Austin American-Statesman Kirk Bohls column

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 19, 2014 at 11:08 pm •  Published: April 19, 2014
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David Ash watched the Orange-White spring football game from the safety of the Royal-Memorial Stadium sidelines.

Jerrod Heard took it in from the stands, like about 100 other recruits, including about 15 from the just-signed class.

Max Wittek might have been on a beach in Southern California and may not have watched it at all.

Tyrone Swoopes had no such cocoon. He turned in a very spotty, erratic performance that, coupled with the injuries and uncertainty at quarterback, left many in the estimated crowd of more than 20,000 feeling a little shaken if not downright scared for 2014.

Texas has no quarterback. At least, no proven, healthy, winning quarterback.

Oh, Ash has started 21 games and won 14 of them, but he can’t stay healthy, whether it’s concussions last fall or the broken bone in his foot most recently. Neither Charlie Strong nor anyone else can trust that Ash will be under center for 13 games next fall, which leads the new Texas coach to make the following statement.

“I don’t know how good we can be,” Strong said.

How can he?

The Longhorns are littered with top talent. Malcolm Brown’s a beast at running back. So’s the other Malcom Brown at defensive tackle. Cedric Reed is probably the best defensive end in the Big 12. Quandre Diggs is getting better and better at cornerback. And Texas has players in the offensive line and at linebacker, and safety Mykkele Thompson might have come farther than anyone else this spring.

But it’s hard to be good in college without a strong quarterback.

Mack Brown won two Big 12 titles in his 16 seasons here, one with a guy named Vince Young, another with Colt McCoy. NFL teams can win with decent quarterbacks (read: Trent Dilfer, Mark Rypien, Brad Johnson, etc.), but few college teams claim national titles with average or subpar quarterbacks. For his part, Ash has a 14-7 record but is 3-4 against ranked teams, with the wins coming against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State.

Swoopes, who was not made available to the media, looked awful in the early going, completing just two of nine passes with an interception and a pair of sacks. He did settle down and finish with respectable numbers, including 229 yards and three touchdowns, one of them a perfect 44-yard strike to Jaxon Shipley. But he never went against the first-string defense and never truly showed the confidence or moxie necessary to play the position.

“Anybody would have been nervous in his situation,” senior center Dom Espinosa said. “I would. But he handled it well. And I really liked his attitude on the sidelines.”