As of Monday night, Texas coaches seemed content to extend last year's game of musical quarterbacks into this year's season opener, at least, and possibly further. Less than 48 hours later, it appears the music has stopped on sophomore David Ash, who was listed as the starting QB Wednesday on the Longhorns' first preseason depth chart, ahead of co-incumbent Case McCoy.
Coach Mack Brown confirmed Ash as the starter during an afternoon press conference, though he declined to clarify whether Ash is The Starting Quarterback, period, or whether he's merely going to be on the field first. Earlier this week, offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said Ash and McCoy will both play in the Sept. 1 debut against Wyoming, rekindling their season-long do-si-do in 2011. Unlike several other positions on the depth chart, though, there is no "OR" between their names to indicate a dead heat, or that coaches view them as essentially co-starters. For now, it may very well be Ash's job to lose.
"There are strengths and weaknesses with both quarterbacks," Harsin told the Austin American-Statesman on Monday. "What we found out is they both operate well in different situations. David can do some more of the run game stuff. Case does a great job getting the ball out of his hands. Both guys, in their overall understanding, have improved."
Of course, it seemed to be Ash's job to loseon more than one occasion last year, too, when the depth chart was revamped on a week-by-week basis. Occasionally, it changed quarter-by-quarter. When starter Garrett Gilbert went down with a shoulder injury in the second game, coaches turned to McCoy off the bench, with Ash making an occasional cameo as a running threat. When McCoy's fast September start went up in smoke against Oklahoma, coaches gave Ash a solid month to lock down the job at midseason. When the offense stalled under Ash in back-to-back November losses to Missouri and Kansas State , McCoy assumed the reins for a dramatic, comeback win over Texas A&M. When McCoy melted down the following week in a four-interception debacle at Baylor, Ash got the nod for the bowl game.
Altogether, Ash wound up playing in every game as a true freshman and started six of them, leading wins in three; McCoy played in 11 games with five starts, also winning three. McCoy was the more efficient passer of the two, by far, and delivered the single best performance by far, a 12-of-15, two-touchdown afternoon at UCLA in his first career start. Ash, plagued by turnovers for most of the year, took every snap in the Holiday Bowl win over California, didn't give the ball away once and left as the game's offensive MVP.
Given that that's how they left it in 2011, it's only appropriate that Ash gets the default nod to open 2012. But Brown wouldn't rule out the possibility that both quarterbacks will play, after his offensive coordinator all but guaranteed it. There is no indication outside of the practice field that either quarterback deserves to play over the other, and from the sound of it, there may not be much indication on the practice field. Ash is the younger of the two, bigger and ostensibly the better athlete. We'll see how much time that buys him before McCoy is given the opportunity for a rebuttal.