Quarterback Vernon Adams chooses Oregon, will join Ducks rather than return … – OregonLive.com
Vernon Adams is trading in the Big Sky Conference for a big opportunity.
And the Oregon Ducks, who still have a big hole at quarterback, are getting a most intriguing option to fill it.
Eight days after Adams, Eastern Washington’s prolific junior quarterback, returned from his official visit to Oregon, he decided early Monday to spend some more time on UO’s campus next fall by joining the Ducks as a fifth-year graduate transfer.
“Oregon it is!” Adams announced via social media.
With the move from Cheney, Washington, to Eugene, Adams will become possibly the first quarterback to transfer for his final season “up” a level, from the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision to its Bowl Subdivision. In doing so, he places a big bet on whether he’ll emerge from Oregon’s six-wide competition to succeed NFL-bound and Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota as the starter.
At Eastern Washington, Adams transformed from a Los Angeles-area recruit with two scholarship offers, whose 5-foot-11 height scared off suitors, into one of the FCS’ most dangerous playmakers.
“I was just shocked no one was going to take a shot at him,” said Dean Herrington, Adams’ high school coach at Bishop Alemany, adding that UCLA and Texas tried to get in on the Adams sweepstakes in late January. “They all want him now, that’s for sure.”
Adams passed for 110 touchdowns, 10,438 yards and 31 interceptions while completing 64.8 percent of his attempts in his three seasons as EWU’s starter and added 11 rushing touchdowns.
Each of the past two seasons, he finished runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman, while making the Eagles a national title contender and a pair of Pac-12 teams look silly. He led EWU to an upset of Oregon State in Corvallis in 2013 and passed for seven touchdowns in a 59-52 loss at Washington last fall.
At Oregon, Adams joins a team with similarly lofty expectations — but his own role is more uncertain. Oregon’s standard policy is to never guarantee recruits playing time, and Adams has said his scholarship offer two weeks ago came no such hint toward his status as a shoo-in starter, either.
One thing is certain, however: Oregon’s quarterback competition, which was already expected to be one of college football’s most watched position battles entering the 2015 season, just got more interesting.
“Is he Marcus Mariota? There is only one of those who is pretty special,” said K.C. Keeler, coach of Sam Houston State, who faced Eastern Washington in the 2014 season opener. “But he’s a really talented kid who when you put a special group of athletes around him.
“When he goes to the practice field, they’re not going to say he’s a guy who moved up from FCS. He’ll be every bit as talented as the guys in the locker room he’s with.”
He won’t be able to officially join the locker room until the summer, after he graduates from EWU with a degree in recreation management. The quarterback battle will go on without him in the meantime, with junior Jeff Lockie, sophomores Ty Griffin and Taylor Alie, redshirt freshman Morgan Mahalak and true freshman Travis Waller, an early college enrollee, all earning reps in spring practice in April.
The Ducks became interested in Adams because a surefire successor to Mariota hadn’t emerged, and Adams represents a possible “bridge” that could allow the younger quarterbacks to develop with more time.
That he accounted for a combined 13 touchdowns against Washington and Oregon State certainly didn’t hurt his stock, either.
Through its fifth-year transfer rule, the NCAA allows players who have received their undergraduate degree but have a year of eligibility remaining to transfer and play immediately at another school, provided the new school has a graduate program the former institution does not.
Oregon fans should know the rule well: One former Duck quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, was kicked off the team in 2010 but had graduated and soon found a home at Mississippi for one final season. And in the 2012 Rose Bowl, Oregon defeated a Wisconsin team led by QB Russell Wilson, who had transferred from North Carolina State the previous June.
Those moves underscore how rare, and how unpredictable, it is to plug in a new quarterback for one season. Masoli and Ole Miss struggled to a 4-8 record after he was cleared to play in September; Wilson joined in June and the Badgers became Big Ten champions.
“I think it’s a risky move, honestly,” Montana State head coach Rob Ash, a Big Sky rival, said. “He does have a great situation with a great set of receivers coming back and a team that can compete for the national championship. The intrigue of this particular situation is alluring for him and he’s a guy that, I think in the back of his mind is how well he played against Washington and Oregon State. I think it’s just something he wants to do and he’s had so much success I’m sure he’s very confident he’ll play.”
Much of the allure is that Oregon’s spread-option offense appears tailor-made for a player of Adams’ running and passing skills, though Eastern Washington’s own spread attack didn’t design as many quarterback runs as Oregon’s will.
“I think a lot of his game is translatable,” Montana defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak said. “He’s a talented kid. I’m just saying you get past Montana (in the Big Sky) and play UC Davis and Northern Arizona. You get past Washington (in the Pac-12), you get Arizona State, USC and UCLA. We’re talking apples and oranges here. We had one defensive lineman at 300 pounds; the d-linemen there will be 300-pound guys who can run.
“I’ll say this though, the kid is special. I think he’s one of the most talented kids at the FCS level.”
True enough, the degree of difficulty for Oregon’s next quarterback is tough, with a road game at Michigan State in Week Two.
That isn’t to say Oregon’s home opener won’t be memorable, though: On Sept. 5, the Ducks host Eastern Washington.
— Andrew Greif