Belton quarterback and 2011 Texas commit David Ash (photo by the author).
Name: David Ash
Speed: 4.6 40-yard dash
High School: Belton
Rating (Rivals): Three out of five (5.7)
Ash is an early enrollee for Texas and will participate in spring practice.
Before discussing Ash's recruitment, which ended up being about as simple as anyone in the class, two words come to mind when looking at the Belton quarterback's three-star ranking from Rivals -- criminally underrated. For one, the guy is as athletic as any of the quarterbacks considered "pro-style" by the service and still comes in as the sixth-ranked player at his position in the country. How is that not good enough for a fourth star?
Ash has all the physical tools and was massively productive as a senior with a 61.3% completion rate, nearly 3,500 yards passing and 41 touchdowns. Add to that another 300-plus yards on the ground and seven touchdowns rushing. And this is 5A Texas football we're talking about. Seriously? /endrant #rankingsdontreallymatter #butstill
Now, a word about his recruitment -- Ash clearly became the top target after the Texas summer camp before his junior season. Already on the radar after a strong debut as a sophomore, Ash reportedly impressed Greg Davis while working out in front of him in Austin and was pulled aside by the former Texas offensive coordinator after the camp for a brief conversation.
From that point forward, Ash looked like the top target on the Texas board and his primary competition for top quarterback in the class -- Denton Guyer's JW Walsh -- committed to Oklahoma State before the first Texas Junior Day, so it essentially became Ash or bust in the class, though the Longhorns did offer Lake Travis quarterback Michael Brewer the option to grayshirt, which he reportedly declined.
Fortunately for Texas -- and Ash, as it turns out -- the big quarterback was locked in to becoming a Longhorn and committed when offered on the first Texas Junior Day in February of 2010 without receiving as much regional interest as he would have had he decided to carry his recruitment into the spring.
As it turned out, both parties benefited because the Longhorns were able to land their top target at quarterback after taking three quarterbacks in the previous two classes -- a difficult task at any school -- and Ash didn't have to wait for his recruitment to pick up. For Texas, it was a major move to solidify long-term depth at the quarterback position with a guy who clearly wants to be in Austin and is willing to wait his turn to compete for the job.
On his commitment to Texas ($):
I had already decided if they offered, I'd accept. When we starting talking, they offered a scholarship and I accepted right then and there. Then I spent rest of day trying to make everyone else to commit.
On what made the Longhorns stand out:
Texas is different from anywhere I've been. I had taken a visit to another school, it just wasn't the same kind of atmosphere. Coach (Mack) Brown talks about how he wants you smiling. When you go to other universities, it wasn't as happy, they didn't seem like they were loving what they're doing. Texas has really good coaches, people with character, most of them are Christians. They're really good people. And they win. What else can you ask for?
On what the Texas offer meant to him:
It's a big relief. If Texas hadn't offered, I would have kind of been stuck somewhere. I hadn't got heavily involved in the recruiting process. I hadn't looked at other campuses, so I was really relying on that offer and I'm thankful I got it. I knew I wanted to go to Texas for a long time.
- Texas (committed 2/13/2010)
From the Texas 7-on-7 State Championship:
Belton didn't have one of the stronger teams in the tournament, but managed to make it out of pool play and into the championship division, where they had the unfortunate luck to match up against the most talented team at the event in the first round of the winner's bracket, Dallas-area powerhouse DeSoto.
The loss ended their Saturday early, but Ash was impressive at the event. Between 6-2 and 6-3 and 215 pounds, Ash was physically the best-looking quarterback there and has clearly spent a significant amount of time in the weight room. More so than Colt McCoy, Garrett Gilbert, or Connor Wood, Ash looks physically ready to play the quarterback position in college and the hope is that his increased strength will help him become more durable after losing much of his junior season to injury.
In terms of throwing the football, Ash can make all the throws with ease, showing the arm strength to zip the ball into tight windows, but also the ability to change speeds and throw with touch. However, like most quarterbacks his age, Ash could improve on his accuracy, though it falls under the category of something every quarterback could stand to improve, regardless of level. His mechanics are sound and clean and his arm strength was the most impressive of any quarterback at the competition -- it's not like he sprays the ball around without knowing where it's headed.
