DALLAS — David Ash flashed his dry wit and beamed with the confidence and command of a three-year starter.
Lache Seastrunk brimmed with bravado, never once shying away from his bold Heisman declaration seven months ago.
But neither shined brighter than Baylor’s shimmering golden helmet Tuesday — not even the forehead of Bears head coach Art Briles.
“There’s two shiny things up here — the helmet and my head,” Briles joked when asked about his team’s new all-gold-look helmet, proudly on display during his news conference at the annual Big 12 media days.
Highlighted by former Centex prep stars whose renewed sense of self has their teams dreaming of a conference championship this season, Baylor and Texas were the toast of the second day of the Big 12 media days festivities Tuesday at the Omni Hotel. Also on tap were players and coaches from Oklahoma, Iowa State and West Virginia.
Ash, the former Belton all-state quarterback, is Texas’ unquestioned starter under center entering his junior season after several inconsistent seasons his first two years on campus, during which he battled Case McCoy and Garrett Gilbert for playing time.
“The thing about experience is it prepares you,” said Ash, who threw for 2,699 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season.
“Being prepared breeds good play, and when you play well it breeds confidence, and so the more you see someone play well the more confident they usually get.”
Seastrunk, the former five-star recruit out of Temple, is hoping to walk the walk after talking the talk when he told The Sporting News last December: “I’m going to win the Heisman.”
“All I said was that was my goal. I didn’t outright say I was going to win,” Seastrunk said. “I know if everything falls into place — my linemen have been working hard, the defense has been working hard — so why not?”
His coach, for one, likes his junior tailback’s self-confidence.
“Lache has some qualities that will give him an opportunity,” Briles said. “He’s a dynamic football player that’s very engaging, and those are good qualities to have and they help you with the voters. I’d much rather have players that want to win the Heisman than clap for the one that does.”
Seastrunk, who missed nearly two years of football following his transfer from Oregon in 2011, came on strong late last year, rushing for 831 of his 1,012 yards over the final six games, prompting many to tout him a Heisman hopeful entering this season.
Texas, despite being picked to finish fourth in the conference in the preseason media poll, has equally lofty aspirations with 19 of 22 starters returning this season — including Ash. Chief among those is winning the Big 12 conference and going on to compete for a BCS National Championship.
“I’ve never been more excited — I’ve been this excited — but I’ve never been more excited to get to the first day of practice and watch our team. … I think we’re finally in the right place to get after some people and have some fun again,” said Texas coach Mack Brown, who’s entering his 16th season with the program. “We are better. We’re at a point today that we’re better than we’ve been since 2009 to start the season.”
The Longhorns, coming off a 9-win season and a come-from-behind 31-27 victory over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl, last went to the national title game in 2009 with Colt McCoy at the helm, losing to Alabama, and won it all in 2005 with Vince Young at quarterback.
“That’s our load, but that’s our expectation for David (too). David has grown up, he’s learned a whole lot,” Brown said. “I thought his comeback in the Alamo Bowl really, really helped him with our team, with his confidence, and I think it helps him nationally, and I think he’ll have a big year.”
Now it’s Ash’s turn, and — much like his counterpart at Baylor — he’s not shying away from the expectations.
“I think, at this point, it’s about time,” Ash said.