AUSTIN, Texas -- Before hyperbole and highlights steal away the sanity of everyone with burnt orange hearts let's get this straight: David Ash is the starting quarterback for Texas. No question.
Backup? Ah, now that is where the riddles begin.
Freshman Tyrone Swoopes stole the show and the imagination of those watching the Texas spring game. Sure, it was only one series, but it was the first series in which the first-team defense was not only scored on but made to look confused by a freshman and a patchwork line. OK, given where this defense has been -- the worst in school history just a scant five months ago -- maybe the 10-play, 31-yard drive Swoopes engineered for a field goal was not such a huge accomplishment. Then again, given where this offense has been in terms of quarterbacks since Colt McCoy graduated -- having a starter and a potentially electrifying option just steps away on the sideline -- well, consider it a cattle prod in the side of Bevo.
Swoopes provided that shock to the system by first scampering 21 yards around and through the first-team defense. He followed that by slipping underneath the tackles of Adrian Phillips and Jordan Hicks and going for seven more yards. And while it wasn't anywhere near the stuff legends are made of, it was enough to plant Swoopes at the forefront of the endlessly spinning next-big-thing wheel.
Oh and, by the way, he is also now in front of Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet as the third-string quarterback despite having been on campus for just three months. Case McCoy, the on-paper No. 2 QB, remains the next hurdle for Swoopes to clear before he plays. As for building Swoopes up with a redshirt year so he can learn and grow, Texas coach Mack Brown summarily dismissed that as a foregone conclusion.
"We are trying to get the best quarterback that we need," Brown said. "And obviously Case will be gone in a year, so someone needs to be ready to go."
Somebody might need to be ready to go this year because McCoy has proven to be wildly inconsistent in the past. Shoot, he proved that again in the spring game. After roping a throw to Duke Thomas, McCoy came right back and threw an ill-advised pass into double coverage that was picked off by Sheroid Evans. So it is tough to fervently believe McCoy is cemented as the 2013 backup.
Besides, to imagine Swoopes, who was ranked as a four-star athlete by ESPN in the Class of 2013, as the backup is much more fertile ground for the mind anyway.
"You can see tonight what he can do," Brown said. "He can run. He's big and strong. He's 250 [pounds], and he can run. He's in good shape. He's throwing the ball well; he just needs to keep getting more reps."
Installing Swoopes as the No. 3 quarterback should allow him to do just that in the fall. Texas, quite simply, does not have enough time or football to get five quarterbacks reps in the fall. Three is a much more manageable and realistic number. The remaining two quarterbacks will be relegated to the scout team and the sidelines. And, truth be told, Swoopes will be doing a lot of watching from the sidelines as well. But being the third quarterback instead of the fifth quarterback at least means he has more of an opportunity to be engaged in the day-to-day machinations of the playbook and quarterback room.
As for the guy he will be watching, Ash, well, Swoopes and everyone watched a typical Ash performance. The junior was equal parts brilliant -- hitting 10 of his first 12 passes -- and stupefying -- throwing two interceptions.
"I thought he had about five minutes of real time where he left his body, but, other than that, I thought he played great," co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said of Ash.
That five-minute, out-of-body experience could be easily likened to the TCU and Kansas games from a season ago.
"I did a couple things that were uncharacteristic that I wish I wouldn't [have] done," Ash said.
Actually they were right in character if past performances are to be trusted. But, at this point, it is Ash everyone around Texas has to trust. He is, after all, the starter. No question.
But the questions about Swoopes, and his place in the program, are now sure to abound.