denton, the 6-foot-2, 199-pound dual-threat quarterback accumulated more than 6,500 passing yards and 67 passing touchdowns while rushing for nearly 5,000 yards and 67 more scores in three years as the starter. More importantly, Heard led his Wildcats to back-to-back Class 4A Division 1 State Championships in 2012 and 2013.

Those numbers and Heard’s winning pedigree are what have so many confused by the coaches’ comments about his progress.

It is well known that the move from the comforts of high school to the bright lights of college, especially at a pressure cooker like Texas, can be a difficult — see Garrett Gilbert.

Perhaps Heard is struggling with that transition, or maybe he just hasn’t been able to learn the new playbook. No matter the reason, it appears Tyrone Swoopes isn’t the only thing keeping Heard from trading in his headset for a helmet on Saturdays. As a result, anxious fans are forced to play the waiting game; a game they’d better get used to.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will start Saturday against BYU in place of junior quarterback David Ash, who is out with concussion symptoms. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Mere hours after learning their starting quarterback won’t play against BYU this weekend, head coach Charlie Strong and his players faced the media, and one thing was clear: Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will not be the only person relied upon to fill the void left by junior quarterbacks David Ash’s absence.

Swoopes will take the reins at quarterback for Texas on Saturday, but the entire team has stressed the importance of each player stepping up to make up for the loss.

“Tyrone [Swoopes] is the starter, but you have to look at it as it’s not all about just one position,” Strong said. “You get the defense to play well and play like we played the other night, and you have two good running backs, the offensive line protects well and then cover it up — you can function. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”

While teams would often focus on hyping up the backup quarterback and preparing him for the added pressure that comes with starting, the Longhorns appear to be diverting attention away from Swoopes and stressing the importance of each position group adding a little bit more to the plays.

“I think that we have a lot of leaders on every position,” senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson said. “I feel like, at the University of Texas, you have to practice like you’re a starter because you never know when your number is going to get called at any given time.”

Despite limited playing time last season, the Longhorns are confident in Swoopes’ ability to execute on the field. But it is Ash’s leadership that will be most difficult to replicate.

With Ash and senior center Dominic Espinosa out, it will be up to Texas’ other veteran players to lead the offense.

“When you have two great leaders go down, some of the guys have to step up even a little bit more,” senior running back Malcolm Brown said. “It’s nothing completely different that we are going to do, but [we] just got to be a little bit more vocal. Those guys that are stepping in for them — as a team — we have to keep those guys up.”

Texas will need to continue to support Swoopes and avoid putting him, or freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, in a situation where they are forced to play beyond their means against the Cougars.

“[Swoopes and Heard] — they have got a long week to get ready,” senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “I know they are going to give their all, and we just have to rally around those guys and be ready to go.” 

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones led the Sooners to a 51-48 win in overtime against rival Oklahoma State last Saturday. But, the Sooners still need help from other schools to make a BCS bowl. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

1. Oklahoma State University

The Cowboys home schedule includes Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor and Kansas State, with their only road challenge coming in Austin against the Longhorns. While the Pokes bounced between inexperienced signal-callers last year, the quarterback position figures to be a strength this year. That, combined with the usual slew of offensive threats and seven returning starters on defense, will make OSU a tough team to beat.

2. Texas

With 19 returning starters and the most experienced starting quarterback in the Big 12, Texas is, without a doubt, the strongest team in the conference on paper. But football isn’t played on paper and, as Longhorns Nation has seen over the past few years, a high preseason ranking and plenty of preseason hype doesn’t always translate into success on the field. However, youth and inexperience are no longer a factor in Austin, so expect big things from Mack Brown and his team this year.

3. Oklahoma

Bob Stoops and his staff surprisingly picked Trevor Knight over Blake Bell as the Sooners’ starting quarterback this year. There will be growing pains for the redshirt freshman, but, according to his teammates, Knight’s dual-threat ability makes him a great fit in Oklahoma’s new read-option offense. And if the offense can be great, an average defense should be enough for the Sooners to contend. Expect OU to be near the top of the Big 12 standings once again in 2013.

