Big 12: David Ash
AUSTIN, Texas -- After three difficult weeks of contemplation, David Ash is ready to move on from football and begin the rest of his life.
The former Texas Longhorns quarterback held a 25-minute news conference Monday and offered his first public comments since his concussion symptoms returned after an Aug. 30 win against North Texas.
He explained why, after consulting with Texas coach Charlie Strong and team doctors, he knew he needed to stop playing in the interest of his health and future.
"I'm at peace with that. God has given me a peace," Ash said. "I have a lot of hope and a lot of belief that there's still awesome days ahead for me."
Ash said he experienced headaches for seven or eight days after the 38-7 victory over North Texas, his first game since Sept. 2013. That painful week brought some needed closure.
"At the core of my heart of hearts," Ash said, "I knew I shouldn't be playing."
To read the full story, click here.
Former Texas standout and current Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, who won the 2013-14 NBA MVP award, took to Twitter to express his appreciation for Ash's contribution to the Longhorns.
Thank you David Ash, you gave your all to the University of Texas. I respect your decision and good luck in the future my brother— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) September 17, 2014
Ash responded with a thank you of his own for his fellow Longhorn.
@KDTrey5 I really appreciate it. We're all thankful for the way you've represented UT your family and your faith. Keep it up— David Ash (@david_ash14) September 18, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas -- A complicated career ended with an easy decision.
David Ash is giving up football, a choice far wiser than he probably appreciates, but one that is no doubt gut-wrenching. Texas' quarterback was right to hang it up after his bout with concussions over the past year. There should be no debate about that.
To let Ash, a 22-year-old with a long life ahead of him, continue to play would've been irresponsible. Texas has known that since Aug. 31, when he revealed to team doctors he was once again dealing with headaches and dizziness.
"There was no way we'd let him back out on the field," Texas coach Charlie Strong said, "because we were going to be concerned about his health."
They knew he was done, so Wednesday's announcement was not unexpected. What we don't know, unfortunately, is something Texas fans have pondered for years.
We'll never know how good Ash could've been. His career seemed forever on the cusp, a few great games away from something bigger. But he gave as much as he could.
When concussions derailed his junior season last year, he wasn't ready to walk away. Last month, Ash was asked about the people who told him to stop playing. He understood why they asked their questions.
No, he needed another chance. One more game, one more season. He'd fought hard for 12 months to get back, and even harder to become the quarterback he knew he could be.
Ash fit the prototype at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with a strong arm and quick feet. He threw as pretty a ball as any Texas QB since Chris Simms, especially when you watched him practice. He was a deceptive runner, with dashes of 55, 49 and 47 yards on his résumé.
There were a few nights when he put it all together. He did it in Stillwater in 2012, leading Texas on a 75-yard, game-winning drive for a 41-36 win over Oklahoma State. Looking back, that was probably the finest game of his career.
He was exceptional against Texas Tech later that season, one week after being benched at Kansas, and his second-half performance in the Alamo Bowl to beat Oregon State inspired real hope about 2013. He threw, he scrambled, he yelled, he led. He was getting closer.
But there were struggles he couldn't overcome along the way. He never beat Oklahoma in two tries, both embarrassing losses. He was pulled in that near-loss at KU in 2012. He shouldn't have tried to play with broken ribs in a Thanksgiving loss to TCU.
But if the sum total of your evaluation of Ash is, "He stunk against OU,” you missed out on a lot. He went 15-7 as Texas' starter. For some reason, he was judged far more by the seven than by the 15.
But Mack Brown believed in Ash. He believed Texas could be great in 2013 if Ash was great. He thought Texas could win any game on its schedule if his quarterback played at the level he expected.
Ash's rocky career will, in some ways, be forever tied to the end of Brown's. While Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and so many other fine quarterbacks from Texas thrived elsewhere, Ash was the guy Brown hitched his wagon to after the implosion of the Garrett Gilbert era. Had Ash not been lost for the season last year, perhaps Texas might not have a new head coach.
The public expectations, for that reason, were never going to be fair for Ash. Brown and Strong repeatedly asked him just to be a good quarterback, a distributor and manager, and not fret about being great.
His week-to-week demeanor as the leader of the Longhorns' offense, the focal point of this great fishbowl, rarely changed. He was quiet, unassuming country boy from Belton, Texas, early on, but always came off as calm and rather determined. He speaks frequently about his life being grounded in his faith.
"In my mind, I always knew I was going to play again,” Ash said in August. "I feel like this is where God has placed me, this is the talent he has given me, and whenever I work hard and I play hard, it pleases Him and gives Him glory.”
The year off from football humbled him in new ways. He came back from his concussion and foot injury with conviction. He'd never considered quitting, he said, and he wasn't going to look back.
Strong lauded his fall practices as "outstanding.” Ash knew he was still getting closer. When asked about being so close to that breakthrough in 2013 and then having it taken away, having to wait patiently for another season, he offered genuine perspective.
"I think you just be thankful for what you get," Ash said, "and this goes for any person in any situation. You look at situations and say, 'I'm a victim. Why me?' Or you can look at situations and say, 'Wow, I'm so thankful that I even got to do this much.' So attitude is everything in those kinds of situations.