The major concern, and it could have been a result of his receivers consistently failing to create separation, was that Ash was often forcing throws and it resulted in a relatively high number of interceptions, including three during his first game on Thursday. He has strong chemistry with fellow senior Adrian Henderson and doesn't seem to trust his other receivers much and probably with good reason. It probably won't be until he gets on the field in college that his ability to go through his reads could accurately be measured. Either that or a combine setting or all-star game.
There's potential for Ash to raise his stock by staying healthy and showing the same potential he has shown in 7-on-7 on the field on Friday nights this fall and it will be intriguing to watch how his increased strength will translate. The thought here is that Ash is in line to put himself right back in that discussion with JW Walsh as the top Texas quarterback in his class.
Scouting report from the Austin High game:
Going into the game, the two main things I was looking for with Ash were his leadership and his ability to go through his progressions and make good decisions. On the first count, it was more of the same -- Ash receives a lot of praise from his coaches and those who have closely observed his career for being the type of kid who does everything right, from working hard in the classroom to working hard in the film room to working hard on the practice field.
However, for better or worse, he's just not a vocal leader at this point. He leads by example and spends most of his time on the sideline standing by himself. As the quarterback at Texas, and one who will probably start for a season or two, Ash will have to grow into a more vocal leadership role and Garrett Gilbert, naturally a fairly quiet person himself, will be a good role model for the Belton signal caller.
Even after his spectacular touchdown run late in the game, Ash was low key coming off the field, seemingly only allowing himself to crack a smile a few minutes later when talking about it with several of his teammates, one of his few interactions with them all evening.
Throwing the football, Ash's mechanics didn't look as clean for some reason as they did during 7-on-7 this summer. Instead of keeping the ball high, Ash was often dropping his elbow in the early part of his release and his mechanics weren't always consistent throughout the game. At times, he was able to zip the ball, but mostly showed off his touch and accuracy, with only one or two poorly-thrown passes all night -- which is amazing considering he threw the ball at least 40 times.
The decision to throw the ball across his body at the end of the game was his only really poor decision on the night, an improvement from the summer when he often tried to fit the ball into tight windows. Part of that may have been improved decision-making and part of it may have been the fact that he threw to a lot of wide-open receivers. However, he had just thrown a pass on the previous play that was dropped by his receiver in the end zone, so it never should have come to the interception that he threw. Not to make excuses for Ash, but he gave Belton a chance to win in overtime and his teammate didn't come through.
If there was one thing that Ash could have done better besides cleaning up his mechanics, a bit, it was to put more velocity on the ball at times, especially on the last play. Though he doesn't possess a canon -- his arm strength is more comparable to, say, Garrett Gilbert than Matthews Stafford -- Ash can rifle the ball if he wants to, he simply seems to prefer to throw a more catchable ball with touch. As windows increasingly close in college, Ash may need to reach back for that little bit extra a little more often.
As a runner, Ash is underrated as an athlete. Not as fast as Colt McCoy, Ash probably runs in the 4.7 range at this point and has solid feet. So he won't run away from anyone, but he makes good decisions about when to run with the ball and when to scramble to pass and has good pocket presence. Several times he pulled the ball down and picked up positive yardage -- he had 50 or more yards rushing on the night and several other times he was able to show off his combination of strength and balance to get out of the grasp of would-be tacklers and make plays downfield. On one, Ash broke a tackle from a defensive lineman while knocking over a referee, reversed field -- he probably ran 50 or more yards on the play -- and still was able to keep his eyes downfield and deliver a strike to an open receiver.
Overall, Ash looks like he is making much better decisions than he was last season, when highlight reels from players in the area showed quite a few poor plays a a junior. Right now, even though his leadership perhaps leaves a little bit to be desired, his combination of accuracy, above-average arm strength, and good athleticism makes him a strong candidate to be a solid to good quarterback in college, even on a big stage like Texas. So even though he's probably not a top-15 talent in the state, Ash has a lot of good things going for him as he nears the end of his high school career.
From the O-D Bowl ($):
Ash is here [O-D Top 10 list] because he 1. Pressed on despite his frustrations with the balls; 2. Got better each day; 3. Showed a good command of the offense. On Thursday, better footballs were brought in and Ash shined. Not only were his shorter passes on target, but more than one of his deep throws hit his target in the hands.
