Offseason spotlight: Vanderbilt

We’re kicking off our offseason spotlight series today.

As we did a year ago at this time, we’re taking a closer look at those players facing important offseasons and/or springs for all 14 SEC teams.

It could be that a player is recovering from an injury or perhaps coming off a so-so season. In other cases, the player might be filling some big shoes or stepping into a position of need next season.

The common denominator is that all of the players we highlight need to have big offseasons. We’ll follow up our blog posts each day with a video that expands on other players.

Up first is Vanderbilt, which is coming off its best season in nearly 100 years.

Spotlight: Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, 6-1, 220, rising senior

2012 summary: Carta-Samuels served as Jordan Rodgers' backup last season and played in six games. His only start came in the Presbyterian game in the third week, and he played the whole way in that contest. For the season, Carta-Samuels was 14-of-25 for 208 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. It was his first season with the Commodores after sitting out in 2011. Carta-Samuels started his career at Wyoming before transferring to Vanderbilt following the 2010 season.

The skinny: Other than the 58-0 rout of Presbyterian a year ago, Carta-Samuels didn't see a lot of meaningful game action, particularly in SEC contests. So it's been a while since he threw a pass in a game that really mattered. The good news is that he's no stranger to leading a football team. He was the starter at Wyoming his first two seasons, and threw for 3,655 yards and ran for 758 yards, while accounting for 25 touchdowns. He also threw 13 interceptions. Like Rodgers, Carta-Samuels is a good athlete and capable of making things happen with his feet. He might not be quite as quick as Rodgers, but has a big, strong frame and isn't afraid to mix it up. He also has the arm strength to make all of the throws, and a much better feel for the Commodores' offense now that he's been in the program for two years. What Carta-Samuels has to prove to Vanderbilt coach James Franklin is that he can effectively lead this football team. Franklin is not going to ask Carta-Samuels to go out and win games by himself, but the Commodores' third-year coach won't tolerate his quarterback doing things to put his team in a hole. The Vanderbilt coaches love Carta-Samuels' fierce competitiveness, and are eager to see what he can do this spring and how much he's improved. He'll get a stiff challenge for the starting job from promising redshirt freshman Patton Robinette. Carta-Samuels should be plenty motivated. This is his last shot after doing more watching than playing the past two years. His younger brother, Kyle Carta-Samuels, is one of the top junior quarterbacks in the state of California and already committed to the Commodores for the 2014 class. So if things go well, there could be a Carta-Samuels pipeline at quarterback the next few years at Vanderbilt.