4. TCU

The Horned Frogs are expected to have the best defense in the Big 12, with nine starters returning from last year’s stingy squad. But TCU’s tough schedule begins with a neutral-site matchup against SEC powerhouse LSU. If the Horned Frogs survive that test and get consistent play from senior quarterback Casey Pachall this season, they could finish at the top of the Big 12.

5. Baylor

Baylor finished last season as the hottest team in the conference and once again features a high-powered offense, this year led by junior quarterback Bryce Petty. It will come down to their defense. Baylor returns seven starters from last year’s unit that was second in the Big 12 with 18 interceptions, including a conference-high three returned for touchdowns. If Baylor survives a late-season stretch that includes OSU, Texas, TCU and Oklahoma, they could win the conference.

6. Kansas State

The departure of Collin Klein and only two returning starters on defense would lead many to believe the Wildcats are destined for failure in 2013. Not so fast. A strong offensive line and some great playmakers on offense should keep K-State in contention. And with Bill Snyder returning for a 22nd season in Manhattan, the Wildcats will be well coached.

7. Texas Tech

33-year old Kliff Kingsbury’s success as a first-year head coach will depend on his quarterback. With Seth Doege out, sophomore Michael Brewer is set to take the reigns in 2013. But the Red Raiders may be forced to open the season with a true freshman behind center if Brewer’s back problems keep im on the sideline. If Texas Tech isn’t able to establish consistency at the quarterback position, it could be a long year.

8. West Virginia

After losing its three biggest offensive threats, Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, to the NFL this offseason, it will be a rebuilding year for the Mountaineers. The defense will be improved and the offense will rely on Houston transfer Charles Sims to carry the load on the ground. 

9. Iowa State

The inability to establish strong quarterback play and light up the scoreboard has defined Paul Rhoads’ tenure at Iowa State. Despite a poor 3-6 record against conference opponents last year, the Cyclones gave up a mere 248 points against Big 12 teams, trailing only Kansas State and Oklahoma. If sophomore Sam Richardson can’t turn things around, Iowa State will find itself at the bottom of the Big 12 again.

10. Kansas

Jayhawks head coach Charlie Weis said last month that Kansas didn’t deserve to be placed anywhere better than last. While fans in Lawrence shouldn’t expect much from their team this year, the Jayhawks are sure to improve on last year’s dismal 1-11 record. Led by junior quarterback Jake Heaps, a BYU transfer, Kansas will look to work its way out of the Big 12 cellar in 2013.

The Longhorns enter 2013 as one of the most experienced teams in the FBS — the opposite of the past two seasons in which Texas was made up of mostly freshman and sophomores — with 19 returning starters and a head coach with 16 years of coaching experience in Austin. Every game is imperative in college football, but these four matchups for Texas will most determine the direction of its season.

 

Kansas State
Saturday, Sept. 21
Austin, Texas

Texas has struggled against Kansas State in the last decade. The Longhorns have lost their last five meetings with the Wildcats, dating back to 2006. Whether Bill Snyder is a mad genius, or the Wildcats just have better personnel, Mack Brown hasn’t pieced together a way to beat the Wildcats in a decade. 

Kansas State is entering an adjustment period as it rebounds from losing its Heisman Trophy finalist, quarterback Collin Klein. Kansas State returns only 10 starters, only three of whom are on defense. This could cause Kansas State to be shaky at times early in the season, but the Wildcats are too dangerous to overlook, as Snyder-led teams thrive as underachievers. In 2011, Kansas State was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 and it finished second. Last season, it was expected to finish sixth and it finished first. The Longhorns open Big 12 play with the Wildcats, and how they perform will set the tone for the rest of the conference schedule.

 

Oklahoma
Saturday, Oct. 12
Dallas, Texas

Texas has lost its last three games to Oklahoma in embarrassing fashion, losing by a combined score of 146-58.

But the Sooners lost Landry Jones, their starting quarterback from last season, to the NFL. Jones had led the Sooners to three straight years of at least a share of the Big 12 title. The team recently named Trevor Knight, a redshirt freshman, the starting quarterback over sophomore Blake Bell, who was a strongly favored choice coming out of last season. Knight is a mobile quarterback and impressed many in fall camp. 

While a loss to Oklahoma for a fourth-straight year wouldn’t be the end of Texas’ season, it would be a huge blow and could have large implications for the future of Mack Brown’s tenure in Austin. The Red River Rivalry game is more than a fan favorite; it determines the fortunes of both teams every season.

