The Big 12 is a quarterback's league.
If you want to compete, you better have someone who can toss the rock at least a little bit. Someone who, if you need them to, can carry a play, can make something happen. Might not be the star, but when called upon can generate something positive with his arm or his legs, or maybe just convince his teammates to reach another level of effort.
Texas does not have one of these, and it is frankly shocking.
The Longhorns have quite a list of great QB's. Even in the years of Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson, Texas was dependent on good QB's, all of whom are on the aforementioned list (Brown, Applewhite, Simms, Young).
In the mid-2000's, UT seemed to make the switch from brute force to spread brilliance. Vince Young (hero of the 2005 National Championship team) was the quintessential zone read weapon. His legs were the driver, but his arm was adequate enough (see Michael Vick) for the NFL to see value, where he garnered AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006.
After his departure, Colt McCoy took over with great success. McCoy was a very effective runner, but was much more of a passer than Young, doing loads of damage with his WR roommate, Jordan Shipley. McCoy came oh so close to duplicating Young's magic, but an injury early in the national championship game vs Alabama following a perfect 12-0 campaign in 2009 stopped Texas from reaching the pinnacle again.
That injury began what I would refer to as "a journey through the QB wilderness."
Over the past 2 seasons, these three highly regarded QB recruits (at least highly regarded by Texas) produced the first losing season (5-7, 2-6 Big 12) since 1997, and consecutive losing records in conference play for the first time since 1937-38. From a player standpoint, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would point their finger anywhere else as to the main reason UT has struggled. Talent is plentiful almost everyplace else on the field.
Since discovering that the younger McCoy does not seem to possess the same magic wielded by his big brother, and unable to find a better alternative, the Longhorns have focused on David Ash to lead the offense in 2012, and so far (1 game) he has appeared up to the limited task given him. His line against Wyoming (not a Div 1 behemoth, but certainly not Savannah State) was 20-27, 1 TD, no turnovers. Pretty decent by itself, but two other numbers need to be added in order to truly understand the bigger picture...156 yards, longest completion...16 yards. Ash only attempted 2 passes longer than 20 yards. This performance was very similar to his performance in the UT's victory over Cal in the 2011 Holiday Bowl. As the article linked above discusses, this needs to change in order for the Longhorns to compete at a higher level in the Big 12. It was pointed out that Ash did show good leadership and confidence. We shall see. Two more relatively weak non-conference foes await, although a road game at Ole Miss might provide a better indication of what to expect when the Longhorns visit Oklahoma Sate on Sept 29 for both teams Big 12 opener.
Why is finding the next good/great Texas QB such a struggle? UT owns the state, which is a veritable gold mine of football talent. But I don't recall the great QB's in football history all emanating from there. Also, how do Oklahoma and Oklahoma State currently sport 5 QB's (one of which is from Texas!) that, it can be argued, could ALL take on the starting position at Texas and drastically improve their outlook. Texas produces loads of talent, but not ALL the talent.
Of the Longhorns current roster of approximately 115 players, only 13 come from out of state, and 5 of those come from border states (Ok, La). That's EIGHT players out of 115 that come from someplace other than Texas, Oklahoma, or Louisiana. Compare that to Oklahoma Sate (115 total) and Oklahoma (106 total)...the Cowboys have 15 players from non-border states, 1 of which is their starting QB. The Sooners sport 25 players from non-border states, and both of OU's QB's come from out of state. (and I challenge any Texas fan to tell me with a straight face you wouldn't take Jones/Bell/Lunt in a heartbeat). It could be argued that OSU's 64 players from Texas, versus 48 for OU, is one of the things that has tilted things in favor of the Cowboys in recent years. But the Longhorns have 102 athletes from their state, so why doesn't that formula work for them?
Either arrogance, or an inability of the current staff to properly evaluate and develop recruits to fit their system...or maybe both.
Since this is an amateur opinion, I will use an amateur reference.
My lifelong, childhood friend lives in the Houston area. He is a Sooner fanatic in much the same way as I love the Cowboys.
By virtue of his previous career, he was introduced to a lot of folks heavily involved with Texas football. People with kids in the program, or family/friends working for the university.
And he learned one thing about the University of Texas...they recruit Texas athletes, period. Almost every HS football player in Texas dreams of playing for the Longhorns, so they have a HUGE advantage over everyone else. Football is a state sponsored religion south of the Red River.
That's why, since at least the 1970's (and probably farther back, but finding info for starting QB's for Texas is not easy once past the early 80's), there have been only TWO starting QB's for the Longhorns that came from outside the state...Major Applewhite (La) and Chris Simms (NJ)...and let me remind you that they appear on this list. That's probably FORTY years and counting.
So either the Longhorns refuse to recruit top notch QB talent outside the state (b/c you can't be that good if you aren't from Texas), or those who evaluate and develop QB talent are clueless. USC rolls good QB's out EVERY year. OU has a pretty good track record with QB's. Would UT folks take a back seat to either of those programs? For heaven's sake, OSU IS BRINGING IN BETTER QB TALENT THAN TEXAS. Dare I say Baylor's previous QB and current holder of that position would change this picture drastically if either or both had attended UT? How bout that Klein fella at Kansas State? Maybe good ole Seth at Tech? West Virginia? TCU?
To some credit, of the 8 Texas players from non-border states, 2 are QB's (Az & Fl). There is one other QB on the roster from in state besides Ash (So) and McCoy (Jr). Those recruits are so solid that they couldn't compete with Ash and McCoy for the starting position.
The Mack Brown brain trust has at least figured out how to utilize David Ash in a way that provides some positive, but arguably the best backfield (OSU will challenge that) and probably the best defense in the Big 12 will need more than the Wyoming game production from either Ash or McCoy if Texas wants to reclaim it's perch atop the Big 12.
There are just WAY too many good quarterbacks in the Big 12 that DIDN'T end up at Texas.