Texas coach Mack Brown wouldn’t bite when he was asked how David Ash was developing as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback.
There are two candidates for the job, Brown insisted, Ash and Case McCoy.
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“They left spring practice even,” Brown said. “Both are in the mix and we should have a great battle at that position in the preseason.”
Ash is more of a dual threat, McCoy a more accurate thrower. Both had ups and downs last season when splitting duties after starter Garrett Gilbert was ineffective and later had shoulder surgery.
McCoy led the Longhorns to a victory over Texas A&M, while Ash got the start and victory over California in the Holiday Bowl.
“We’re coming in at a much better place at quarterback than last year,” Brown said.
In the two seasons since the Longhorns lost in the BCS National Championship game to Alabama, quarterback play has defined the program’s malaise.
Under Brown, who arrived for the 1998 season, Texas stood among the nation’s elite, running up a nine-year streak of double-digit victories, culminating with the 2005 national championship.
Quarterback greatness was a hallmark of that era: Vince Young, then Case’s older brother, Colt McCoy.
The drop occurred after Colt McCoy. There were other position problems, but quarterback is the most visible and easiest target. Texas finished 5-7 in 2010 and posted a second straight losing conference record in 2011, although the Longhorns returned to postseason play.
Now Texas looks to take another step forward, returning to championship caliber with what should be one of the Big 12’s top defenses, a strong running game and better quarterback play.
“A key to us being better is to play better at quarterback,” Brown said.
Everybody wants to do their part, even the offensive linemen.
“We have a responsibility in that,” junior guard Mason Walters said. “It’s our job to help find which quarterback is better. We have to do our part and make sure the running game is effective.”
That’s part of making Texas a tougher team, a primary objective for Brown.
“I want us to get so we are a more physical football team from top to bottom,” Brown said. “Also, I don’t want to have it where the success of our football team is totally on one person’s shoulders for him to have a great day.”
That was the case in previous years. Young was often a one-man wrecking crew. McCoy also could take over a game. But Texas hasn’t had that ability from its quarterbacks since then.
Now the Longhorns are waiting for Ash or McCoy to step up and grab the position.
Brown believes there will be separation in the preseason, and the favorite would seem to be Ash. But it’s too close to call right now.
“If it doesn’t separate, you choose one to start the game,” Brown said. “If he doesn’t play well, you put the other one in.”
If that happens, Texas won’t be much farther along than last year.