This season will be a defining one for Texas head coach Mack Brown. After the past few seasons have seen the Longhorns not live up to lofty expectations, if Brown doesn't deliver this season, his ouster could be imminent.
However, Brown's undoing will come in the form of his starting quarterback, David Ash. Ash has shown to be one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the Big 12 over the past two seasons, and it will be Ash's poor play again in 2013 that will be Brown's ultimate demise.
Ash is one of just two returning quarterbacks in the Big 12 that started for their team in Week 1 last season. The other is Casey Pachall of TCU, and he didn't even finish the year on the roster due to his departure from the Horned Frogs midseason.
So, in a conference that is usually dominated by high-profile quarterbacks, you'd like to think that one of the most tenured signal-callers in the Big 12 would be considered among the elite at that position.
However, throughout Ash's time in Austin, he's proven time and time again that he is an unreliable quarterback who is unable to come through in the must-win games for the Longhorns.
That was highlighted in 2012, when Mack Brown pulled David Ash in favor of Case McCoy late in the game against Kansas. The Longhorns were trailing by three points to the worst team in the Big 12 in the fourth quarter before McCoy saved the game with a late touchdown drive.
While the Longhorns ultimately put up a win in that game, it was probably Texas' most disappointing game of the season. And it was certainly one that highlighted Ash's inconsistencies.
Whether you agree with it or not, Mack Brown is on the hot seat in Austin after the team has slipped in the past few seasons from its normal dominance. In 2013, Brown is banking on a new, fast-paced offense to help inject some life into the program. And it will be Ash who takes the reins.
One of Ash's biggest problems throughout his career has been his decision-making. As a Longhorn, Ash has thrown 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. So while his touchdown-to-interception ratio is positive, it's can't stand up to the likes of Geno Smith, Seth Doege and even Collin Klein.
There are more stats to indicate that Ash has trouble making the big decisions.
On fourth downs last season, Ash was just 2-of-6 on his passing attempts, according to ESPN. That 33.3 percent completion rate is the lowest on any down. While six attempts is not a lot to go off of, converting on fourth downs is something that an elite quarterback should be able to do at least half the time.
Ash's performance on first downs is even more disconcerting.
Of the 111 times he dropped back on first downs, he was sacked six times and threw four picks. So nearly 10 percent of the time the Longhorns called on Ash to throw the ball early in the set of downs, he either lost yards or turned the ball over.
What stands out the most about Ash's statistical breakdown on ESPN is his performance in close games.
In games that were decided by seven or fewer points in 2012, Ash was horrendous. He threw seven touchdowns, but also threw six interceptions and was sacked seven times. That means defenses last year were nearly twice as likely to either sack or pick off Ash in close games than they were to get burned by him.
Yes, it's true that Ash has had some very impressive showings in that burnt orange uniform. Last year alone, he threw for over 250 yards in a game six times.
But, in another indicator of his inconsistency, Ash also threw for under 200 yards four times. That includes a pitiful 63-yard showing against the Kansas Jayhawks and a 104-yard performance against TCU.
Ultimately, what defines a team is wins, not stats. And yes, the Longhorns won nine games in 2013, all of which Ash started in (remember, that includes the Kansas game in which he was yanked).
But Texas could never get any true momentum going in the season to show that it was a contender. Two separate times last season, the Longhorns won four straight games followed by two straight losses.
In full disclosure, the second loss of the second occurrence of that came against Kansas State, where Case McCoy started because Ash was out with an injury. But the Wildcats spanked the Longhorns 42-24 in Manhattan, Kan. to seal up the Big 12 title. It's hard to imagine that Ash would've made an 18-point difference.
Ultimately, David Ash is not a winner. He's not the type of quarterback that Colt McCoy or Vince Young were. And while it's hard to live up to those expectations, Ash hasn't even begun to sniff them.
Now in his third year, Ash will be asked to adapt to a new offense that puts way more focus on the quarterback and requires the team's gunslinger to make rapid-fire decisions and adjustments in quick succession for nearly the entire game.
For a guy whose decision-making is shoddy at best, that's a lot to ask. In this year's spring game, where the Longhorns debuted the new offense, Ash looked alright. But how much can you really learn from a spring game, where there is virtually no pressure?
If you know anything about Texas football, it's that the lights are always shining brightly on the team's marquee individuals. So Brown's approval of the new offensive scheme and Ash's execution of it will undoubtedly be put under a heavy microscope.
So when the season gets into full swing in 2013, and the Longhorns face defining moments, it will be unlikely that Ash will be able to come through. He's already shown that he can't succeed in pressure moments in Austin.
That is why 2013 will be the last time fans see Mack Brown on the sidelines at Texas, and why David Ash will go down as the man who metaphorically pulled the plug on a coach who's had a great career at one of the most legendary schools in the country.
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