Heading into the year it was no secret that a lot of the hopes for what the Texas Longhorns could become hinged largely on the right arm of David Ash.
David Ash is quietly putting up great numbers in his sophomore campaign.
And even though there have been some times when he's looked like a true sophomore, there have also been times when he's played at a level beyond his years. It's gone beyond what could have been expected of him entering the year.
The resume reads like one of an All-Big 12 caliber quarterback. He's completing 69.3 percent of his passes for 2,354 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions through ten games.
What's even more impressive is that while Ash is 16 starts into his Texas career, he was leading Belton High School to the Class 5A playoffs just two years ago.
“We forget sometimes how young he is,” Mack Brown said.
I've written the David Ash ten reason column this season on why he was a different guy entering fall camp and what people needed to know about him after he was named the team's starting quarterback.
Now, here are ten things people need to know about Ash after ten games this season.
1. He knows what it's like to work hard
There's a lot about Ash's upbringing that's molded him into the person and player he's become. His toughness, his poise, and his leadership were all things that were developed through his father instilling in him that hard work was the only way to go.
It's taken a lot of hard work for Ash to get to where he is today, but it all started with his summers doing ranch work growing up. Anyone who has done that kind of work knows the kind of character it can build.
“I guess it was always kind of the expectations growing up,” Ash said. “You're supposed to be a hard-working guy. You're not supposed to be sitting on the hay, you're supposed to be hauling the hay. If I was late to the barn, I didn't want to want be late. I didn't want to be the slacker. I didn't want to be lazy.”
Through the ups and downs throughout his career, and even this season, the one thing teammates and coaches constantly say about Ash is his work ethic never changes. Bryan Harsin has noted how diligent Ash is when it comes to film study and getting prepared for a game.
Being talented isn't good enough for Ash. He's been good this fall, but one of the reasons he continues to grind away goes back to something his dad drove into his head a long time ago about what level of performance is acceptable.
“He preached to me excellence,” Ash said. “Not just perfection, but excellence.”
2. He knows how to keep himself grounded and level-headed
Ash has had plenty of highs this fall. He led a come-from-behind win at Oklahoma State. He was a part of offensive explosions against Ole Miss and Baylor. And he's put together two straight consistent outings against Texas Tech and Iowa State.
He also didn't perform well against Oklahoma, and his showing against Kansas was putrid enough to get him benched.
Even though the ebbs and flows of the season, Ash has managed be steady when it comes to his demeanor. He'll be the first to admit that when things went bad last season he was too hard on himself.
He vowed to take emotion out of his game, and so far he's done that. He's stayed humble, which is one of the qualities he possesses his teammates say they value greatly.
“I think that's the struggle of everyone's life. Getting high when things are good and low when things are bad,” Ash said. “The trials you go through, you need to take joy in those knowing God is with you no matter what. You need to have something in your life that keeps you consistent and keeps you grounded. Remind you where you came from.”
3. He's never lost his confidence
Even through his struggles against Oklahoma, and especially against Kansas, Ash never seemed to lose his confidence. Mason Walters said Ash's confidence never wavered throughout preparations the Texas Tech game, which came on the heels of his horrid performance against the Jayhawks, even when it looked like his job was on the line.
Following the Iowa State game, Ash said the Kansas game felt like it was played a long time ago. It takes a lot to have the confidence to keep battling, but he's done that through the tough times.
“I've always said the confidence I have isn't in me but it's in my creator,” Ash said. “It's in my God. Knowing that He's put me here, He's equipped me for whatever I'm going to face and so we're going to be alright.”
Ash wouldn't have been able to bounce back last season. His faith definitely helps him, but the fact that he's playing his best football of the season just three weeks after playing his worst football of 2012 speaks volumes to his maturity and growth.
4. He's knows how to overcome adversity
Adversity is the kind of day Ash had against Kansas. Bouncing back from adversity the way Ash did against Texas Tech and Iowa State with two straight clean, efficient games is a textbook example of overcoming tough circumstances.
So what exactly did he do to turn things around?
“I don't know,” Ash said after the Texas Tech game. “I guess I had a lot more desire to redeem myself from the week before.”
Even though Ash quarterbacked the Longhorns to a win over Baylor, he felt he didn't play well against the Bears, in addition to not playing well against Oklahoma or Kansas. He never got down on himself, but the lack of production and lackluster showings only made him work harder.
“I think you're either getting better or you're getting worse,” Ash said. “For three weeks I wasn't improving.”
5. He's got the support of his teammates
It's easier to get over the rough patches when you have a strong support system behind you. Following the Tech win, Ash said his teammates never lost faith in him.
“The thing I enjoyed so much was that my teammates always believe in me and encourage me,” Ash said.
Having the support of the guys in the locker room is something Ash achieved several ways. He earned the starting job, he's worked his butt off to keep it, and he's made plays to win games. Even when things haven't been great this year, it's the fact that he made enough plays before the missteps to make everyone believe in him that they had his back when the chips were down.
6. His leadership isn't in question
His presence in the huddle is said to have had a tremendous calming effect in tense moments. He's not one to grandstand and give rah-rah speeches, but instead Ash is focused on improving himself every day and elevating the play of those around him based on his intangibles standing out.
“I'm just trying to do my job for the team the best I can and hold my guys on the team accountable for their jobs,” Ash said. “Whenever someone gets better doing their job, it helps me do my job.”
Even though he's not an overly vocal guy, simply being a guy who has command of the huddle and the respect of his teammates is enough to make Ash an effective leader.
7. He's a critical self-evaluator
There are times when he admits he doesn't do a good job of setting his feet and stepping into throws. That said, Ash's isn't concerned about the mechanical mistakes he makes during the flow of the game.
“Any time I'm making mistakes it's mental,” Ash said. “It's usually not getting it to the right guys. That's my biggest area of concern.”
As the season has moved forward, there are fewer and fewer plays each week where Ash noticeably missed a read or made a bad decision. He's found a great comfort level with Mike Davis, and more often than not he's gotten the team checked in and out of the right play.
His effort to pay attention to, and fix his mental mistakes has clearly paid off.
8. He wants more from the offense
The Longhorns are coming off of a game where it had a 600-yard day at the office. They've also scored at least 31 points in the past two games and they've scored 41 or more points on five occasions this season.
Still, Ash isn't content to sit around and be fat and happy with what the Longhorns have done. He feels this offense can still take another step.
“We've had chances to take a close game and turn it into a blowout, and we haven't taken advantage of those opportunities. We've had a two touchdown game, or a 10-point game that could have been a 20-point game. That's something we've got to work on.”
9. He knows what it'll take for this team to ascend
Not only does Ash talk about establishing consistency and improving every week, he's practicing what he's preaching.
With the Longhorns sitting at 8-2 with two regular season games left to play, there's a chance this team can still ascend. Attention to detail and consistent effort have been prominent on both sides of the ball during the last two games.
Ash knows this team needs to continue to do those things to have everyone feeling good about this team at season's end.
“You’ve just got to keep working,” Ash said. “The formula for being successful is pretty simple, you prepare, you work hard and you gain more experience and you learn to perform and you're prepared in games.”
10. He's focused on the task at hand
While the Longhorns have a chance to ascend, all Ash is likely focused on right now is TCU. Even though the Longhorns have established some consistency, it's not a given that the same Texas team that showed up to play Texas Tech and Iowa State will be the same team that shows up Thanksgiving Night to play TCU.
That's no big deal for Ash, who is going to lead a team of players who are willing to follow his lead of working hard and staying the course.
“I can't tell the future either. I know what we're going to do during the week and how we're going to prepare.”