David Ash and Kansas’ Jake Heaps were the only two quarterbacks present at Big 12 Media Days last month. It’s surprising when you think about the Big 12’s dependence on strong quarterbacks.
What is most surprising is that Ash even agreed to speak last month in Dallas. It is no secret that there’s many things he’d rather do than talk with reporters. He has made it clear that he prefers to lead by example, keep his head down and work hard. He is famous for his quiet demeanor and one-line answers, which are actually quite witty when you can hear them.
“I’m a pretty emotional guy, it just doesn’t come out all the time,” Ash joked. “I love football. My dad always taught me when I was young, always told me, ‘Calm, cool and collected, don’t get rattled.’ So I don’t get rattled.”
But surrounded by reporters and photographers at the Omni Hotel last month, Ash exhibited the growth and maturity that head coach Mack Brown emphasized. He proved that he had a lot to say, though he still doesn’t enjoy the spotlight.
“He’s leading the team much better, and they believe in him right now,” Brown said. “David has grown up. He’s learned a lot. I think he’ll have a big year.”
In a league full of high performing offenses – one that is known for its elite quarterback play, Ash is going to emerge this year as the top quarterback in the Big 12.
He is expected to be a the top. After all, he is the only returning starting quarterback besides TCU’s Casey Pachall, who is trying to earn his job back after drug rehab. However, Oklahoma and Texas Tech always seem to have a habit of pulling unknowns out of the woodwork to put up big numbers each year. Despite this, the proof is there and he’s going to surprise us all.
Ash solidified himself as the starting quarterback in the Alamo Bowl last December, probably the best thing that could have happened to his career.
“The time it became my team was the Oregon State game,” Ash said. “Before that it was mostly my team, as long as I didn’t play bad. I think my teammates respected it when I came back with broken ribs and won the game.”
Yes, he led the Longhorns from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Oregon State to end on a good note, but he matured and earned the team’s respect with his performance.
“You could see, with him hurtling into the end zone, you could see that confidence,” senior offensive guard Trey Hopkins said. “It’s not like his freshman year, where you could see him on the sidelines with his head down. He was really having fun, it was his team.”
This confidence and belief is key. Ash no longer has to look over his shoulder and will enter the season without battling Case McCoy for the starting job. During the offseason, Ash was able to focus on improving and getting more comfortable with the offense.
There is no more doubt in his leadership role; the coaches and players have all expressed confidence in him. That confidence will be crucial this season. With Ash firmly entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback, the team can also become more focused.
“It helps your focus and it helps your respect among your teammates when your coach comes out and expresses his confidence in you,” Ash said.
According to Ash, you can also just look at the stats. Ash has shown improvement over the past two years and has said he hopes to improve on that this coming year.
It’s okay to have a little skepticism. After all, the past two seasons have been less-than-ideal for Longhorns fans. Ash and Brown even admitted that a 9-4 season is unacceptable at Texas. But I still think he’s going to surprise us.