Script unfinished for Texas QBs

Freshman David Ash has seen his role in the offense expand since the opening of the season. Ric Tapia/Icon SMI

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has this script.

It's part mystery. It's part drama.

There are days when it has been celebrated.

There are plays when it has been cursed.

It is all about Texas' quarterback of the future, and it has two leading men.

Case McCoy is a football coach's son, slightly undersized, and gradually pulling away from his brother's shadow.

David Ash is tall, explosive and bruising. His look is that of someone more cut out for central casting than central Texas.

These are the Texas quarterbacks, as different as they are alike.

"Honestly, I don't even see a difference in their personalities," tight end D.J. Grant said.

"I don't even know when which one is back there," guard David Snow said. "I just block for whoever they put back there."

And that is the script. That is what Texas wants -- a seamless transition between the two quarterbacks, not a rotation that eventually leads to one full-time starter.

"Right now, I don't see us using a different formula than we use," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "I like what we are doing in utilizing those guys. Those guys are understanding what we need to do to be successful."

Continued success is what college football is about, though not many teams have had it with two quarterbacks instead of one.

Since the start of the BCS in 1998, only four teams that have made it to any of the four BCS bowls or title game have relied heavily upon multiple quarterbacks. Colorado used Bobby Pesavento and Craig Ochs in 2001. Florida used Jesse Palmer and Doug Johnson in 1998 and 2001, and Brock Berlin and Rex Grossman in 2001. LSU used Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux in 2007.

Texas' rotation could become more even as the season progresses, in terms of time behind center.

"That is just how we run our offense right now," Harsin said. "We will keep using that formula. A little bit like that [UCLA game]. Case got a hot hand early and we left him in there another drive before we brought David in."

Harsin went off script against UCLA because he has that flexibility. And this operation has to be flexible, because the ink is still drying for everyone involved. Additionally, all those involved continue to evolve.

Neither McCoy nor Ash split quarterback duties in high school. And while Harsin said he always has played his backups, even when Kellen Moore was his starter at Boise State, he has never been the offensive coordinator of a two-quarterback system. In his five years as Boise State's offensive coordinator, the backup never attempted more than 24 passes. Ash has thrown 19 to date. But each week Ash's role grows -- from a handful of plays against BYU to splitting 60 plays right down the middle with McCoy against Iowa State.

"David, when he comes in, he can run the offense," Harsin said.

Ash is no longer just an option quarterback. He has the same plays in his pocket now that McCoy does.

"You've really divvied up the pressure of being a quarterback, which has been very helpful, and both of those guys have really taken to it," co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said.

It has also allowed Texas to two-step around potential controversies. Garrett Gilbert was named the starter at the beginning of the season, but he was pulled after throwing two early interceptions in the season's second game -- a comeback victory over BYU in which both McCoy and Ash were instrumental.

Said Texas coach Mack Brown of going with one starter: "I don't know that we have to right know because they are both so young. They are both so inexperienced with game time right now, I think that Bryan and I both feel right now they are better off knowing that they have got a buffer and that they both get to play and that they don't have to carry the whole team on their shoulders right now."

Less pressure has resulted in better results and more team chemistry.

"Both of those guys are really pulling for each other," Applewhite said. "You can see them on the sideline. Ash is going in and you hear Case, 'Come on, now' -- and now Case goes back out, you hear David doing the same thing. It's really helped the both of them."

To this point it has helped the team, as well. Scoring, offensive efficiency and win totals are up, while turnovers are down.

"I am really impressed with Bryan and what he has been able to do with this offense," Brown said. "He is going to have enough toys that are fun for the players, packages that will keep them interested and then make it tough to defend."

Right now Harsin, Brown, McCoy or Ash aren't ready to change this script, even though it's unfinished.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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