Austyn Carta-Samuels Clear Leader in Vanderbilt Quarterback Competition

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest question surrounding the Vanderbilt Commodores this spring was at the quarterback position where the Commodores have to find the replacement for two-year starter Jordan Rodgers who exhausted his eligibility.

Saturday’s spring game was an open competition between Austyn Carta-Samuels, Patton Robinette, Johnny McCrary and converted wide receiver Josh Grady considered a distant third. Carta-Samuels is considered the early front-runner to start the season opener based on his experience starting for two years at Wyoming before backing up Rodgers last season.

In his two years at Wyoming, Carta-Samuels combined to throw for 3,055 yards and 19 touchdowns on 59.6% passing but also threw 13 interceptions. Those numbers won’t wow you and it was against much lesser competition that he’ll face in the SEC. However, he has a clear lead over his inexperienced competitors.

Robinette didn’t see any action as a true freshman in 2012, but he did gain a lot of “mental reps” throughout the season as he learned the playbook, embraced film study and developed physically. He is likely to be the team’s backup and could even get some action with the first team offense in certain situations.

Robinette came to Vanderbilt from Maryville, TN as one of the highest regarded quarterback recruits in the program’s history. He was the Gatorade State Player of the Year as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation.

At 6’4 and 210-pounds, he has exceptional size and is adept at making plays with his feet. His final year in high school, Robinette ran for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in addition to throwing for 1,875 yards and 22 touchdowns. As a passer, Robinette stands tall and looks comfortable in the pocket, makes excellent decisions and has a nice touch on his passes.

He does need to work on the ball and limit the sacks he takes, but his mindset is where he can always make a play that can lead to too many negative plays against SEC defenses. Robinette was sacked five times in the first half of the spring game. Even Jay Cutler knows that’s too high.

Robinette and Carta-Samuels each threw a touchdown pass in the spring game, but it was true freshman McCrary who really opened up eyes late with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tip McKenzie and then connected again on the two-point conversion to put his team up with 4:40 left to play.

Carta-Samuels is the safest and best pick to start at the moment because of his previous starting experience, and while he may not pot eye-popping stats he will be a game-manager for a team that could be ranked inside the top 25.

Robinette and McCrary have more upside and one will be the quarterback of the future, but neither will be the quarterback of the present because of the low-risk involved with starting the experienced Carta-Samuels.

Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your Google network.

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