"So right now, wow, I get another opportunity. That's amazing. That's awesome. Thank God for that. I didn't necessarily deserve that, to get another opportunity. Just got to make the most of it.”
Ash got another shot against North Texas on Aug. 30. He played as long as he could. When it was over, when the symptoms came back, he knew he could walk away without regret.
When he sat down with Strong on Wednesday to make his retirement official, he did so voluntarily. Ash is ready to move on, unburdened by expectation, off to find a new way to give glory. Soon enough, he'll realize playing quarterback has nothing to do with how good he can be.
Sept. 7, 2013: Ash exits a 40-21 loss to BYU late in the fourth quarter after suffering a concussion. He does not play against Ole Miss the following week.
Sept. 20: Texas announces Ash has been cleared by UT medical staff to start against Kansas State. He'd participated in his first practice since the concussion two days earlier after being symptom-free for at least 48 hours.
Sept. 21: Ash passes for 166 yards and guides Texas to a 17-7 halftime lead over K-State, then is held out for the second half. Team trainers evaluate him for concussion symptoms.
Nov. 25: Texas officially announces Ash is out for the season and will seek a medical redshirt. "Though he's made a lot of progress, we have not been able to clear him to return to competition," Texas trainer Kenny Boyd says in a statement. "Due to the duration of symptoms, we are now at a point that we all believe the best approach for him is to not return this season."
Jan. 18, 2014: Ash is cleared for offseason workouts and is expected to be a full participant in spring practice.
March 18: First day of spring practice. Ash returns to the practice field for the first time since September.
April 11: Ash is shut down for the final week of spring practice after suffering a "Jones fracture" in his left foot which requires surgery. Texas also announces Ash officially received a medical redshirt for missing 2013, giving him two remaining seasons of eligibility.
July 21: Texas announces Ash is fully cleared to participate in fall practice. A day later, Strong says at Big 12 media days Ash is his starting quarterback.
Aug. 4: First day of fall practice. Ash speaks to media for the first time since BYU. "A lot of people told me, 'You need to give it up, you need to quit.' Honestly, I never really thought about it," he says. "In my mind, I always knew I was going to play." He declines to discuss specifics about his concussion. When asked if he's ready to take his first hit, he declares: "Oh yeah, bring it on."
Aug. 25: During his Monday news conference, Strong refers to Ash as an "unbelievable quarterback who's had an unbelievable preseason camp." When asked again about taking his first hit in the season opener, Ash says, "I'm going to be OK. If I get hit, I'll be fine. I will be sliding a lot more this season, so you can count on that, and I'll be trying to protect myself and doing what's best for the team and taking care of my health during games so that I can last the whole season."
Aug. 30: Ash's first hit comes on the first play of Texas' second offensive drive. As he bends down to scoop up a fumbled snap, North Texas defensive end Jarrian Roberts hits Ash and his shoulder collides with the crown of Ash's helmet. Ash is slow to get up but does not report an injury to UT trainers. He takes at least five more hard hits during the 38-7 win, including three to his head or neck area.
Ash does not report any injuries or symptoms to team trainers during the game. A UT spokesperson says Ash spoke with trainers immediately after he came off the field from each drive.
After the game, Ash does not speak to reporters. OC Shawn Watson describes his performance as "sporadic" with some good moments. Strong is asked about the hits Ash took. "It's all within the flow of the game," he says. "I think the officials did a great job and the thing we have to do is just do a better job protecting. ... Sometimes we see it coming and you have to remember, you're going to get hit in this game."
Around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, after leaving the stadium, Ash informs the Texas staff he's experiencing headaches and dizziness and is brought in for further evaluation. He tells Strong he thinks the first hit, by Roberts, caused his symptoms.
Sept. 1: Strong announces Ash will not play against BYU and offers no timetable for his return. He's concerned about Ash's concussion history but insists the coaching staff was unaware of any in-game symptoms. "I'm not ever going to jeopardize injury," he says. "You can never, ever in this program jeopardize a young man's health to compete in a football game."
Sept. 6: Ash is able to attend Texas' home loss against BYU and watches from the sideline in a jersey and khaki shorts. He also travels for Texas' loss to UCLA at AT&T Stadium but did not suit up.
Sept. 17: Ash meets with Strong and decides to end his playing career. Strong says there is "no way" Texas coaches or trainers would've let Ash take the field again, but the quarterback made the call on retiring and will remain involved with the team this season.
2. Jake Waters has grit: Down two touchdowns in the second half in a hostile environment, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder put the game in the hands of his senior quarterback. That senior quarterback delivered. Waters threw for 239 yards and ran for a career-high 138 while willing the Wildcats to a hard-fought, comeback victory in Farmageddon. Waters led K-State to a potential game-tying scoring midway through the fourth quarter. But on the two-point try, he was stood up just shy of the goal line by Iowa State safety Kamari Cotton-Moya, who delivered a vicious hit to Waters’ head to keep the Cyclones ahead 28-26. Two possessions later, K-State got the ball back with 3:01 remaining, and Waters marched the Wildcats back down the field and capped the drive with a game-winning, 8-yard, touchdown scamper. K-State didn’t play its best in Ames. But Waters, Tyler Lockett and Ryan Mueller wouldn’t let the Wildcats lose. That type of grit from its stars could take K-State a long way this season.
