Leadership is influence, and in football, no other position requires leadership more than the quarterback.
But at the college level, the emergence of leadership is a quality that becomes almost necessary in order to experience success and win against the best competition.
Coming off of a 9-4 year in 2012, culminating in a 31-27 Alamo Bowl win in come-from-behind fashion, the Texas Longhorns enter the 2013 season with their highest of hopes since the days of Colt McCoy.
David Ash is the assumed starting quarterback, solidifying his place as the guy after rallying his team to victory after a sluggish start. Entering his junior season, Ash is on the cusp of becoming something special at quarterback.
Interestingly enough, the last two Texas quarterbacks who entered their junior seasons following some uncertainty during their sophomore seasons were none other than Vince Young and McCoy. Accordingly, both responded by putting together a couple of high-profile finishes in 2005 and 2008, respectively.
Ash is far from what Young and McCoy were able to accomplish, but the pieces are lining up for what could be a special season for the Belton product.
The Boys are Back in Town
Returning alongside Ash are five starting offensive linemen that will establish a firm amount of chemistry and comfort. The curveball here is how the group adapts to a more up-tempo style of offense that the Longhorns are looking to install in the spring.
Nevertheless, it will be hard to underestimate just how critical the foundation of the offense will be next season, and the likes of Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins, Dom Espinosa, Mason Walters and Josh Cochran could rival what McCoy had in front of him in 2008.
Although the Horns have tried to establish a power running game, perhaps those efforts are just not in the cards. Texas had some success throwing the ball, and if the front five can take that transition in stride, then the Horns look to have a strong base for what they will look to accomplish on offense.
Ash's junior season appears to be one that can either launch his name into stardom or sink away into mediocrity. But the fact of the matter is that the Longhorns have experienced tremendous success during the campaigns of their junior quarterbacks.
Young took Texas on a national championship run in the 2005 season in tremendous fashion as he unleashed a performance unlike any other in an instant classic against USC.
McCoy rebounded from a less-than-impressive 2007 season (22 TDs, 18 INTs, 65 percent completion) by leading the Horns to a come-from-behind win against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2008 campaign.
By comparison, Ash had a statistically better sophomore year than McCoy by putting up 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 67 percent completion rate.
Obviously there are a handful of intangibles and differences that immediately separate the opinions about Young, McCoy and Ash, but if Ash is to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, then finding something extra for the upcoming season is absolutely critical.
Since Mack Brown began rebuilding his program, the Longhorns have lacked true leadership from the quarterback position, and Ash is expected to be that guy.
We have seen spurts of that influence over his team, but it has to come over the course of an entire season. Does Ash have that leadership buried beneath all of the physical tools he has displayed or does the coaching staff have to extract it?
By this time during their careers, both Young and McCoy already had secured their position as the team's unquestioned leader. For Ash, no longer will it be a question of whether or not he can execute the offense, but rather a question of if he can stare adversity in the eye and still come out on top.
At the end of the day, Ash will have to prove he can be rebound from slow starts week in and week out. If he can bring his game to that level, then the Longhorns are in for a treat next season. Otherwise, it might be back to the drawing board.
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