Smith, who transferred from Miami, gets his first test Saturday at Mississippi State.
"We had three criteria: 1. was decision making, 2. the ability to manage the offense and 3. productivity," coach Larry Porter said on the Conference USA conference call. "Throughout all of spring and fall camp it was a very competitive race, very close. At the end of the day, we decided to go with Cannon. We just felt Cannon was the guy.
"He's athletic, has a strong arm, been exposed to major college football," Porter said. "I think his leadership ability has grown over the course of the last eight months, so it was all those things that we saw starting to grow and come to life in his play."