AUSTIN, Texas – Sophomore quarterback David Ash says he feels like the leader of the Texas offense.
Coach Mack Brown, however, still refuses to publicly declare a starter and says he’s confident that either Ash or junior Case McCoy could lead the Longhorns next season.
If Sunday’s spring scrimmage showed anything, it’s that Ash has earned the right to call himself the starter, but McCoy still could challenge for the job if he can eliminate costly turnovers.
Ash threw only six passes — one for a touchdown — and directed three early scoring drives. He was 5 of 6 for 31 yards. McCoy was 9 of 15 for 139 yards with a touchdown, but also threw two interceptions in the end zone as Texas wrapped up spring drills.
“I thought I made pretty good decisions,” Ash said. “I’ve been trying to understand defenses better. … I’ve been trying to improve the mental side of my game a lot.”
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When asked if he thought the offense was his to run, Ash replied, “Yes sir.”
The quarterback battle — or struggle, depending on the week — has been a yearlong theme for a Texas team trying to rebuild into a Big 12 title contender. Both Ash and McCoy struggled last season when Texas went 8-5 and finished with a losing record in the Big 12 for the second year in a row.
McCoy, the younger brother of former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, went 3-2 as a starter last season and rallied Texas to a last-second win against rival Texas A&M in the final game in that century old rivalry. But the week after that game, he committed five turnovers in a loss at Baylor.
Ash was 3-3 as a starter and appeared to have taken the role when he played the entire game in the Holiday Bowl win against California. Ash was the most valuable player of the game after passing for one touchdown, catching another and not committing any turnovers.
But Brown has yet to declare Ash the guy and insists he wants Texas to have two quarterbacks capable of starting.
“Case and David did some good things today,” Brown said. “I think either one of those quarterbacks can run the offense we’re running.”
Both quarterbacks saw action with the first- and second-team offenses, but Ash got the first two drives with the starters and both ended in touchdowns. He capped the second with a perfect end zone fade route to Jaxon Shipley.
But that was also the lone highlight for him as a passer. Otherwise, Ash’s job was mainly handing off. He also showed some zip in his legs on a 1-yard touchdown run when he beat two defenders to the edge.
“The play isn’t always the big throw. Sometimes you have to take what the defense gives you,” Ash said.
McCoy is clearly willing to take more risks throwing the ball downfield and had a couple of nice touch passes on a 56-yard completion down the middle and a 36-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Hales. His interceptions came on a deep route with no receiver within 10 yards of the ball and an underthrown fade route in the end zone.
“I think we all know that to be on the field and run that position, you can’t turn the ball over,” McCoy said. “You can paint all the pictures you want, if you turn the ball over, you’re not going to play. That was part of the problem last year, each one of us would turn the ball at some point. We’re both maturing, we’re both getting better.”
Other highlights of the game included Shipley throwing a 54-yard touchdown pass to tight end D.J. Grant, and a 99-yard kickoff return by Mykkele Thompson.
Texas opens the 2012 season Sept. 1 at home against Wyoming.
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