 

Oklahoma State
Saturday, Nov. 16
Austin, Texas

There are two early-season favorites to win the Big 12: Texas and Oklahoma State — the Oklahoma team from Stillwater, not Norman. Before 2010, Mack Brown was 12-0 at Texas against Oklahoma State. However, that changed when the duo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon came together. The Cowboys blew out the Longhorns by 17 points in 2010, and won again in 2011. Even with that dynamic duo moved on to the NFL, Mike Gundy’s squad remains one of the Big 12’s best. The Cowboys return a talented roster, which includes a wide array of weapons on the outside for whatever high-caliber starting QB the Cowboys select. The team’s date in Austin will not be easy for Texas, and Oklahoma State is no longer a ‘W’ on the schedule.

 

Baylor
Saturday, Dec. 7
Waco, Texas

Art Briles and his Bears have been exceeding expectations the past few seasons, and they have a good chance to beat Texas again at the end of the season. If Texas performs to its expectations, winning every contest, Baylor would have a chance to ruin the Longhorns’ perfect season and spoil their chance for a national championship spot. Even if that scenario fails to come to fruition, this game could still help determine the Big 12 champion.

The Bears have given Texas trouble over the past three years. This will be the third year the Bears feature a new starting quarterback; this time, it’s junior Bryce Petty under center. A new quarterback shouldn’t be an issue for the Bears’ pass-happy offense, as they will put up points either way. Texas could have a lot on the line when it travels to Waco and don’t expect the Bears to wave the Longhorns on through.

Texas head coach Mack Brown talks to seniors Adrian Phillips and Jackson Jeffcoat at the Big 12 Media Days last week.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

DALLAS — Some changes are coming to the 40 Acres this fall as the Longhorns enter fall workouts. 

Last week’s Big 12 Media Days in Dallas highlighted several important changes that fans would see in the upcoming football season. Head coach Mack Brown was enthusiastic about junior David Ash’s cemented role as the starting quarterback and the Longhorns’ new up-tempo offense.

In addition, the Longhorns will have to get used to a new controversial rule regarding targeting.

For the first time in his career, Ash won’t be entering fall workouts in the middle of a quarterback controversy. 

“We’re so excited to have David with experience, with maturity,” Brown said. “We think we’ve got better players around him now. We should be better in the offensive line. He is much more confident.” 

Ash has been in a battle with teammate Case McCoy for the starting spot ever since he stepped on campus. However, after his performance in last year’s Alamo Bowl, the team has not questioned his ability to lead. 

“He’s doing an outstanding job,” said senior offensive guard Trey Hopkins. “He’s more comfortable as a leader. He’s doing a job just communicating with each and every player. The respect was building after that Oregon State game.” 

Even though he has no current competition, Ash is still in the media spotlight and will enter the season with a target on his back. Expectations of championships surround him. 

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t want to be in a place where 9-4 is a good season,” Ash said. “That’s not what I came to Texas for. I came to Texas to win a national championship.”

Ash is one of two returning quarterbacks that have significant experience starting in the Big 12. Casey Pachall is returning for TCU after sitting out most of the 2012 season after being arrested for driving under the influence. 

 

Up-tempo offense expected to help both sides of the ball

The Longhorns will debut their new up-tempo offense when they take the field at the end of August, a move coaches and players praised at the Big 12 Media Days last week. Texas is following in the footsteps of a host of other Division I schools, such as Ohio State and UCLA, who have utilized these faster offenses in past seasons. The faster pace is expected to increase the number of plays in a game from 60-70 to around 80-90, according to Brown.

“I think that changing to the up-tempo will help our defense more than our offense,” Brown said. “Nobody was substituting and the ball was being snapped so quickly.

... It was a real disadvantage to our defense that they didn’t get to see tempo at any time during practice."

Players on both sides of the ball are in favor of this new style of offense.

The new up-tempo offense employs the same play schemes but features shorter intervals between plays. There is less time to substitute players or decide on calls. 

“It’s been an adjustment,” Ash said. “I’m really glad that’s the direction we’re going. It’s going to benefit us a lot.” 

The Longhorn defense has already been given a look at the up-tempo offense in practice in order to prepare them for the upcoming
season. Brown said the defense struggled in past games when facing up-tempo offenses without the proper preparation. 

