Size: 6'1", 215 lbs.
Recruit Ranking: A three-star quarterback (originally committed to Wyoming).
2013 Statistics: 2,268 passing yards (9.5 games), 11 TDs, 9 INTs, 143.0 Passer Rating. 115 rushing yards, five TDs.
Relevant Awards: 2010 Mountain West Freshman of the Year, 2013 SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Strengths: Carta-Samuels is one of the toughest quarterbacks Vanderbilt football has ever seen. As a senior, he suffered a partial ACL tear against Georgia in the seventh game of the season. In the tenth game of the season, he returned to the lineup to lead Vandy to three straight wins and their second straight eight-win regular season. Did his injury heal in four weeks? Nope; ACS just gritted out the pain in a mobility-limiting knee brace before opting to have surgery on his bum wheel after the regular season ended.
Carta-Samuels was an exceptional leader for a veteran-laden team in 2013. He was poised in the pocket and had the biggest arm of any Vandy QB since Jay Cutler was winging passes to Earl Bennett and George Smith. He was also a capable runner and scrambler out of the pocket who used his legs to extend drives and find the end zone with regularity before wrecking his knee against UGA.
ACS also showed off a considerably more accurate passing game in 2013 than any other year in his college career, completing 68.7 percent of his passes. That improvement came despite losing key wideout Chris Boyd for the season and having few reliable receiving options outside of Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause. The senior showed off a solid touch with the deep ball, utilizing Matthews and Krause downfield throughout the season and notching 300 passing yards or more in three games.
If you need proof of Carta-Samuels's ability to fit a pass into tight windows:
Jordan Matthews gets a lot of credit for those catches, but Vandy doesn't get a game-extending first down in either situation without ACS throwing a perfect ball with the game on the line.
Weaknesses: At 6'1", Austyn Carta-Samuels is on the small side for a pocket quarterback. He made up for that in college with decent mobility that kept him out of trouble and helped him find open passing lanes, but he's not athletic enough to keep that skill alive in the NFL. While Carta-Samuels typically played smart football, he seemed to be destined to make one bad mistake per game that ended in a costly turnover. Faster, tougher defenses had the ability to rattle him, which could stall out Vandy drives - though part of Vanderbilt's problems on that end often came from a too-conservative offensive gameplan.
Let's expand on that. ACS's improved accuracy may have been the result of a full-time starting gig with talented receivers - or it could have been related to Vanderbilt's screen-heavy offense that didn't require pinpoint precision to complete passes near the line of scrimmage. Having an All-American and a vastly underrated, all-conference caliber wideout starting on either side certainly helped Carta-Samuels transition into a starting SEC quarterback as well. The senior slipped under the radar in the NCAA despite a solid senior season. Though he has the skills to be a complete quarterback, he doesn't excel in any one area that would put him on a scout's radar.
Projection: Undrafted, but signed as a free agent. Carta-Samuels wasn't likely to be drafted even with two good legs, but his ongoing recovery from ACL surgery will scare teams away from spending a draft pick on the quarterback. Despite that, he should still find a place at someone's training camp thanks to his strong arm and well-deserved reputation as a gritty leader on and off the field. An NFL camp is just the first step on ACS's journey towards being a college football coach, so the west coast product-turned-Commodore-faithful will be able to deal with any setbacks.