Despite now having only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, Texas head coach Mack Brown revealed Monday that the Longhorns will continue platooning sophomore quarterback Case McCoy and freshman David Ash -- the duo now affectionately known simply as McAsh.
After former starter Garrett Gilbert's shoulder surgery and Connor Wood's transfer to Colorado, many Longhorn fans began to wonder if the coaches would attempt to protect Ash from injury by reducing how much he runs the football to avoid a situation with only one quarterback on scholarship. Mack Brown quickly shot down that idea:
We will still play both quarterbacks like we have. We are trying to progress with David's package, so he can do all the things Case can do as well as his option stuff.
Brown indicated that he's not concerned about Ash going down with an injury running his option package:
We're not an option team, but if you were an option team, you still gotta run your quarterback. So we're going to do what David does best to help us win. David's tough. He's big and strong.
He's 225-pound guy. Even if he's not running the option, he's a guy who will pull the ball down and run. In practice, he runs over people. So he's not one of those guys we can protect. He hasn't learned to slide yet. That's not his deal.
Ash's work in the weight room at Belton has paid major dividends, as he entered the program in the spring more physically developed than many players much older and he's already proven his toughness by taking some hits in both the BYU and UCLA and never showing an ill effects. He's no Tim Tebow, but what he is adds a dimension to the Texas offense that otherwise would not be present with only little McCoy at quarterback.
And until it stops working, co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin sees no reason to alter the current formula:
Right now I don't see us using any different formula than we've used. Those guys understand that's what we need to do to be successful. When they had to do it in the BYU, they realize that's how we run our offense.
David is a guy who can come in and run the offense. I like what we're doing in utilizing those guys. And those guys understand that's what we need to do to be successful. When they did that in the BYU game, kind of back and forth, they just look at it as that's how we run our offense right now.
I like utilizing both of those guys and keep using that formula. Against UCLA, Case got the hot hand early and we left him in there another drive before bringing David in. And it worked out well.
Despite some skepticism on broadcasts this season about whether the two-quarterback system can work, the results speak for themselves and forcing teams to prepare for the Ash packages takes away preparation time in other areas. As Harsin adds more complementary plays for Ash each week, it will only become more dangerous and force opposing defensive coordinators to spend more time preparing for it and less time preparing for the base offense lead by McCoy.
Over at Barking Carnival, LonghornScott put together a video that does an excellent job of breaking down how Harsin used the aggressiveness of the UCLA defense against itself by installing the play-action pass for the Ash package:
UCLA Ash Seq (via swgerlach)
During his press conference, Brown mentioned that the platoon system may help reduce pressure on both quarterbacks by reducing the load each must carry. It certainly seems true for McCoy, who benefits from Ash and Malcolm Brown running the football and wearing down the defense, as well as the Wildcat package in the red zone that keeps him from having to operate as much in a smaller field with smaller windows to throw into.
Speaking of that Wildcat package, if Ash does happen to go down with an injury, those looks with Fozzy Whittaker and Jaxon Shipley could easily pick up the slack and go into heavier usage to keep pressure off McCoy, with Harsin showing the capability of installing packages quickly and effectively. Just look at Marquise Goodwin, whom the former Boise State coordinator integrated into the offense with less than a week to prepare having never worked with him before.
After playing quarterback his senior year in high school, Miles Onyegbule has the arm and accuracy to run a package with some throws from the pocket and safety Mykkele Thompson is another option after playing the position in high school as well. It's not outside of the realm of possibility that Harsin could install a package for either player within a week that features a handful of plays.
The Texas co-coordinator did say Monday that he believes walk-on John Paul Floyd could fill in during an emergency.
As for the starter, Brown still feels that which quarterback starts the game depends entirely on which play Harsin decides to play first.
So until there are compelling reasons to the contrary, long live McAsh!