DALLAS -- Going into last December’s Alamo Bowl against Oregon State, Texas was coming off losses to TCU and Kansas State to end its regular season. Although it was not publicly known, David Ash was nursing broken ribs.
But he wasn’t going to let that keep him from helping the Longhorns end the season with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Beavers. Before erasing a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit that night, Ash sat down with head coach Mack Brown, a conversation he remembers vividly.
“Who’s your favorite pro quarterback?” Brown asked.
“I really like Tom Brady,” Ash said.
“Well, why do you like Tom Brady?” Brown asked his sophomore quarterback.
“Well, I just think he’s good,” Ash responded.
“You’ve bought into him. You think he’s going to win the game,” Brown told Ash. “You have to make your teammates buy into you just like everybody buys into Tom Brady and you have to do something that makes them think that something good’s about to happen.”
After two years going back and forth between backup and starter, the team is his. It’s been his since the 31-27 triumph over Oregon State when he channeled his inner Tom Brady and solidified himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12.
“His comeback in the Alamo Bowl really helped with our team, with his confidence, and I think he’ll have a big year,” Brown said. “He’s leading the team much better and they believe in him right now.”
The only two quarterbacks to lead Texas to a Big 12 title and national championship game appearance – Vince Young and Colt McCoy – made tremendous leaps from their sophomore to junior seasons.
Young threw for 1,849 yards, 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 59.2 percent of his passes as a sophomore in 2004 before drastically improving his passing numbers the following year. In 2005, Young became the first Division I-A quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and run for another 1,000, completing 65.2 percent of his passes while throwing 26 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Texas won its first national title in 35 years that season.
McCoy threw for 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions while completing 65.1 percent of his throws – all career-worsts – as a sophomore in 2007. The next year, McCoy was brilliant, posting a 76.7 completion percentage while racking up 3,859 yards, 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“There were times last year he played like Colt and he played like Vince and looked as good as anybody in the country,” Brown said. “And then there were other times when he struggled some. But we think we’ve got better players around him now. We should be better in the offensive line. He is much more confident than at any time.”
Ash worked with McCoy and Young this offseason, refining his mechanics and taking valuable advice on his leadership skills. He’s hoping to make the same improvement between his sophomore and junior seasons that McCoy and Young did.
“To be mentioned in the same sentence as those guys would be quite an honor,” Ash said. “[Vince] said you don’t have to be anybody you’re not. You just have to be you. Just make sure you’re always visible and you’re available to your teammates…With Colt, I learned a lot about fundamentals. Colt’s a technician with his feet. We have a similar style. He’s a footwork guy. He’s accurate. He’s got good timing. He’s smart. He makes plays with his feet. That’s the same way I want to play.”
Ash is one of two quarterbacks with 18 career starts under his belt, the other being TCU’s Casey Pachall, who returns to the Horned Frogs after unenrolling from the school and completing a substance abuse rehabilitation program last year. Pachall was not among the two quarterbacks at Big 12 Media Days this week (Ash and Kansas’ Jake Heaps, who has yet to play a down for the Jayhawks since transferring from BYU in 2011).
“A lot of the teams have had their guy and now they’re starting to work on a new guy,” Ash said. “That doesn’t mean that guy’s not going to be good. It just means he hasn’t earned the right to come to Big 12 Media Days. That’s all that means. That means I’ve been here two years. I’m thankful my coaches thought I’d earned the right to come to Big 12 Media Days.”
Texas has lofty goals this season, winning the Big 12 and contending for a national title among them. These are feats accomplished by the Longhorns only with Young and McCoy under center. Ash has taken their advice to heart and is looking to deliver Texas to the same heights they did.