88. Josh Smith Fr. 6-3, 207lb, Manchester, NH
11. Kolby Kirkegaard So. 6-3, 190lb, Phoenix, AZ
4. Zaquoya Parham Fr. 5-10, 170lb, Phoenix, AZ
14. Adam Pittser Fr. 6-2, 206lb, Richmond, IL
16. Brett Smith Fr. 6-3, 195lb, Salem, OR
11. Emory Miller Jr. Fr. 5-11, 195lb, Mesquite, TX
5. Austyn Carta-Samuels So. 6-2, 215lb, San Jose, CA
18. Dax Crum Sr. 6-4, 219lb, Phoenix, AZ
With the departure of Austyn Carta-Samuels in January the one certainty that the Cowboys have coming into the 2011 season is that the quarterback, whoever it might be, will have never taken an FBS snap. The plot thickened over the summer as the only quarterback who had been in Christensen’s system, Emory Miller Jr., left school for personal reasons. That left true freshmen Brett Smith and Adam Pittser to duke it out over the fall to earn the starting role. Kolby Kirkegaard became a late edition to the QB race transferring from an Arizona junior college. The race was supposed to dominate the fall headlines, but became rather anticlimactic as Brett Smith took the early lead and never relinquished it (Smith was officially named the starter on Tuesday). Smith had a slight edge going into the fall having taken part in spring practices but no one could have expected him to generate the type of separation from the pack that he demonstrated in the fall scrimmages. Smith ran with the number one offense in every scrimmage and actually put up some pretty gaudy statistics. In total Smith was 48-65 (73.8%) for 563 yds 5 TDs and 1 INT in 3 scrimmages. For reference, Carta-Samuels was 32-49 (65.3%) for 293 yds with 2 TDs and 1 INT in 3 scrimmages last season and in 2009 he went 29-50 (58%) for 346 yds with 1 TD and 2 INTs in 4 scrimmages. To put those numbers into words, Smith is moving the ball better than any quarterback Christensen has had in his 3 seasons. Smith has a better cast than Carta-Samuels did two years ago, so do not be surprised if he outshines the former MWC newcomer of the year.
One thing to keep in mind is that the winner of the position this year may not be the ultimate winner of the job. Three years ago the University of Michigan brought in two talented freshman quarterbacks and the one that grabbed the spot the first season, Tate Forcier, ultimately lost out to Denard Robinson during the fall camp of their sophomore season. Both of the Cowboy freshman QBs are talented and there is ample room for growth for both kids. Also, even though Smith grabbed the starting position do not be surprised to see either of the other two quarterbacks make an appearance during the season. Christensen has not been afraid to make mid season switches in the past and may want to see what his other QBs bring to the table in a game setting (Note: As of Tuesday Christensen reported that Kirkegaard would be the backup and Pittser will likely redshirt).
Grade: C to B+
There is really no way to grade this unit fairly. Ultimately the Cowboys may have a solid four year starter on their hands, but this season will inevitably be subject to ample growing pains. The grade for this unit will most likely fall somewhere in the middle of the projected range and will probably fluctuate more than the other units, so sit back and enjoy the ride.