Just as they did last year, the Texas Longhorns will enter the summer without a starting quarterback.
It's hardly an ideal situation, as conventional wisdom holds that having a clear starter to lead the team through summer 7on7 workouts and take control as the leader is much more beneficial than continued competition.
Don't tell that to head coach Mack Brown, who seemingly remains convinced that Texas needs two starting-level quarterbacks in case of injury:
From where we were this time last year, having four and not knowing where we were headed with a new offense, today I think either one of those guys could run the offense and help us win. That puts us in a great place.
Apparently Brown considers a place without a starting quarterback a "great place." Most would likely disagree with that assessment.
Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin indicated that Texas simply wants to be two deep at every position, even quarterback:
I will say this, and Coach Mack Brown has said this, we are trying to get two-deep across the board in all positions. You go back and you look day-by-day, David Ash is ahead one day and Case McCoy is ahead the next day. It is a pretty even split as far as what those guys did as far as completion percentage and things like that in each practice. Both guys from what we ask them to do I thought did a tremendous job. David has continued to impress and improve. And I thought Case really came on in the second half of spring. So both those guys did a nice job.
Despite those comments from Harsin refusing to acknowledge any separation, sophomore Ash is still considered the frontrunner for the job after separating from junior Case McCoy throughout the early part of the spring following the Holiday Bowl, during which Ash played the entire game. Despite SAEN's Mike Finger writing that improvement from either wasn't apparent on Sunday, it was.
Continuing his trend of making smart decisions with the football, Ash was efficient in completing five of six passes and ran when the opportunities presented themselves. His touchdown pass to Jaxon Shipley showed improved touch over last season, when he struggled at times in that regard. Overall, Ash simply commanded the offense in a way that he never did as a true freshman.
Brown noted the improvement:
I think there is confidence - running the huddle, knowing where to go. I don't know that he threw a bad ball today. He also tripped on the goal line and outran [S] Mykkele Thompson and I think [DB] Josh Turner to the end zone. That's pretty fast. I think there was a point last year where he would've thrown down the field on a first down and instead he ran it for six yards. He knew to get the six yards and play rather than force a throw. There are so many things better now than this time last year.
If there was one mistake from Ash, it was checking in to a passing play on a 3rd and 2, likely because the coverage was playing off, then throwing the ball over the head of Bryant Jackson, as the timing was a little bit off -- the ball was high and Jackson did not appear ready to catch the ball immediately out of his break.
After the coaches emphasized reducing or eliminating turnovers from the quarterback position in the spring, Ash revealed why he didn't take more shots downfield, with his only vertical attempt a pass down the sideline intended for Bryant Jackson that drew a pass interference penalty:
The play isn't always the big throw. When you force it, that's when bad things happen.
McCoy would have benefited from taking those words to heart before his own performance, which included two interceptions on balls that he said "came out wrong," but weren't bad decisions. Either way, the result was the same. Despite the excuse, McCoy did demonstrate that he understands he needs to protect the football, even if he didn't do so:
You can paint all the pictures you want. But if you turn the ball over, you're not going to play.
Indeed. And McCoy has now thrown six interceptions in his last two appearances -- he threw four against Baylor in his last start -- after starting out his career notably avoiding them. Regression to the mean? Given how he floats passes to the outside, that's the thought here. McCoy worked the middle of the field well against Baylor and during the scrimmage, with both of his long passes going down the middle on Sunday.
As a result of his poor arm strength and sketchy mechanics, McCoy simply has no ability to throw the ball outside and that's a major part of why he should be the back-up.
Still, McCoy is confident enough to believe that he will be the starter come fall. So is Ash, who responded with a "Yes, sir," when asked if he thought the offense was his.
In a few months, one of them will be wrong when Mack Brown finally names a starter.
He has to eventually name a starter, right?
Maybe not. Brown has been talking this spring about alternating quarterbacks every third series, so the quarterback rotation could extend into 2012.
It's not a good idea, as there's now little question that of the two, Ash is the one who has the potential to take this team where it wants to be. Limiting his reps and marginalizing his leadership ability by failing to name him the starter will do nothing but hurt the team and slow his progress.
Just name him the starter already, Mack. What is there to lose?