3. Daxx Garman can spin it: The last time Garman played a snap of competitive football, he was a junior in high school in 2009. But after relieving an injured J.W. Walsh in the first quarter, the former walk-on opened up the Oklahoma State offense with his big arm. Garman completed 16 of 26 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns, as the Cowboys disposed of Missouri State 40-23. Garman's first touchdown came on an 87-yard pass to Brandon Sheperd on third-and-19, in which he threw the ball back across his body downfield for the second-longest completion in Oklahoma State history. It’s unclear just how serious Walsh’s injury is, but he came out of the locker room on crutches and wearing a boot on his right foot. Although Walsh played well in the opener against Florida State, the offense has bogged down at times in the past with him at the helm because of his limited arm strength. Garman demonstrated no such limitations, as he peppered the ball around to Oklahoma State’s deep and talented receiver crew. The Cowboys should be in good hands with Garman as long as Walsh is out. When Walsh returns, Oklahoma State will have a difficult decision about the direction to take at quarterback.
4 .K.D. Cannon is a boss: With Baylor receivers Antwan Goodley (quad), Levi Norwood (wrist), Corey Coleman (hamstring) and Clay Fuller (collarbone) all out with injuries, true freshman wideout Cannon stole the show in Baylor’s 70-6 waxing of Northwestern State. In the first half alone, Cannon had three touchdown catches and 223 receiving yards -- the second-most in school history for an entire game. Cannon will have to shoulder the receiving load while his cohorts heal up. But Cannon and fellow true freshman wideout Davion Hall, who had 78 yards receiving and a touchdown, appear more than ready.
5. Texas Tech will go nowhere with a hole in its foot: The Red Raiders survived a late scare from UTEP on Sunday morning and won 30-26, but it was hardly the performance Kliff Kingsbury was looking for after a sluggish opener this past weekend against Central Arkansas. Once again, penalties tormented the Red Raiders, who already have 25 of them through two games. One almost comedic sequence late in the third quarter underscored the epidemic. As UTEP punted on fourth-and-8, Tech was flagged because it had two players on the field wearing the same number. After the mark off, facing fourth-and-3, the Miners elected to go for it, except they wouldn’t have to snap the ball because Tech was flagged again, this time because one of its coaches was too close to the field (Tech had already received a sideline warning). Thanks to the pair of gifts, UTEP went on to score a touchdown and get back in the game. The Red Raiders have talent, particularly with their offensive skill players, but they won’t be a factor in the Big 12 if they keep shooting themselves in the foot this way.
With the help of ESPN Stats and Information, here’s a ranking of the Adjusted QBR’s of each starting quarterback in the Big 12, including a closer look at the pros and cons of their performances and how they could improve moving forward. (Note: Adjusted QBR is an metric that measures a quarterback success while taking into account the opponent. It's presented on a scale of 0-100, with 50 being average.)
Pros: Knight followed his Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP performance with the Big 12’s top Adjusted QBR in Week 1. He was impressive with his distribution, completing passes to seven different receivers.
Cons: Knight didn’t protect the football with one fumble and one interception.
Moving forward: Knight has plenty of room to improve, completing just 37.5 percent (3 of 8) of his third-down passes. He needs to be better in those clutch situations.
2. Clint Trickett, West Virginia 75.9
Pros: Trickett was extremely productive against a quality Alabama defense with 365 passing yards and a 64.4 completion percentage without an interception. He was particularly good on first down, finishing 15-of-18 for 144 yards on first-down throws.
Cons: With all the success he had, Trickett threw just one touchdown pass.
Moving forward: The Mountaineers will need more from Trickett on third down. He completed 5 of 11 third-down attempts for 77 yards.
3. Bryce Petty, Baylor 75.6
Pros: Petty threw a pair of touchdowns, with 8.7 percent of his throws resulting in a score. He finished 13-of-23 for 161 yards and two touchdowns passing and ran for another touchdown.
Cons: He was playing injured and completed just 56.5 percent of his passes.
Moving forward: Realistically, 100 percent healthy is the most important number for Petty. But he also could improve on third down, completing just 3 of 7 attempts for 20 yards and one touchdown.
4. J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State 75.2
Pros: Walsh’s 13.5 yards per completion was the best in the Big 12.
Cons: Walsh completed 4 of 11 passes of 10 yards or more.
Moving forward: Walsh needs to do a better job using the entire field or defenses will try to capitalize on having less ground to cover. He attempted just six passes (3 of 6) outside the hash marks on the left side of the field. He attempted 27 total passes, meaning 21 of his attempts were between the harsh marks or to the right side of the field.
5. Jake Waters, Kansas State 68.2
Pros: Waters got off to a terrific start, going 8-of-9 for 80 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter.
Cons: He was sacked three times with a sack percentage of 9.7 percent.
Moving forward: Waters was 2-of-5 for 17 yards and one interception on third down. That must improve.
6. Davis Webb, Texas Tech 62.2
Pros: Webb had a Big 12-best 98.3 raw QBR on third down. He was 7-of-9 for 65 yards and one touchdown.