“Almost every team in the Big 12 does the tempo offenses,” senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “It helps us analyze offenses quickly, get our reads before the snap.”

SC head coach Lane Kiffin has exhibited concern with player safety and the referee’s ability to officiate a faster game. Conferences are considering an extra official to rectify this. The Big 12 is experimenting with an eighth official this season whose primary job is to retrieve the ball and set it for play.

 

Controversial rule change won’t affect how Longhorns approach the game

The NCAA and Big 12 are introducing several rule changes this fall, including a new controversial rule regarding targeting. Targeting is when a player intentionally hits an opponent with the top of his helmet in the opponent’s head or neck region. This foul results in a 15-yard penalty and the ejection of the player. However, the ejection is automatically reviewed by the officials in the booth and the disqualification, but not the foul, can be overturned if it is clear that the player did not intentionally target his opponent. 

If a player is ejected, he must sit out the remainder of the game. If the foul was committed in the second half of the game, he is required to sit out the first half of the team’s next game.

Officials have instructed coaches to rework the way they teach tackling in preparation for the upcoming season. The rule was changed in order to increase player safety.

“The culture of the game has to change relative to how players have to act,” said Walt Anderson, Big 12 head of officiating. “You’ve got to lower your strike zone ... If your target zone is high, you’re going to be suspect.”

Despite this new rule, players at Texas aren’t worried about it. They said that they need to just continue playing and working with integrity. 

“It doesn’t really affect the way you have to practice for hitting,” Jeffcoat said. “When you’re taught to hit, you’re not taught to lead with your head and hit somebody in their head, so sometimes it just happens.“

TCU's Casey Pachall out of rehab, on road to redemption

DALLAS – This time last year, Casey Pachall was coming off a record-setting sophomore season in his first year as TCU’s starting quarterback and preparing for a promising junior year.

He and Trevone Boykin combined to complete all 17 of the Horned Frogs’ in a 56-0 blowout of Grambling State – an FBS record for most completions without an incompletion – while Gary Patterson became the program’s all-time winningest coach.

Pachall threw for more than 300 yards in each of the next two games and helped TCU improve to 4-0 in their first year as a member of the Big 12 following a 24-16 win over SMU.

The fall from grace was quick and unforgiving.

Pachall de-enrolled from the school and entered a rehab facility after being suspended by Patterson. Boykin, who had began working out with the team’s running backs the previous week, was back under center. The Horned Frogs fell to Iowa State, 37-24, in their Big 12 home opener the next weekend, ending their FBS-best 12-game winning streak.

“It was a hard decision,” Patterson said. “I knew it was going to affect our wins and losses. You had to take a guy we moved to running back and move him back to quarterback. But as far as what we’re doing for a young man’s life, I think it was an easy decision.”

Boykin, a redshirt freshman in 2012, improved as the season progressed, but TCU finished 7-6, its worst season in eight years. Patterson has yet to name a starting quarterback for this year, but Pachall is widely expected to beat out Boykin for the job. His teammates spoke to the changes they’ve seen in Pachall since his return.

“I lived with him,” senior running back Waymon James said. “When he was down with rehab, he was miserable. He couldn’t stand it. He was miserable every day. The only people he talked to was his mom, family and his girlfriend. He couldn’t take it anymore. You could tell on his face. He was excited to get back out there. He’s growing up. He’s maturing. He’s ready to take us to a championship.”

Pachall, who was picked by the media as the preseason All-Big 12 quarterback, was not among the four players representing TCU at Big 12 Media Days on Monday. This was at his request, according to his head coach.

“A lot of people asked me why I didn’t bring him to media days,” Patterson said. “Number one, we don’t know who our starting quarterback is. Two, it doesn’t have anything to do with what my intentions were… I’m letting him do his thing, keeping the pressure off him.”

Patterson could have easily dismissed Pachall, a repeat offender, from his team. But he gave him time away from the squad, left the door open for him to return, and welcomed him back with open arms. Time will tell if the move will pay off.

“He’s not just about winning. He’s about changing lives,” safety Sam Carter said. “He understands football is temporary. He understands we’re young. We’re 19 to 23 and we’re going to make mistakes. He was young before. Sometimes people need a second and third chance. We all make mistakes. Football is important but it’s about helping him become a better person.”

