- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
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The sky is blue. The Earth is round. Texas is an eight-win program. There, just wanted to go ahead and state all those obvious things right up top. Because what is not so obvious, not to those who watched Ash get yanked from two games and benched for one, was that while Manziel was better than Ash, not many other second-year quarterbacks (redshirt freshmen or true sophomores) were.
In fact, only five other second-year quarterbacks had better passing efficiency numbers than Ash. And Manziel wasn’t even the leader of that group. Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh finished the regular season as the highest rated in passing efficiency among first- or second-year guys with a 165.67 passing efficiency rating.
That’s the same Walsh who threw a very costly interception against Texas and who could not lead OSU back after Ash led Texas on a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Now, it was Walsh’s first career start. Ash was in his ninth start. And Walsh ultimately would up as the higher-rated passer although he did not win as many games as Ash.
Ash went 8-3 as a starter -- really 7-3 when taking into account the fact that he was benched in the Kansas game with Texas trailing in the fourth. Among the six top young passers in pass efficiency rating, those seven wins ranked just a shade past the middle.
So Ash is firmly tucked into middle ground. It’s a familiar and well-trod area at Texas these days despite the continuing bluster that things will change. Of course, the agent of change is supposed to be the quarterback.
"We need to have that position to get its swagger back and step up," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "I looked at it the other day, we were 75 9 with Colt [McCoy] and Vince [Young] over a seven year period, that's a pretty good run."
There are two monumental problems with the latter half of this statement:
First, if at this point, it has not become as clear as the crystal on the AFCA National Title Trophy that Ash is not McCoy or Young, Texas has issues far exceeding how the guy at quarterback throws the ball.
Secondly, knowing Ash is not the talent that McCoy and Young were -- again working on the premise there is no way the first point could possibly be true because that would require delusional thinking on par with Nurse Ratched’s charges -- why would Brown ever even hold that measuring stick up?
It’s an impossible standard. Those were transformative college quarterbacks. Texas just needs Ash to be adequate. And judging by the stats, he is well on his way to being just that. So saying -- to a roomful of TV cameras just moments after you have named Ash the starter -- that Ash is this and McCoy and Young were THAT only serves to intentionally point out the present deficiencies both in the quarterback play, and quite frankly, the coaching psychology of the entire Texas operation.
For Texas to be successful it has to accept Ash for who he is and what he can do. The sophomore is a better-than-average quarterback in a short passing game with deep throws sprinkled in who has issues reading the defense when he has to go over the middle. There you have it.
Now it’s true Ash is prone to emotional dips -- Kansas and TCU -- but that could be excused as a function of age.
"I don’t think one play should dictate how another play goes," Ash said. "Do players maybe let one thing affect another thing? Yes, it happens all the time. But as you mature you learn to take it a play at a time and that is what I’m trying to do."
To date that progression, while maybe not as rapid as most Texas fans would wish nor as fast as has been displayed by quarterbacks of the past or three others currently in FBS, at least appears to be on track. And if that progression continues, Texas might possibly get off the hamster wheel and back in the race to be more than an eight-win program.
17hCraig Haubert and Tom Luginbill
18hCraig Haubert and Tom Luginbill