Cons: Webb threw two interceptions and fumbled once.
Moving forward: Webb can focus on starting quicker after throwing an interception and finishing the first quarter with a 29.4 QBR.
7. Trevone Boykin, TCU 56. 3
Pros: Boykin was terrific in the red zone, completing 5 of 7 passes for one touchdown and rushing for another score.
Cons: Boykin was lackluster in the third quarter, completing 4 of 9 passes for 60 yards.
Moving forward: After seeing how well Boykin distributed the ball to several different receivers on short passes, opposing defenses will focus on taking that away. He went 2-of-4 on passes of 15 yards or longer but will likely need to take more shots downfield to keep defenses honest in the future.
8. David Ash, Texas 27
Pros: Ash had a solid third quarter, going 8-of-10 for 67 yards and one touchdown, although he did have a fumble.
Cons: Ash had three total fumbles.
Moving forward: Tyrone Swoopes takes over the Texas offense with Ash’s future in doubt because of concussion symptoms. If Swoopes takes better care of the ball than Ash, the Longhorns will have already taken a step forward.
9. Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State 13.8
Pros: Richardson started strong, going 6-of-8 for 32 yards in the first quarter and adding 32 rushing yards.
Cons: Richardson had seven total yards, threw an interception and was sacked twice in the third quarter.
Moving forward: Richardson averaged 4.9 yards per attempt, easily the worst in the Big 12. The conference average was 7.22 yards per attempt. Richardson and the Cyclones need to find ways to create an more explosive passing game.
And for coach Charlie Strong, the timing couldn’t be worse.
David Ash, who is out after suffering from concussion-related symptoms following a hit he took in the opener. Ash missed almost all of last season with the same ailment, suggesting Texas could be forced to roll with inexperienced sophomore Tyrone Swoopes at quarterback for the foreseeable future. For at least this weekend, three starting offensive linemen are also out.
That future includes a daunting immediate schedule.
This weekend, the Longhorns face BYU, which rolled up 550 yards on the ground on the way to rolling Texas 40-21 last season.
The following weekend, the Longhorns will take on No. 11 UCLA in Arlington, Texas. The Bruins are coming off a 10-win season and feature one of the top quarterbacks in the country in Brett Hundley.
Texas gets a little reprieve after that with an open weekend, then a road trip to Kansas.
But then, the Longhorns face Big 12 co-favorites Baylor and Oklahoma in back-to-back weeks.
In light of the Ash injury, we put ask: What will Texas’ record be in those five games?
Let us know what you think in our weekly Big 12 poll.
But Texas’ Red River neighbor can certainly empathize.
Five years ago, the Sooners were coming off a national title appearance and Big 12 championship, and entered their opener with expectations of defending their crown. But two quarters in against BYU, Sam Bradford’s throwing arm was in a sling. Before long, Oklahoma’s season was, too.
When it comes to Texas’ new starting quarterback, Tyrone Swoopes, who has completed only five passes in his career, Oklahoma’s 2009 season can offer no message of optimism. With inexperienced freshman Landry Jones behind center, the Sooners scuffled, quickly tumbling out of the Big 12 title race despite featuring one of the toughest defenses of the Bob Stoops era.
Another part of Oklahoma’s quarterbacking past, however, does convey an audacity of hope for the Longhorns.
In the summer of 2006, the Sooners endured their darkest days in the Stoops regime. Budding star Rhett Bomar had been receiving payment for work he wasn’t doing at a Norman car dealership. Stoops boldly booted his starting quarterback off the roster, which boldly sent Oklahoma’s offense into turmoil.
Minus Bomar, all that was left in Stoops’ official quarterback cupboard was junior college transfer Joey Halzle and a skinny incoming freshman named Sam Bradford, who, like Jerrod Heard now in Austin, wasn’t ready yet for big-time college football. The Sooners had only one other recourse: swing wide receiver Paul Thompson back to his original position of quarterback.
“It was a shock,” Thompson said. “To me. To our team.”
But the Sooners soon would overcome that shock. And after a rocky start that included a controversial onside kick call in a loss at Oregon, followed by a 28-10 loss to the Longhorns, Thompson guided Oklahoma to seven consecutive wins and another Big 12 championship.
“The situation really became a rallying cry for us,” Thompson said. “The guys had confidence in me.”
There are some distinct differences between Thompson and Swoopes.
Thompson was a senior who had already earned the respect and trust of his teammates. Even though he had been moved to receiver before the offseason, Thompson had more experience in games as a quarterback than Swoopes. And Thompson had the entire preseason to get snaps with the first-team offense; Swoopes only has the week.
“I had that rapport with the team,” Thompson said. “I was a guy who had played in some games. The team trusted me. They were comfortable with me. I don’t know or not if that’s the case or not at Texas.”
But Thompson, who grew up near Austin, does see similarities with this Texas team. Those Sooners had a veteran team elsewhere, including a powerful rushing attack and a talented front seven defensively. These Longhorns likewise have perhaps the Big 12’s best one-two punch at running back in Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. Texas also has the pieces up front defensively to dominate in the trenches.
