April 15, 2012

OB Mailbag: Is Texas ruined if Ash struggles?

(Question from Stopngo): If David Ash doesn't pan out as the starting quarterback this season, does it set the program back another two to three years and crush Mack Brown's forecast of a national title in the next "two to three years."

Possibly. But maybe not. By the way, I'm on record saying I think Ash will be greatly improved this season and will turn his touchdown-to-interception ratio around.

I've said all Texas needs Ash to do is what A.J. McCarron did at Alabama last year, which is throw for 16 TDs with 5 INTs with 2,600 yards passing and a 67 percent completion rate.

McCarron was a redshirt sophomore last season. So he was in his third year at Bama, and Ash will be in his second year this season. Still, I don't think McCarron's numbers are out of reach.

In fact, I'll say McCarron's numbers are the goal for Ash this season. Like Alabama last year, Texas should have a solid running game behind an improving line with a few weapons on the outside, led by Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis. And like Alabama last year, Texas could have a lights-out defense.

But that wasn't the question you asked me. You asked if Ash falters, does it throw Mack's plans off. And the answer is: probably. But we would have to then look at the options. The options, at this point, would be Case McCoy, Connor Brewer or Jalen Overstreet (with Tyrone Swoopes on the way in 2013).

And with all the weapons around the quarterback that Texas coaches are hoping will be there (running backs, receivers, tight ends, etc.), UT doesn't need Colt McCoy back there, throwing it 40 times a game.

So this is a very wishy-washy answer. It probably slows the Mack Plan to win a national title in 2 to 3 years if Ash stumbles this season. But it doesn't totally rule it out. How's that for clarity?

(Question from Lavaca): Who do you think will have a bigger impact on the defense this season? Steve Edmond or Demarco Cobbs?

BROWN: This is a great question because the sense is that Cobbs will thrive against passing teams because he's more versatile in terms of being able to both rush the passer and drop into coverage. And the sense may be that Edmond will struggle against passing teams because he's a downhill linebacker.

But Edmond moves better than people think. As a sideline to sideline middle linebacker, I think Edmond is going to surprise people with his instincts and ability to play fast because he can anticipate where things are going.

My fear about Cobbs is he's already been injury-prone. I don't want to make this about staying healthy, because I think both bring a lot to the defense. But I think Edmond's sheer presence in the middle will give him the edge.

I can see a scenario where Cobbs has a huge impact because of his athleticism, his ability to cover tight ends and possibly even receivers in the slot. And Cobbs can really rush the passer. He was everywhere the last two weeks of spring football.

But Edmond is a guy who can really help shut down opponents' running games between the tackles, and that's huge. Cobbs may make more big plays, maybe grab a few interceptions or come up with the big sack. But I think down-to-down Edmond will have a bigger impact.

(Question from UTAvatar): I thought William Russ had a good spring punting the ball. But you said in the War Room Alex King, a redshirt junior at Duke, would be a "walk-in starter" for Texas if he transfers to Austin. How can you say that?

King has done it. He averaged 41.1 yards per punt as a redshirt sophmore in 2010 and, playing for Duke, he got lots of attempts. He averaged 5 punts per game in 2010.

Then, in 2011, King averaged 42.1 yards per punt on more than 4 attempts per game.

This is not a knock against Russ. We just haven't seen him do it yet. And maybe Russ is going to be a stud. But when I asked Mack Brown if anyone had helped secure a starting role on special teams in the spring, Mack said no.

"All jobs will go into the fall as open competition," Mack said.

Russ is a sophomore. King is a redshirt senior. So experience plays a role in this, too.

Maybe saying "walk-in starter" was a little strong. But King's arrival certainly gives Texas a person capable of being a "walk-in starter" because he's been one the past two years at Duke with good numbers.

Either way, if King employs the rule allowing student-athletes who have graduated to transfer and begin a graduate program elsewhere and become eligible immediately (and it appears he will upon graduation in May), this is a big boost for Texas in the wake of losing Justin Tucker.

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