Another unclear Texas QB situation

Bowl practices could determine long-term future of Longhorns' signal-callers

Updated: December 3, 2012, 11:40 PM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- Bryan Harsin gave up his bird's-eye view of the Texas quarterback play at Kansas State, instead preferring to be in the midst of the storm rather than above it.

The motivation, the co-offensive coordinator said, was to look in the eyes and be in the ears of all the players, especially his quarterbacks.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy
Jeff Moffett/Icon SMIQuarterback Case McCoy passed for 722 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions this season.

"Just to get everybody together and let them know what we have to do," Harsin said. "Just to keep the momentum, the mojo up, and communication process up. I thought it was good."

But however much Harsin's view might have changed Saturday, his perspective on the quarterbacks did not.

"We will go back and watch this game and everything that happened in it before we make any decisions," he said.

So, in other words, 12 months later Texas is right back to where it ended the 2011 regular season.

A year ago, it was Case McCoy's four-interception performance at Baylor that reinserted David Ash as the starter during the bowl practices. McCoy had two interceptions in the start against Kansas State.

That McCoy also threw for 300-plus yards might not be a determining factor or even a solid point to argue when it comes to who is the better quarterback for the Texas offense. At least it wasn't last season, because McCoy also threw for 300-plus yards against Baylor before not throwing a single pass against California in the bowl game.

In fact, it appears the more the junior throws, the worse he is. Kansas State and Baylor are the only 300-plus-yard passing performances of McCoy's career. Both games also happen to represent his career highs in interceptions.

"[McCoy] did a nice job, made some big plays, operated some things well," Harsin said of the KSU game. "But like any game, it comes down to turnovers. You got to eliminate those things."

It was turnovers that forced incumbent starter David Ash to the bench prior to KSU. He had three against TCU and two against Kansas. A rib injury was also a factor in his second benching against TCU, although after watching film Harsin said that footwork and TCU's pass rush had more to do with Ash's ill-timed throws than the injury.

Now the Longhorns have less than a month to prepare for the bowl game. That will be followed by another winter full of speculation that will be undoubtedly spiked with discontent depending on who plays, and how much, against Oregon State.

So Harsin will now hunch over game film like it was something shot by Abraham Zapruder. All angles must be investigated.

But focusing on the film should not preclude Harsin from taking a look at other offensive players. Throughout the season it became apparent that this was a team searching for a leader. There were moments -- the final drive against Oklahoma State -- that it looked as if Ash might be just that person. There were also moments -- Kansas, Oklahoma and TCU -- when it was apparent he was not yet.

So as much as Harsin is searching for a quarterback, this team, which has been forced to yo-yo between Ash and McCoy for the better part of two seasons, is searching for someone it can follow.

McCoy exudes those qualities in his manner and words. But the Plinko-style with which he plays, bouncing from peg to peg, sometimes finding the right slot and other times hitting zero, does not command a following. It's too unreliable and ultimately leads to sideways glances with more than a few messages ending in "smh."

As for Ash, he looked better against inferior talent at the start, only to look so much worse as the season progressed. Watching a quarterback actually regress throughout a season has led to questions of consistency and sustainability against top-level competition.

Like McCoy, he has qualities that make him more than adequate. But Ash, like McCoy, he has issues that are still there after two seasons.

Now Harsin will hunker down in his dark film room, with thoughts and what-ifs colliding with what-has-beens and what-could-bes about the position he coaches.

"You go back and assess the whole year and body of work and how they are progressing," Harsin said.

After that, maybe Harsin and Texas can finally get a clear view of who it is they want at quarterback.

Carter Strickland | email

Reporter, HornsNation

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