By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
Belton quarterback David Ash and Copperas Cove defensive lineman Trevor Valdez wasted little time deciding where they plan on playing their college football.
Ash went to Austin this weekend for the University of Texas' junior day and committed to the Longhorns on Saturday.
Valdez beat Ash by two days, committing to Baylor on Thursday. But while Valdez is the only current Baylor commitment as of Saturday night, Texas already has 13 commitments, with Ash joining Brownwood wideout Jaxon Shipley (Jordan's younger brother) and Austin Lake Travis offensive lineman Taylor Doyle.
"(Ash) called me about 10 o'clock (Saturday) morning and they had brought him in early and he committed," said Rodney Southern, Belton's head football coach and athletic director. "The big thing is we were excited for him because it's something that not a lot of kids get – an opportunity to play at the next level, but especially at that level."
The Longhorns have made it a practice of not just getting multiple early commitments, but following though on national signing day the next February.
Texas signed 25 players Feb. 3 for the upcoming school year (three are already enrolled this semester). Of those, 80 percent only took one official visit (Texas) and 64 percent committed this time last year.
Southern said Ash wanted to make his commitment early so he could focus on the remainder of his high school career.
Ash, who was the only quarterback Texas brought in for junior day, plans on graduating in December and enrolling at Texas in the spring, Southern said, allowing him to join the Longhorns for spring practice. The Longhorns currently have Garrett Gilbert slated as the starter this fall, with Sherrod Harris the likely backup and incoming freshmen Connor Wood and Case McCoy vying for the third spot.
Ash completed 95 of 173 passes (55 percent) for 1,343 yards and 19 touchdowns, leading District 12-5A by nearly 450 yards despite missing three and a half games with an ankle sprain.
He helped Belton to its first winning season and playoff appearance since 2003. As a sophomore, Ash was the district newcomer of the year, throwing for 2,489 yards.
Ash also was featured as one of five juniors to watch in Dave Campbell's Texas Football winter edition.
Valdez hasn't received the attention or internet buzz that Ash has already seen, but colleges still started noticing the defensive tackle.
He had 42 tackles and three sacks for the Dawgs, earning a second-team 12-5A all-district selection.
"Several schools have been looking at him and Baylor showed a lot of interest in him," Welch said. "They made him an offer a couple of weeks ago and he thought it over and contemplated it ... He likes coach (Art) Briles and the program, thinks he can contribute and thinks it is a good place for him.
"And I agree with him."
Though Valdez may currently be on the smaller end size-wise for a typical defensive lineman, what the 6-foot-2, 260-pound junior has "is his motor," said Welch, who continued by saying Valdez "never takes a play off and that is what you look for in football players and especially defensive linemen."
Valdez will join former Cove standout Robert Griffin III, who is expected to return as Baylor's starting quarterback after suffering a season-ending right knee injury last year in the Bears' third game. Baylor's close location to Cove, along with the school's academics and how Valdez hit in the football program went into his decision, Welch said.
"Too many times people get hung up on the name of the school," Welch said. "Baylor has not had the success a lot of other schools have had, but more importantly is where you fit."