“The slack can’t be just picked up by the quarterback position,” Thompson said. “It’s a collective effort. They have to alter the playbook, too, to suit [Swoopes’] strengths and put him in positions to have confidence. It might be short dinks and dunks early on. But the bottom line is, the rest of the team has to rally around whoever is in there. And everyone has to step up their game a little bit to compensate.”
Thompson didn’t the set the league on fire in 2006. He finished seventh in the league in passing and completed only 61 percent of his passes. But he limited mistakes, managed the game and gave the rest of the team confidence they could still win without Bomar.
The same onus will be on Swoopes, who doesn’t have to set the Big 12 on fire, either, but has in Thompson, a past model for success.
“[Swoopes] can’t be scared; he has to show confidence, and at least fake it until he [gets] it,” Thompson said. “The schedule is tough and the wheels could come off. But if he doesn’t hurt the team, and gets some confidence. … Things could end up all right there.”
On to the mailbag:
Schloss in Falling Waters, West Virginia, writes: As a WVU alumnus, I am happy to see we have made good progress since last season. There is little doubt that we have definitely improved. But should 'Eer fans be worried about an Alabama hangover? Does WVU continue to build on its strong showing versus the Tide or does it take a step back in Week 2?
Brandon Chatmon: Mountaineer fans should be worried because we see teams that are overwhelming favorites struggle each week during nonconference play. But I think the Mountaineers are hungry and will look at the Alabama result as proof of their potential to be better than last season and strive to make a statement that they plan to rise up the Big 12 standings this season. As impressive as their showing was, it was still a loss. So I think WVU will come out hungry for the satisfaction of a victory.
John in Hillsboro, Ohio writes: So ... in this new playoff era, how can a Big 12 team, even undefeated, hope to get to the playoffs with no conference championship and traditionally weak nonconference scheduling?
Chatmon: I don’t see a scenario where an undefeated Big 12 champion is on the outside looking in when playoff berths are handed out.
Michael in Lubbock, Texas writes: It’s one thing to come out flat against an FCS team, but what's most troubling about Texas Tech's "embarrassing" performance was the same problems that you know they worked on all offseason keep biting them -- turnovers, penalties, bad special teams play and the defense getting blown off the line and unable to get off the field. How do they fix it?
Chatmon: The problems with penalties and turnovers is what bothered me the most as well, Michael. The Red Raiders didn’t play with urgency or take the field to dominate Central Arkansas. They clearly just wanted to show up and get their win. Kliff Kingsbury has been stressing penalties and turnovers, yet they’re still an issue which makes me think it won’t change until the players take more pride and ownership over being masters of the details. Everything is fixable, but Kingsbury's squad needs to understand the value of every game, every play and every opportunity.
Andy in Austin, Texas writes: Given his history of concussions, does Texas quarterback David Ash finally retire? And who does Strong give the reins to, Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard?
Chatmon: I hope so. We’ve reached the point where it’s not about David Ash the football player anymore. As far as where UT goes from here, here is what I would do if I was Charlie Strong. I would start preparing to hand the offense over to Heard. I'd tell Swoopes he gets the start this weekend but I think Heard is the future and that we’re going to get Heard ready to take over, starting with multiple series against BYU, then see how Swoopes responds. Best-case scenario is Swoopes steps his game up and either Heard earns the job and beats him out or Swoopes refuses to let this opportunity to start get away from him. That would be a win-win for the Longhorns.
John Wheeler writes: When comparing the defensive efforts of Texas and Baylor, which seems to point to more long-term success and which was more a result of opponent?
Chatmon: I think both defensive performances point to long-term success. Both defenses have terrific athletes and were dominant over the weekend so I expect both to be among the Big 12’s best. The thing I liked most about the performances was the relentless nature of the Longhorns and Bears defenses. That’s what you’re supposed to do against inferior opponents.
Matt Truelove writes: Even though J.W. Walsh almost led the Cowboys to victory vs. FSU, do you think he'll end the year as the starter for the Cowboys?
Chatmon: That’s an interesting question. I think ultimately the Cowboys quarterback will be decided by the defense they are facing as a season progresses. Walsh will be the guy until defenses load up to stop the run-heavy approach that highlights the junior’s strengths. When that happens Daxx Garman or Mason Rudolph will be counted on to make defenses respect the passing game. If all bets are off and it was only up to Mike Gundy and company, I think Walsh would get the bulk of the snaps because of his unquestioned leadership ability. But I fully expect the Pokes to adapt when defenses force their hand as the season goes on. So, to answer your question, I don’t think OSU will have an clear No. 1 signal-caller this fall, with Walsh sitting atop the queue and Garman/Rudolph ready to go when needed.
On a scale of 1-10, how big of an impact is David Ash's injury to Texas' season?
Trotter: 9. Who knows when -- or even if -- Ash will be able to return to the lineup for the Longhorns this season? The timing of Ash's injury combined with the timing of a brutal upcoming schedule could send Texas' season south in a hurry. Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard might be fine quarterbacks in time. But Heard has been on campus just a few weeks. And in the spring, Swoopes looked nowhere near ready to quarterback Texas to wins over BYU, UCLA, Baylor and Oklahoma, which, by the way, are four teams Texas plays in its next five games. Maybe Swoopes has improved dramatically since the spring. Maybe Ash will return shortly. But the biggest question to Texas having success in Strong's first season -- Ash staying healthy -- has already been answered. And not in the way Texas fans had hoped.