Junior quarterback David Ash leads a newly redesigned Texas offense which returns nine starters from its 9-4 season a year ago. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Texas has in its burnt orange hands a new season, an up-tempo offense, a newly promoted co-offensive coordinator, a third-year starting quarterback and a bevy of receivers ready to step up.

Head coach Mack Brown has many ingredients on hand for a strong season. But Longhorns fans have been jostling for one of those for the past three years. 

While it was the defense that underwhelmed last season, Texas’ offense still left fans up in arms. Why couldn’t it execute the way it had in the Colt McCoy days?  Why weren’t more points up on the board? Where were the thrilling passes down the field that sent the crowd to its feet? The running game? 

For starting quarterback David Ash, the pressure stands much taller than his lean 6-foot-3 frame. The rising junior now has plenty of valuable experience under his belt, and with that experience comes expectations of more polished play. For the offense to produce results, Ash will have to be consistent in every game and claim a leadership role. 

Ash’s status as the team’s starting quarterback is much stronger than it was last season. Case McCoy currently holds the backup spot, but Jalen Overstreet, Connor Brewer and early enrollee Tyrone Swoopes will provide additional support.  

“It is going to be my job, and everyone on this team’s job, to hold everybody accountable throughout these next three or four months of the summer and the offseason,” Ash said. “We’ve got to take a hold of this team and make it something special for next year.” 

Brown’s up-tempo offense has largely been placed under the control of co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Major Applewhite. The offensive plan involves quicker snaps, a no-huddle approach and will require speed from players in order to be effective.    

An injury and a pair of suspensions have made room for a batch of ready receivers this spring. Rising sophomore Cayleb Jones, who served as a reserve last season, was charged with aggravated assault in March and is suspended, along with Kendall Sanders, who was arrested for DWI earlier this month, from the team for the time being. Meanwhile, junior Jaxon Shipley, who was often Ash’s go-to guy in 2012, is coping with a strained hamstring and did not play in the spring game. Those absences leave room for Bryant Jackson, John Harris and Marcus Johnson to develop their skills in the offseason. Senior Mike Davis, who started nearly every game last year, will work to exert his influence for a memorable last season. 

“A receiver in the spread offense is really fun, because the ball will be spread around and allows you to put up a lot of points,” Davis said. 

The running back position has a slew of returners — including Johnathan Gray, who has sparkling potential but often failed to execute last season. The sophomore will have more opportunities to run the ball and needs to step up in his second season with the Longhorns. Then there’s Malcolm Brown, who played in eight games last season but was plagued by injury. Add junior Joe Bergeron, and sophomore Daje Johnson to the mix and you’ve got a group of backs that Mack Brown says are being used interchangeably in the spring. 

“I’m seeing us like we were with Colt [McCoy}, and at the same time, running the ball better,” Brown said. “I’m really excited about our offense. I think it’ll be the best offense since Colt left.”

Freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes showed his mobility in the annual Orange-White game and is quickly becoming a viable backup option behind veteran Case McCoy and incumbent starter David Ash

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

He went 1-9 as a starting quarterback last year. He completed less than half of his passes against 2A defenses as a senior. And he may not even play this year.

But Tyrone Swoopes is the future of Texas football.

The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder went 2-for-2 with 11 yards while running for 26 yards on four carries in the Longhorns’ Orange-White Scrimmage two weekends ago.

On the surface, those aren’t impressive numbers. But if you saw the way Swoopes dodged multiple defenders on his way to gaining those 26 rushing yards, you’d understand why he’s the front-runner to be Texas’ third-string quarterback this year.

“Tyrone is ahead of the other two,” head coach Mack Brown said of Swoopes. “He can run. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s in great shape and he’s throwing the ball well. He just needs to get more reps.”

After his junior year at Whitewright, Swoopes was among the hottest names in high school football and rated as a five-star prospect by most recruiting services. But he struggled as a senior and was even reclassified as an “athlete” instead of a quarterback by ESPN.

Swoopes graduated from Whitewright a semester early so he could enroll and practice at Texas this spring. Since then, he’s already passed up Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet, both of whom redshirted last year, for the third-string quarterback spot behind David Ash and Case McCoy.

