What a difference a year makes. Over the first three games of this season, David Ash is putting up career numbers. His cumulative stat line of 55/72 for 703 yards and 7 TDs and 0 INTs is of course supported by playing three weak opponents, but it is at least worth noting that his performances in each of these games eclipses any that he had last season. Notably, Ash failed to record 200+ yards even once last year, and had only two games (Iowa St. and Cal) in which he had more touchdowns than interceptions. His progress is also clear, as the plot after the jump will make evident.
David Ash in 2011 (gray) vs. David Ash in 2012 (colored). Not shown: the +infinity TD:INT ratio in 2012 (couldn't fit that on the chart, sorry).
The long ball. The long ball has been uncorked in the last couple of weeks. All five of Ash's completed passes of 25+ yards occurred against New Mexico and Ole Miss, and Ash looked both willing and comfortable making those pass attempts. Although at times he underthrew receivers who had beaten their coverage, it is encouraging to see him getting some help from them in dropping back to make those catches (and as some of you have already discussed, some of those underthrows against single coverage may be intentional). Ash is completing passes at a 9.7 YPA clip, with the average completion going for 13 yards (and 14.2 yards against Ole Miss, by the way). Again, these are some of the worst defenses that division I has to offer, but it's hard to find much fault with Ash's play the last two weeks, although I'm sure it won't stop many from trying.
Rushing. Quarterbacks that can run are becoming nearly ubiquitous. Although Ash will never be mistaken for #10, he is proving to be a capable runner that can punish a defense that ignores him (6 yards/carry this season so far). As far as Texas' season is concerned, I'd wager that a healthy Ash is a difference of about two wins, so I'd like to see his carries used more sparingly (please no more QB draws late in blowouts), but I would guess a lot of his rushing attempts are his own decision.
Tapping the brakes, just a tiny bit. As we exit the preseason, it is important to remember how profoundly bad the defenses that Texas faced were. Among the three early season foes, none ranked better than #30 Wyoming in passing defense (which is admittedly not terrible), with the other two opponents faring far worse. In terms of rushing defense, the picture is even bleaker, with Mississippi ranked 112 and the others worse. As conference play begins, Ash and the Texas offense will face generally better defenses that will test the abilities of the sophomore quarterback as well as his offensive line and running backs. How Ash fares against better competition will go a long way in determining how Texas performs as a whole. Pointing out the weakness of the early season defenses is by no means a slight to Ash's play (frankly I'm thrilled so far), but something that an informed fan should be at least aware of. It has been years since I've seen a QB do the things Ash has done in the first three weeks at Texas, and even I occasionally fail to muster the polite pessimism required to remain objective. Ash is getting it done.
Setting a floor, et cetera. Okay, in the last progress report I said that Ash had solidified his role as the starter (duh) and has set his QB floor to "game-manager". Let's rachet that up a few notches, as some of the throws Ash made against Ole Miss (the deep balls to Goodwin and Davis -- wow) were indeed not of the "game-manager" variety. It remains to be seen what Harsin will do against good defenses, but for the first time in years I can see the offense becoming a strength of this team, and much of this confidence is due to what I've seen from David Ash thus far. And lastly, there have been no Jalen Overstreet sightings, nor any kind of meaningful play for Case McCoy. Dare I say, this may be because our best running QB and our best passing QB are in fact one and the same.
What did I miss?