Olson: 11, possibly 12. Charlie Strong went into this season with the same belief Mack Brown held last summer: If Ash is good, we're going to be pretty good. Losing him on his first hit of the season is the absolute nightmare scenario, because there's no guarantee he'll ever come back and there's no guarantee the backup can get the job done. A senior like Case McCoy is not walking through that door. Texas once again must scramble to retool its offense and, once again, the previous staff's failures in recruiting quarterback depth are being exposed.
Other than Oklahoma State and West Virginia, what surprised you most last weekend?
Chatmon: Texas Tech’s struggles to pull away from Central Arkansas was a surprise. I expected Kliff Kingsbury’s squad to cruise to a double digit victory, but they couldn’t seem to take control of the game. The most disappointing aspect of the game was turnovers and penalties continuing to make life more difficult than it needed to be for Tech. The Red Raiders have the ability to become major players in the Big 12 race this season but that won’t happen if they’re constantly shooting themselves in the foot.
Trotter: Thee biggest surprise to me was Iowa State's dismal performance against North Dakota State. I really thought the Cyclones had the chance to form a competent offensive attack with a proven play-caller in Mark Mangino, an experienced offensive line and talent at the skill positions. Through the first quarter, that looked like the case. But after injuries to Quenton Bundrage and Tom Farniok the offense completely fell apart, while the Iowa State defensive front got dominated in the trenches. One game in, Iowa State's bowl hopes already look like a long shot.
Olson: I did think Iowa State could get upset by North Dakota State, but I didn't expect a blowout. Throughout the offseason we were led to believe the Cyclones had renovated their offense and were on track to become a bowl-quality team again. That might still be the case, but losing Farniok and Bundrage was crushing, and ISU's run defense was embarrassing in the 20-point loss. They could be in for a rough run to start this season.
Other than Swoopes, what storyline are you most interested in this weekend?
Chatmon: I’m interested to see if there’s any letdown from Oklahoma State and West Virginia as home favorites after strong showings in losses to open the season. The Cowboys face Missouri State and the Mountaineers face Towson in games they should dominate. If OSU and WVU are the type of teams they looked like to open the season, they will roll on Saturday. If they aren’t, they’ll let their overmatched opponents make the games closer than they should be.
Trotter: I'll be watching to see how the Texas defense performs in a revenge game against BYU. The Longhorns were embarrassed in Provo last year. Now, even more pressure will be on them with Texas' quarterback shuffle. The Longhorns have the talent defensively to dominate, and carry the team through this quarterback transition. But will they? We're about to find out.
Olson: The rematch of Taysom Hill vs. Texas' defense. Last season, he torched the Longhorns for 259 rushing yards and three TDs and nobody saw it coming. The nation's No. 3 rushing quarterback in 2013 looked sharper and improved as a passer in his debut vs. UConn last week. Texas' defense was spectacular against North Texas, and its players want revenge. Charlie Strong's staff should have a much better plan for containing Hill and the zone read, but this going to be a four-quarter chess match.
At Big 12 media days in July 2013, Ash was asked about his relationship with Tyrone Swoopes, the freshman who'd enrolled early and was battling to become his backup. He talked about Texas' proud history at the quarterback position -- Vince Young, Colt McCoy, even mentioned Major Applewhite. Then he reflected on what he wanted to leave behind when his playing days at Texas were over.
"Coming in, Texas kind of took a nosedive for a year, and we've been trying to get back up," he said. "With Tyrone, my goal is that whenever he steps in, I've got the program where he can just keep it rolling and Texas can be good for a long time."
The time for Swoopes to step in is right now and when he least expected it. The sophomore played two snaps against North Texas -- the final two kneel-downs of the ballgame -- but must start his first career game Saturday against BYU.
Swoopes' resume is fairly blank to this point. He's completed nearly four times more passes in spring games (19) than in real ones (five). But he showed enough in fall camp to make this a clear-cut decision for Charlie Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson once Ash was ruled out.
"I'm very confident in Tyrone. I am," Strong said. "I'm confident with any player on this football team."
The 6-foot-4 sophomore isn't easy to bring down at 245 pounds, and Watson will surely implement more run options into the game plan this week to accentuate what Swoopes does best. Strong went so far as to compare Swoopes's ability on the perimeter to BYU's prolific quarterback Taysom Hill.
He is not the fleet-footed Young clone that fans expected during Swoopes' recruitment out of Whitewright (Texas) High School, but his legs do give the Texas offense an asset and a chance for some new wrinkles.
What Texas needs from Swoopes, above all else, is a competent passer capable of making key throws and sound decisions. He throws a nice deep ball, but how will he handle the intermediate throws? What about third downs and passing downs? Watson has seen improvements both in Swoopes' knowledge and fundamentals during their time together. A long offseason of training will soon be put to the test.
"Once Tyrone gets a couple completions in, he'll start getting a little rhythm and he'll be fine," running back Malcolm Brown said. "He's a guy that I've seen work since he's been here. I know as a backup, you always feel like you have to go above and beyond, but that's not the case at all. Just have to be consistent."
