NOTE: This is the 13th installment of a 15-part series on 2013′s most pivotal QBs in college football.
Ask any coach about the importance of the quarterback position and he is quick to throw out a tired cliché about quarterbacks getting too much credit and blame.
They will tell you there are 11 guys on the field at all times and each one of them must work together for the team to win.
Coaches know a lot about football. They also know about deflecting pressure from the most important pressure on the field.
How important is the quarterback position? Ask Texas A&M what Johnny Manziel meant to the team in 2012. Ask Auburn about Cam Newton’s worth in 2010. Ask Ohio State after Urban Meyer got a chance to turn around QB Braxton Miller in 2012.
A quarterback might not be everything, but a good one can mask a number of different deficiencies – be it a porous defense, a non-existent run game or erratic special teams.
Teams without a solid quarterback need virtually every other facet of the game to click in order to overcome poor play from the most important position.
This list is designed to spotlight 15 quarterbacks whose play will dictate their teams’ fates. With two exceptions, this list is made up exclusively of established QBs who have been starters for at least half a season.
The carefully chosen term “pivotal” is key here. This is to spotlight teams that could have significant swings based on the position. Players like Manziel and Miller are proven commodities at this point. Florida State has enough surrounding its yet-to-be-named starter – presumably Jameis Winston – to repeat as ACC champ even without great play from the position. Those appearing on this list are opined to have a wider swing.
3. David Ash, Texas
Few quarterbacks enjoyed the highs and suffered through the lows found by Ash in 2012.
There were games in which it looked like Ash had turned the corner and was ready to become the next game-changing signal caller in Longhorns lure. Then there were other games – such as those against Oklahoma, Kansas and TCU – that led coach Mack Brown back to the quarterback carousel.
Brown knows the quarterback shuffle all too well, but was left with little recourse with how badly Ash struggled – specifically against Kansas. During that game, Ash struggled on his way to an 8-of-16, 63-yard, 2-interception performance. QB2 Case McCoy came in and threw the winning touchdown with Texas trailing a Kansas team that went winless in the Big 12.
Longhorns quarterbacks have long been judged by how they perform in the Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma. That doesn’t bode well for Ash. Over the past two seasons, the Sooners have beaten Texas by a combined score of 118-38. Ash’s struggles have exacerbated the problem, leaving him with a stat line of 24 of 49 for 220 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs with a fumble lost.
For all of Ash’s brutal performances, though, he has also looked like an all-conference candidate for games at a time.
Take, for instance, the games Ash played against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State – a pair of teams that turned out to be reasonably good in 2012. The rising junior threw for more than 300 yards in those contests while connecting on more than 80 percent of his passes. He threw seven TDs in those two games with just one INT. Texas needed all the offensive help it could get because the defense allowed 31 and 36 points, respectively, in the games.
Despite inconsistency at the quarterback position, the Longhorns managed to secure Brown’s best over the last three seasons. Of course, that’s not saying much considering Texas has gone 13-12 in the previous two years since Colt McCoy led it to the BCS National Championship Game.
Between Texas A&M’s sensational debut in the SEC – behind first-year coach Kevin Sumlin – and Oklahoma’s prominence in the Big 12, Brown will likely be under pressure this year.
Ash will be QB1 heading into August practices. He certainly has the tools to be more than a game manager but also has the run game on which he can lean during struggles. There are no more excuses for Ash – who was an off-and-on starter as a freshman and a full-time starter a year ago. He has had the time to develop and Brown remained patient to allow him to overcome growing pains.
Now it’s time for Ash to reward Brown by making the Longhorns matter again in November.