“He’s a big guy,” junior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “He’s learning the offense really fast. He makes great plays. And with a guy like that who can scramble and throw the ball, it’s tough to go up against him.”

For the first time in his career, Ash is the clear-cut starting quarterback coming out of spring practice. All eyes are on him as everyone wonders whether he can turn that potential into production and, more importantly, wins this season.

As athletic and polished as Ash is, however, he isn’t the quarterback on the roster with the most potential. That title goes to Swoopes.

McCoy is a senior, and with Ash being a junior, Swoopes could be a three-year starter if he redshirts this upcoming season. That’s assuming he stays ahead of Brewer and Overstreet, along with Class of 2014 commit Jerrod Heard.

If Swoopes’ performance in this year’s spring game is any indication, he could be the quarterback that leads Texas to its next national title.

Junior quarterback David Ash prepares to pass during Texas’ Orange-White Scrimmage on Saturday. He went 17-for-25 with 162 yards, two touchdowns -- one to senior Mike Davis and the other to sophomore Kendall Sanders -- and two interceptions. 

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

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.”

Defensively, Texas ran only four different looks and rotated a lot of new players while players like Jackson Jeffcoat and Demarco Cobbs continue to rehabilitate from injuries. 

“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.”

David Ash threw three interceptions in the first half of last Thursday’s 20-13 loss to TCU. He exited the game early in the fourth quarter with a rib injury. Now, he has lost his starting job to backup Case McCoy, who will start this weekend against Kansas State.

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

Mack Brown, however reluctantly, did the right thing. He made Case McCoy his starting quarterback.

The Longhorns’ longtime head football coach would not make it clear if David Ash was Texas’ quarterback of the future, despite consistently making it clear Case McCoy isn’t.

When Ash fractured his left, non-throwing wrist against Oklahoma, he maintained his spot atop the Longhorns depth chart. After marching Texas into the end zone twice in a comeback win over Kansas, McCoy had still not done enough to earn the starting quarterback job.

But with Ash listed as questionable with a rib injury he suffered during Texas’ 20-13 loss to TCU on Thursday, McCoy is finally the man under center for the Longhorns’ regular season finale against Kansas State.

“Case comes in with a little spark,” junior guard Mason Walters said. “He’s always good at getting the guys riled up, saying, ‘I know they’re not naming me the starter, but I can come in here and play with y’all.’ That gets us all fired up and ready to go. He is a bit more fiery [than Ash].”

McCoy is a more vocal leader than Ash. That much is obvious. But it takes more than a spark to win a starting quarterback job — and McCoy’s actions on the field have spoken louder than any words he could say in a huddle.

He’s been a more efficient passer than Ash this season and Texas’ offense is more productive when he’s under center. Over their last six games, the Longhorns have scored 38 points in 10 drives that McCoy has led while scoring 138 points in 65 drives that Ash has been the quarterback for.

“He always brings confidence to us and we’re looking forward to him starting this week,” freshman running back Johnathan Gray said. “He brings motivation. He’s an outgoing guy who’s always fired up and ready to do what the coaches ask of him.”

Ash has committed seven turnovers, two of them in the game against TCU, during that stretch, while McCoy has committed only one, although it was costly — a game-sealing interception at the end of that loss to the Horned Frogs.

Yet Brown would not say who would be his starting quarterback this week if Ash had been healthy.

“We don’t get into if’s and what’s,” Brown said. “It wasn’t a decision [based on performance] so we didn’t have to think about it. We’re trying to figure out what to do with what we’ve got.”

Since he’s unwilling to take the redshirt off either of his two freshman quarterbacks, Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet, what he’s got is a punter for a backup. Senior Alex King, who’s averaging better than 45 yards per punt this year, will serve as Texas’ second-string signal-caller Saturday if Ash can’t play.

“What we’ve decided is to go with Case, have Alex be our backup and hope David can play in a backup role if we need him,” Brown said. “Alex is more like Case. He’s going to have to run all of our second-team reps for the week. Do you have him more in shotgun? Do you have him more under center? We’ve got a lot of things to look at.”

When Texas takes the field this weekend, we’ll all be looking at an offense that finally has the right man at quarterback.

Printed on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 as: Injured or not, Ash had to cede job to McCoy