Texas' QB indecision is counterproductive

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
10:15
AM ET
I live a good three hours north of Austin, but sometime Monday evening, I'm pretty sure I heard the echoes of groans from Texas fans all the way down in central Texas.

It didn't take long to figure out why.
"We want both guys to play," Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "Right now, obviously one guy is going to have to roll out there at the beginning. You have to do that," Harsin said. "But if they continue progressing like they have been through these next few practices before we play, you can expect both guys out there."

By "both guys," Harsin means his two competing quarterbacks, David Ash and Case McCoy. Word all summer was the competition was a farce. Ash had hogged the first-team reps since the end of the season, and the program looked like his to control.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesDavid Ash seemed likely to be named Texas' starting QB, but the team plans to play Case McCoy, too.
Now? Harsin was the first Texas coach to make it clear that both quarterbacks will play this season, and I'll join the masses in not understanding why.

It also doesn't bode well for Ash's development. He's younger and more physically talented than McCoy, and though coach Mack Brown wouldn't name a starter at Big 12 Media Days, he sounded pretty confident that the quarterbacks would "separate."

"I've got 37 years that says it will probably happen, one way or the other. And usually the players will choose them for you if not," Brown said last month. "You bring in key players and ask what they think. But usually somebody will tweak an ankle or somebody will have a sore shoulder, and it may not just be by performance that it separates. If it doesn't separate, you choose one to start the game. If he doesn't play well, you put the other one in."

Ideally, that would be the case. But based on Harsin's comments, it doesn't sound like the starter's performance will have much impact on whether or not the backup plays.

"There are strengths and weakness with both guys," Harsin said. "And what we found out is each guy, you put them in different scenarios and they go and they operate. They both operated well in different situations.

"So we're looking at different schemes and things like that that both quarterbacks can be successful."

I understand that part of it, but are they really that limited? For the sake of continuity, is it not worth running more exclusively the packages that your starter is good at, tailoring the offense to his strengths?

Instead, it sounds like coaches want to do everything, and need a second quarterback to make it happen.

I don't get it. On some level, however, that has to read as either an indictment on Ash's development or the recognition of some amazing growth in arm strength from McCoy.

"It's not a 50-50, 60-40, it's not a back and forth," the second-year offensive coordinator said. "You're going to have your quarterback out there, and he is going to play and you're going to have an opportunity, if things are right or the situation comes up, that your second quarterback is going to go in.

"I think it's ideal to have both guys playing at a high level."

No way. History tells us this doesn't work, and it won't for the Longhorns if they want any real hope of having great play from the quarterback position. If McCoy and Ash were significantly different quarterbacks, it would work. They certainly have different strengths and weaknesses, but they're far from fundamentally different passers.

They might be close, but Texas would be well-served to just make a decision and go with it. The Longhorns might be a little better at the position this year, but if they continue to shuffle Ash and McCoy, they won't get the improvement they need to win a Big 12 title.

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