The presence of Brown and Johnathan Gray, two of the Big 12's best backs, certainly helps. Strong insists he does not demand greatness of Texas' quarterbacks. He just needs a game manager.
"What you have to look at, it's not all about one position," Strong said. "If you have the defense play well like we played the other night, you have two good running backs, your offense line protects well, you can function."
Strong said Swoopes executed the Texas offense effectively during practice Sunday, but he must also prepare a contingency plan. Swoopes' backup will be freshman Jerrod Heard, the former ESPN 150 recruit and two-time state champion from Denton (Texas) Guyer. Walk-on Trey Holtz figures to be the No. 3 option, and there are no other scholarship quarterbacks available.
Had Heard been able to enroll early at Texas this spring, he might've had a better chance to beat out Swoopes. After Watson told reporters this month that Heard was "in China" when it came to his understanding of the offense, a redshirt seemed likely. That might not be possible now.
"It's got to move very quickly for him," Strong said. "You're always a play away."
The opponent for Swoopes' first start, while familiar, is no less scary. BYU forced an Ash-led Texas offense to punt eight times in the 40-21 beatdown in Provo last season. He might struggle early, Strong admitted, but Swoopes needs to maintain his composure. He needs to find confidence.
And Texas will need everybody else to chip in if they're going to pull this off and, as Ash hoped, keep rolling.
"Other players have to step up, other players have to go play," Strong said. "You look across the country and it can happen to any team at any second. Now it's happened to us."
Texas quarterback David Ash, who missed most of last season with concussion symptoms, was injured again and will miss this week's game against BYU.
Ash took several hard hits in a 38-7 win over North Texas. Longhorns coach Charlie Strong says Ash didn't show any symptoms during the game, but that the coaching staff got a call later that night.
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Teams of the week: Yes, West Virginia and Oklahoma State might have ultimately lost. But as heavy underdogs, they also took the top two ranked teams in the country to the wire on neutral sites. Both squads should gain a ton of confidence from their performances. And assuming they both play the way they did in their openers, their 2014 outlooks will look much different than they did in the preseason.
Disappointment of the week: Iowa State lost its season opener to an FCS opponent for the second straight year. The Cyclones jumped to a 14-0 lead, then got dominated by North Dakota State the rest of the way. Iowa State could be without leading receiver Quenton Bundrage for awhile. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with the next four opponents all coming off bowl appearances.
Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was terrific in the loss, throwing for 365 yards -- the second-most a Nick Saban Alabama team had ever allowed behind Johnny Manziel in 2013. Trickett also completed 29 of 45 passes, and would have had more completions had it not been for several drops.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman was unblockable against SMU Sunday night. He had two of Baylor’s eight sacks, as the Bears held SMU to just 64 yards of a total offense in a 45-0 shutout -- the first time the Mustangs had been shutout since 2004.
Special teams player of the week: Tyreek Hill set an Oklahoma State record for all-purpose yards in a debut with 278. And he did it against the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Florida State has one of the nation’s fastest teams around, and yet they couldn’t catch Hill, whether it was on offense, on punt returns or kickoff returns. The Cowboys have one dynamic playmaker in their backfield, and on special teams.
Play of the week: Oklahoma State had the ball at midfield with five minutes left and a chance to take the lead over the Seminoles. But as quarterback J.W. Walsh dove for a first down, he was upended and lost control of the ball. The Seminoles recovered and scored two plays later to extend its lead to 37-24. Oklahoma State came right back and scored a touchdown, but couldn’t come up with the onside kick. The fumble was the difference maker.
Stat of the week: Baylor finished with more sacks (eight) than SMU did first downs (seven).
Quote of the week: “We can function. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.” – Texas coach Charlie Strong, after revealing Monday morning that quarterback David Ash would miss Saturday’s game with BYU due to concussion-like symptoms suffered in the opener.
No. 1: 101.6
Charlie Strong admitted on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference Monday there's one number he cares about (after the final score) when he's handed the postgame stat sheet: Rushing yards allowed.
His defense at Louisville led FBS in run defense last season, allowing just 81.5 yards per game. Texas gave up an average of 183.1 rushing yards per game a year ago. You better believe Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford intend to close that 101.6-yard gap as much as possible in 2014.
In the past four years, only one Big 12 defense has given up fewer than 100 rushing yards per game: The 2011 Longhorns, who held teams to 96.2 yards per game on the ground.
For what it's worth, and maybe not much, Georgia's defense did hold North Texas to 7 total rushing yards on 25 attempts last year.
No. 2: 123
We know very little about North Texas starting quarterback Josh Greer, a juco transfer who spent 2012 at UAB and 2013 at Navarro College. He's seen as a guy who has some similar traits to the successful guy he replaces, Derek Thompson, and he was a 63.5-percent passer at Navarro. He's a bit of an unknown otherwise.
But we do know he'll be protected by an offensive line that, on paper, looks impressive with 123 career starts among the five starters. Cyril Lemon, a first-team All-CUSA guard last year, moves from right tackle and has 37 career starts. He's one of four senior starters along with Mason Y'Barbo (37 starts), Antonio Johnson (34) and Shawn McKinney (2).
