AUSTIN, Texas -- David Ash has taken to the habit of carrying the football everywhere with him.
Well, just about everywhere.
“Not to church,” the Texas quarterback said.
Hold up. Isn’t football a religion in Texas? That pigskin should be on the pew.
Then again, it’s hard to flip the pages and hold the hymnal with one hand on the laces. So maybe he earns a pass in that circumstance.
But for those who kneel at the altar of Texas football, it might be a wise thing to start throwing a few prayers toward the heavens that Ash has learned a few things from all this football toting about keeping it secure. After all, it was his inability to do so that brought down a little fire and brimstone on the Longhorns in 2011.
There were two drive killers against Oklahoma State (one interception and one fumble). Then there were two more interceptions thrown against Kansas State. Both were games that could have been won had it not been for the four turnovers that lead to 17 points. Two of the turnovers killed drives inside the opponents’ 40. Another was inside Texas’ 20.
“If you look at last year, the eight games we won, we won the turnover battle,” Ash said.
Ash, at least, has been enlightened to that little fact. Truth be told, several lights have come on for Ash since throwing six interceptions before his first touchdown in 2011.
“It was just going back and getting a realistic approach to some of those scenarios and games that weren't good,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “What was bad about it? Well, maybe it was footwork, or mechanics or you were late. That's really what it is.
“It started to make more sense. He started to feel more comfortable with what we were doing. That's really it. He's taken the next step in his preparation before we got into spring practice of studying the system and having a better understanding of the expectations for these plays and in these situations.”
Those steps, at least many of them, are usually taken away from the glare of DKR at practice, during a redshirt season.
“Having that grace period of a redshirt, it’s very valuable and that would have helped me a lot in developing,” Ash said. “But in the situation we were in last year that was impossible.
“Every quarterback that has a chance to redshirt should."
Instead, Ash was red-faced in anger for his inability to do what he had always done -- lead a team, display his arm and make intelligent, strong throws. What he wasn’t angry at was the scrutiny or the critics. While maybe he didn’t welcome their comments, he at least understood them.
“I think it makes you better as a player,” Ash said. “Going through that, it makes you stronger.”
Which is where Ash is now.
“What I have seen from David, and really everybody on our offense, is a heightened sense of confidence in terms of knowing what we're doing,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said.
“You can just see, last spring it was all new. And then you're getting to two-a-days and it's review. Then you go to the season and again, you don't want to play during the season and do on-the-job training, but with the new schemes it was a little bit of what we were doing.”
Now Ash has been able to exhale, absorb and rebuild himself into the confident football player he had once been. And, maybe more importantly, Ash has started to understand that, to be successful at Texas, he has to be himself.
“You come in, there is an expectation of a UT quarterback, you’ve got to be a Vince Young or a Colt McCoy,” Ash said. “But you don’t have to be that. The biggest thing I learned is be yourself.”