Look out Pac-12 teams: Vernon Adams is headed to your conference. The former Eastern Washington quarterback announced his move to Oregon on Monday, taking one of the most intriguing graduate transfers off the board and giving the Ducks a potential replacement for Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
You might remember Adams from the time he beat Oregon State 49-46 in 2013, when he had 518 total yards with six touchdowns. Or from last fall’s near-upset of Washington, when he put up 475 yards with seven scores in a 59-52 loss.
The 6-foot, 190-pound quarterback can make foes pay with his arm and legs and could be a good fit in a multi-faceted Oregon offense that puts a premium on using the entire field. Adams visited Eugene toward the end of January and took a few days to make his decision. He also had interest from UCLA and Texas.
Adams missed four games in 2014 after breaking his foot in a 56-53 win over Idaho State on Oct. 4, but still managed to win Big Sky Player of the Year honors. He finished the campaign with 3,483 passing yards and 41 touchdowns, and was the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, presented to the best player in the FCS. In ’13 Adams registered 4,994 passing yards, 605 rushing yards and 59 total touchdowns.
Eastern Washington lost to Illinois State 59-46 in quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs on Dec. 23. Adams passed for 425 yards with three touchdowns (and added a rushing score) in the defeat.
What makes Adams so intriguing is his ability to elude defenders. He can extend plays while keeping his eyes downfield, and elevates his game in big moments.
Keep in mind, it’s not a given that Adams will be Oregon's new starter. Last year’s backup, Jeff Lockie, performed his part admirably, but didn’t get a lot of playing time to show what he could do. Kentfield, Calif., native Morgan Mahalak redshirted last season and has the size and mechanics to do the job, while Georgia Tech transfer Ty Griffin, brother of 2015 running back signee Taj Griffin, and incoming freshman Travis Waller, a touted prospect from Anaheim, will also vie for the role.
Odds are Oregon isn’t bringing in Adams for a short-term rental if it thinks he can't play, and he’s certainly been able to put up big numbers against Pac-12 defenses in the past. In the Ducks’ dynamic offense, it’s possible he could do the same.
Adams will graduate from Eastern Washington this spring, so he won’t have the benefit of spring ball to put in extra work and fully learn the offense. That might not matter in the grand scheme, but it does put Adams at a bit of a disadvantage.
The Ducks have big shoes to fill following one of the most impressive individual seasons in program history. Mariota led Oregon to the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game and had 4,454 passing yards, 770 rushing yards, 57 total touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Come fall coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost will pick the best option under center, although if dramatic irony is your style, Adams should be the choice. Oregon’s first opponent in 2015? Eastern Washington, of course.