David Ash Versus JW Walsh: Manufacturing Debate

Wescott Eberts

In the world of armchair quarterbacks, there are few greater hobbies than second-guessing recruiting decisions. So, hey, look, two quarterbacks from the same class could go head-to-head Saturday night in Stillwater! Let's manufacture debate! And away we go...

Quarterback production in the state of Texas goes in waves, so there aren't necessarily debates every year about whether the Longhorns missed out on a productive signal-caller who experienced success elsewhere, but the high-profile failure of Garrett Gilbert, compounded by the rise of Lone Star State products like Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, gave fans quite a bit of experience in hindsight.

Longhorn fans love that type of thing anyway. After all, there are somewhere between 40 and 60 guys in the state of Texas who are worthy of offers every year, but around half of them actually receive them and fewer than that end up in Austin.

Doesn't that just leave a fantastically large space for these type of exercises?

(The answer is yes, obviously.)

Two weeks ago before the Ole Miss game, there was plenty of debate about whether the Longhorns should have pursued current Rebels starter Bo Wallace, the junior college transfer who had several phone conversations with co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin before the 'Horns decided to stand pat.

On the field, sophomore David Ash was clearly the better quarterback, aided though he was by the Texas offensive line and Wallace hurt by the comparatively weak Ole Miss starting five. Point being, the debate was basically silenced after that. Thankfully.

Apparently enjoying such exercises in hindsight, Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls decided to drum up a little debate this week -- the decision in the 2011 class to take Ash instead of current Oklahoma State redshirt freshman JW Walsh, who may be the starter this weekend if true freshman Wes Lunt can't play because of the knee injury he suffered nearly two weeks ago against ULaLa.

Here's how Bohls started his Sunday column:

Another Longhorn opponent, another quarterback who got away.

Not necessarily to pick on Bohls, but characterizing Walsh as another guy who got away is rather simplistic. In fact, here's how things went down:

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.

So when Walsh committed to Oklahoma State before visiting Texas for a Junior Day, it wasn't really a loss so much as a kid heading in a different direction. It appeared that Texas preferred Ash and Walsh was probably intrigued by a depth chart about ready to open up after the departure of Brandon Weeden. When Ash committed so early, it was a bit of a surprise given all the quarterbacks who were going to be in front of him -- Gilbert, Connor Wood, and Case McCoy.

Bohls did add an interesting nugget to the conversation, however:

Longhorn co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite and former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp were keen on Walsh, but they were outvoted by Mack Brown and Greg Davis, and Texas signed David Ash instead.

A little example of the generational divide that seems to have existed with that coaching staff, with the young blood of Applewhite and Muschamp kind of pushing against the entrenched interests like the rather complacent Davis and Brown.

Bohls reports that story as fact instead of as something that he heard from sources, which may be a result of the lack of column space or his actual confidence that it happened, though such a story hasn't been repeated in other places.

In any case, if Walsh was the early favorite of this writer, and the services, the latter especially after Ash suffered through an ankle injury his junior season, though Ash closed the gap during his senior season. Having watched Ash in person and Walsh on television, which exposed some of the physical limitations of the current Oklahoma State quarterback, there wasn't much of a gap between them at the end of the process, as stated in this space, ranking Walsh 16th and Ash 18th.

Rivals disagreed, putting Walsh 11th and Ash 47th in the state.

If Ash can continue on his current trajectory, he looks much more like a top 15 player in the state, while the jury is still well out on Walsh.

In any case, this is a narrative that will continue to be written over the next several years. But it will never really be about Walsh getting away, it will simply be about which quarterback ended up being better in college, interesting for the purposes of looking back at the evaluations of the prospects, not necessarily the decision-making process of the Texas staff.

Sorry to rain on the manufactured debate here, but they do get tiresome sometimes, don't they?

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