Patton Robinette, a true freshman out of Maryville, Tennessee, will enter the season as the team's third-string quarterback but will have the chance to move himself up the depth chart as practices wear on. He recently turned in the team's best performance at their most recent scrimmage, completing five of six passes while playing with the team's scout players.
Robinette is the team's most highly touted quarterback recruit in years. The former Gatorade State Player of the Year in Tennessee was a high three-star player coming out of high school and the 21st ranked dual-threat quarterback in his class. His arm and athletic ability helped earn him scholarship offers from Stanford, Northwestern, North Carolina, and Purdue. He's also a great academic fit for Vanderbilt - he scored a perfect 36 on his ACT and earned recruiting interest from Ivy League schools like Brown and Harvard.
Robinette's commitment to Vanderbilt actually came as a bit of a surprise. The Elite 11 quarterback was originally committed to North Carolina and seemed to have fallen off James Franklin's radar. The high school senior even enrolled early in Chapel Hill, but left soon after orientation to come to Vandy instead. With the switch, he became the team's second midsemester enrollee behind Darreon Harring - something that has been increasingly rare in Nashville in the past.
That January arrival has given him the chance to prove his value to the team in spring practices, and his talent hasn't gone unnoticed. His emergence as a viable option behind center played a role in moving Josh Grady and Kris Kentera from the quarterback position. At 6'5", 200 lbs and with a big arm, he is a solid pocket passer who can also run the ball when the situation calls for it.
The freshman combines an above average arm and high level athleticism to make plays both in the air and on the ground. He's a mechanically sound passer who is accurate with his throws, but he'll also have to get used to the pressure that he'll face against opposing SEC defenses. While he has the quickness to buy time in the pocket or to scramble into daylight, his ability to make these accurate passes won't be known until he gets thrown into the cauldron of "Team Speed" tacklers.
He's also an intelligent player who should be able to adapt well in his new Vanderbilt scheme. That should gel with with his new head coach James Franklin, who has mentored quarterbacks like Josh Freeman and Danny O'Brien in the past. His ability to adapt has already earned him some playing time with the second-team offense this spring. Though Robinette has been the man left behind in Vandy's quarterback battle this spring, it's clear that he's developing into a presence for the Commodores.
That presence will bring some stability to a position that has seen plenty of turnover in years past. The graduation of Rodgers in 2013 and Carta-Samuels in 2014 will add more question marks at quarterback going forward. Patton Robinette is the player that Vanderbilt will be counting on to bridge those gaps and keep the Commodores from falling back into old habits. While his impact may not be felt in a possible redshirt season in 2012, his spot on the roster will be one of the most important when it comes to the long-term health of this team.