Ready for a rather improbable comparison?
In 2006, a solid and steady (but certainly not spectacular) Chris Leak captained Florida to a national championship. Behind him was freshman quarterback Tim Tebow, the most popular man on campus and master of the package plays — draws, sweeps and jump-throws.
So, is David Ash the next Tebow?
Ash played often in Texas’ win over Rice, lining up at split end for his first career play. He eventually began taking snaps at his natural quarterback position, running what looked like the zone read and orchestrating many of the Longhorns’ trick plays.
He only threw one pass, a two-yard completion to D.J. Monroe. But man, that spiral sure did look pretty.
Ash, a freshman from Belton, is listed as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart, behind Garrett Gilbert and Case McCoy. But Ash saw much more quality minutes than McCoy did, so it looks like co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin is grooming him to be the next-man-up — despite what the depth chart officially says — should Gilbert struggle or get injured.
“We want to be able to get him in the game and let him get in the flow,” Harsin said.
“Let him get the feel. Let him get out there and play a little bit, and then we’ll see where we go from there.”
To be certain, Ash isn’t Tebow. Not left-handed. Not as big, not as athletic. Probably a better passer with better mechanics. Thankfully, not nearly as demonstrative — I don’t see him guaranteeing wins in press conferences or making pro-life commercials with his mother any time soon.
Linebacker Emmanuel Acho says Ash is the “fastest and quickest quarterback on the team.” And Mack Brown knows there are things that Ash can do that others on the roster simply cannot.
“We do have a package for David,” Brown said. “Case is the second string quarterback, but there are some things that David can do with his feet, with movement and his ability to run and throw that will make it tough on teams to prepare for.”
Gilbert admitted as much.
“We’re all very different quarterbacks,” he said. “But David does a good job of getting the ball to our playmakers, he did a great job.”
Ash made the key play on Texas’ first passing touchdown of the season: He threw a strong block while receiver John Harris rolled to the right and lofted a pass to Jaxon Shipley — as perfect a trick play as Texas has ever ran.
“David made a good block on the linebacker on John’s pass,” Gilbert said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to do that.”
With Ash, the Longhorns’ offense flexes its versatility. In high school, he posted a 4.6 second 40-yard dash and rushed for 300 yards his senior year, while throwing for 3,500 more. He can even punt with the best of them, which gives Texas pooch-kick options on fourth down.
More importantly, he offers Gilbert some much-needed relief. In asking Gilbert to throw 40 times a game last year, Texas has learned that depending too much on one player can be hazardous.
If Ash can play Tebow and Gilbert can put up Leak-like numbers — 20 touchdowns or so and 2,500 yards — the Longhorns will be in good shape. Don’t get your hopes up for a national championship, though. Maybe next year.
Ash just might have a bigger role by then.
Printed on September 6, 2011 as: Is Ash the next Tim Tebow?