- Arm strength -- Ash can really zip the ball into small windows when necessary, which means that he can also change speeds as well. He doesn't have the strongest arm in the world, but he can make all the throws to become a successful college quarterback.
- Mechanics -- Quick release, tight delivery, good footwork for his age group, from a mechanical standpoint, Ash is mature for a high school player and doesn't fall into the trap of throwing off his back foot, even though he has the arm strength to get get away with it. As a result, Ash is extremely accurate on short and mid-range throws. The only concern is that Ash does at times let his elbow drop, something Barry Every noticed as well with him ($).
- Character/work ethic -- From all accounts, Ash is a great kid who works hard in the classroom and in the film room to better understand his class. His work ethic clearly extends to the weight room as well, as Ash is as college-ready physically as any quarterback in the state -- including JW Walsh. He's humble, likable and well-spoken kid.
- Athleticism --Though he's considered a pro-style quarterback by Rivals, Ash has the athleticism to keep plays alive to both pass and run. His top-end speed is solid and the fact that he's 6-4 and not always regarded as a talented runner, he can blow up some angles in high school if defensive backs don't respect his speed.
- Natural leadership -- As mentioned above, Ash isn't a naturally vocal leader and that makes him a lot like current Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who is still growing into that role as he enters his junior season. Ash likely won't have the pressure of playing early and Gilbert's growth should provide a model for Ash, but he clearly has some work to do in leading a team and commanding a huddle.
- Decision-making -- During 7-on-7 state qualifying in the spring, Ash had his top receiver Adrian Henderson go down with cramps and he clearly struggled trusting and finding others receivers for much of the next several games. He also has a little bit of that gunslinger mentality where he thinks he can fit the ball into windows that aren't really there. Against Austin High, his late interception in overtime throwing across his body and across the field -- a common but inexcusable mistake for quarterbacks -- cost his team the game and marred an otherwise outstanding performance.
- Physical upside -- Since Ash has worked so hard to maximize his strength and speed in high school, he doesn't have the physical upside of someone like Colt McCoy, who played other sports year-round and had plenty of room to grow physically and plenty of upside athletically. It's a small complaint, but Ash probably isn't going to become a legit 4.5 40 guy at Texas.
- Accuracy -- Once again, this is a relatively minor concern for Ash, but shifting his weight better could allow him to become more accurate on deep throws.
David Ash Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)
David Ash Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)
Target Weight -- 210-215 pounds. Ash may actually be a little bit heavier than his listed weight on his Rivals page and since he's a guy who has worked hard in the weight room in his high school, his frame is pretty well filled in and he doesn't need to add much strength to compete ate the college level.
The big question with Ash long term is really what happens in front of him with Connor Wood and Case McCoy. With the quarterback competition declared open this spring, if Wood wins the job this spring or in 2013, then Ash is looking at a long wait to get a chance to start as a senior.
Given his physical tools, however, and the fact that he's further developed than Wood was coming out of high school, it's not outside the realm of possibility that Ash could beat out Wood if Gilbert manages to hold onto his job for the next two years and the position becomes truly open for competition again.
Whatever the case down the road, Ash is an excellent passer with some sneaky athleticism that will allow him to make some off-schedule plays and, most of all, fit well into the Harsinwhite offense, no matter whether it ends up being more on the Boise State-style multiple end of the spectrum with a lot of work from under center and play-action passing with some quarterback runs built in, or more spread like the offense Applewhite ran at Rice.
To sum it up, almost every school in the country has to be jealous about the depth that Texas has at the quarterback position heading into the future. Transfers could change the landscape somewhat, but if Ash sticks in Austin, there's a strong chance that he could be a well above-average starting quarterback when he finally gets the chance.
Impact ETA: 2014 or 2015. The quarterback position is tough to predict because there's every chance that the loser of the Wood/McCoy battle could transfer, a move that would obviously accelerate Ash's ascent up the depth chart. Most likely, however, Ash has to wait his turn behind Wood, who will have four years of eligibility remaining when he enters the 2011 football season. Call it a redshirt, then, for Ash and likely three years behind Wood, giving him a shot to start as a senior.