Texas players think they have the best defensive line in the Big 12, if not the nation. Those boasts will be put to the test Saturday as they try to rattle a QB making his first college start.
No. 3: 434
When you talk about David Ash's best games as Texas' starting quarterback, his 2013 season opener against New Mexico State doesn't usually get brought up. But in his only compete game of that injury-wrecked season, Ash accounted for 434 total yards (343 passing, 91 rushing) and offered an appealing glimpse of what he might've been able to do had he stayed healthy.
Texas struggled to get rolling until late in the second quarter, but Ash got the offense to open up from there. He threw for four touchdowns, busted off a 55-yard touchdown scramble and showed poise in the second half to guide an offense that put up a school-record 715 total yards.
North Texas should be a better foe than NMSU, which went on to finish 2-10 with the fourth-worst scoring defense in the country. But will we see a version of Ash that's as good or better than the one that showed up in last year's opener?
Three more to remember
Eight: The number of kicks North Texas blocked last season, most in FBS. Four were blocked punts. Against Georgia last year, UNT blocked a punt for TD and also returned a kickoff for a TD.
Two: North Texas coach Dan McCarney coached the defensive line on Strong's Florida defenses for two seasons, in 2008 and 2009.
35-21: The score of North Texas' last game against a Big 12 program, a loss at Kansas State in 2012. UNT is 7-57 all-time against the Big 12 but 0-9 in the past decade.
Who between West Virginia and Oklahoma State has the better chance to pull off the upset this weekend?
Olson: West Virginia, simply because I think Florida State has a little more talent than Alabama. Last year, Virginia Tech gave up two punt return TDs and a pick-six in the first half of their opener vs. Alabama. The Hokies shot themselves in the foot from the start. West Virginia has absolutely no margin of error for that. What the Mountaineers do have is a potentially explosive offense and a full game film of OU thrashing the Tide to use as the blueprint. They must strike early and often and give Bama’s new starting QB hell.
Chatmon: The Mountaineers are hoping a year in the offense will pay off for quarterback Clint Trickett and the rest of the unit. At this time a year ago, none of WVU’s playmakers on offense had much experience. Twelve months later, it should be a different offense. Oklahoma State is talented but it is largely untested, and its defense could be a deer in headlights early against the Seminoles, which would be too much to overcome. Thus, WVU gets the nod, but I wouldn’t bet on either squad to triumph.
Trotter: West Virginia. Florida State returns several key parts off a team that steamrolled most everyone on the way to a national championship. Oklahoma State has the fewest returning starters among any Power 5 conference team. That’s not a recipe for an upset. Alabama is a powerhouse, too, but at least West Virginia will be taking a veteran team to Atlanta. If the Mountaineers can pull off some big plays early -- and they have the players to pull off big plays -- then they can hang around into the second half.
Which Big 12 team should be on upset alert in Week 1?
Olson: No need to overthink this one. It’s Iowa State, because they play North Dakota State. And I don’t say that out of disrespect for the Cyclones, who could be better in a lot of ways in 2014. Just have to respect how NDSU screwed up another Big 12 team’s opener a year ago. Even with coach Craig Bohl gone to Wyoming, NDSU might still be the best team in FCS.
Chatmon: I don’t expect any Big 12 team to be upset this weekend, but TCU is the team that immediately comes to mind. The Horned Frogs won’t lose to Samford -- their defense is too good for that upset to happen -- but they could run into some ups and downs as they try to get their offense humming in the first game with new coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham at the helm. Another team that will have to be on its toes is Baylor, as the Bears try to ignore the distraction of opening McLane Stadium against SMU and focus on the actual game at hand.
Trotter: This one is obvious. Iowa State lost last year’s opener to FCS opponent Northern Iowa. Iowa State’s Week 1 opponent this season, North Dakota State, beat Kansas State on the road in Week 1 last year. If the Cyclones play their game, they’ll be fine. But if they don’t, the three-time defending FCS national champs are more than capable of delivering the upset.
Who is the one player to watch this weekend?
Olson: Oklahoma RB Keith Ford. There were times last season, even when the freshman was getting limited reps, that I sensed Ford might be OU’s most talented running back. He didn’t get talked up too much this offseason, but I think Ford could run wild on Louisiana Tech and alleviate some concerns about an OU run game that lost its top three backs this offseason.
Chatmon: I’m looking forward to seeing what Tyreek Hill can do against the athletes on Florida State’s defense. If Hill is going to live up to the hype as Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, he will have an immediate impact against the Seminoles and the Cowboys are sure to make getting him the ball a priority. I’m also looking forward to hopefully getting a look at Baylor receiver KD Cannon and Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes in action during week 1.
Trotter: Remember David Ash? It’s difficult to remember, considering he has played in only a couple of games since 2012. Ash will be back behind center for the Longhorns this weekend and is the single biggest key to Texas’ 2014 outlook. If Ash stays healthy and plays well consistently, the Longhorns have the pieces elsewhere to make a run at the Big 12 title. If Ash struggles or gets injured again, the Longhorns will be cooked. The North Texas game will give us a glimpse of which player Texas will be getting.