Next Heisman Up? A Unique Opportunity for Ducks

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The Oregon football season ended with as many questions as achievements, leaving many speculating about how the Ducks’ football program will respond to the magic and disappointment of 2014. As recruiting enters its final stretch, the quarterback discussion has started to heat up in Eugene.

The replacement of quarterback Marcus Mariota remains on the top of the list for the Oregon football program.

Craig Strobeck

Finding a replacement for quarterback Marcus Mariota is of chief importance for the Oregon football program.

It’s true, the 2015 Oregon football program has the unenviable task of replacing its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Marcus Mariota. Unfortunately, the Ducks must close the chapter on the Mariota era and look forward to 2015.

Oregon currently has five solid potential replacements at the quarterback position: sophomore Jeff Lockie, freshman transfer from Georgia Ty Griffin, walk-on Taylor Alie, four-star freshman Morgan Mahalak, and recent Oregon four-star commit Travis Waller.

These Ducks are in a row, ready to square off for the starting quarterback job that looms large with Mariota’s departure to the NFL.

But the next Oregon quarterback may still be out there.

The Ducks have offered Eastern Washington’s quarterback Vernon Adams a scholarship and he is scheduled to visit Eugene this weekend, according to the Spokane-Review.

The two-time finalist for the FCS’ Walter Payton Award (FCS Heisman Trophy equivalent) has put up remarkably similar numbers to Mariota in his three years in the FCS, amassing 10,438 yards passing, 110 TDs, 31 INTs. To his team and around the league, Adams is known as “Big Play VA.”

Adams is looking to boost his NFL Draft stock, entertaining options to play his final season in the FBS. The Ducks are looking to replace a historical quarterback and return to the national title picture. It seems like a match made in football heaven.

Freshman Taylor Alie, left, and sophomore Jeff Lockie are amongst those vying for the Ducks starting quarterback job.

John Sperry

Freshman Taylor Alie, left, and sophomore Jeff Lockie are among those vying for the Ducks starting quarterback job.

And so Oregon has a unique opportunity. Will the Ducks look for an immediate replacement with a transfer such as Adams, or will they stick with their youth and long-term development?

“We’re going to exhaust every path to find the right guy, the right fit, but we certainly believe in who is on campus and what is to come,” Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich told OregonLive.

The idea of an experienced transfer coming in and taking the reigns for a single-season is a relatively new concept for Oregon football fans. There is a good reason for that: Oregon’s sustained success has come from competition within the football program as players battle for starting positions.

Seasoned veterans looking to capitalize on their last year of eligibility before the NFL Draft aren’t exactly fascinated with the idea of transferring to Oregon and potentially sitting on the bench.

“I’m not going there to be a walk-on or a second-stringer, but if I do go down there, I’m going to work my butt off,” Adams recently told the Spokane Review.

And the Ducks are not accustomed to making guarantees. It is Oregon’s ”Win the Day” philosophy that continues to produce winning seasons; a winning mindset that puts players in a perpetual “hot seat” throughout the course of a season.

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has a difficult choice to make from a talented class of quarterbacks.

John Sperry

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has a difficult choice to make from a talented group of quarterbacks.

For Adams, it’s a calculated risk to leave EWU for the potentially greener pastures in Eugene, with all the benefits of national exposure and challenges of competing at a higher level readily available should he make the leap.

And for Oregon, the recruitment of Adams temporarily heals the wounds of losing Mariota but doesn’t completely solve the long-term quarterback dilemma. However, a player like Adams does buy Oregon time to develop some of its younger talent for one more year.

The dual-threat FCS superstar possesses everything Oregon is looking for in a quarterback, and should Adams accept Oregon’s scholarship offer, he would be the most proven among Oregon’s list of talented candidates.

The dynamic Eagles’ quarterback has even demonstrated his abilities against Pac-12 competition. In 2013, Adams led the Eagles to a 49-46 victory over Oregon State at Reser Stadium, and in 2014, he threw for seven touchdowns in a narrow 52-59 loss to the Washington Huskies.

The 2015 Oregon football team is filled with an embarrassment of riches and offensive fire-power, boasting the return of running backs Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman, and receivers Charles Nelson, Devon Allen, Darren Carrington, and Dwayne Stanford. That’s not including the incoming 2015 freshman class.

It would be hard to imagine Adams not making an instant impact at Oregon.

Oregon has worked hard at establishing its football program as one of the best in the nation and has arguably raised the national standards after Mariota’s tenure. And there is nothing that indicates that Adams won’t have to earn his spot, even if he ends up as the favorite for the position.


Oregon’s tradition is that it doesn’t really have a tradition, embracing innovation in uniforms, coaching, schematics, and diet, constantly adapting and responding to the collegiate landscape. This is an interesting, free-agency type of opportunity that could be a big win for everybody involved and yet another testament to a program willing to explore new avenues to achieve its goals.

Regardless of what happens after this weekend, Adams will be playing in Eugene on Sept. 5th for the Ducks’ 2015 season opener against the Eastern Washington Eagles at Autzen Stadium. It will be interesting to see what colors the Ducks, and Adams, will be wearing.

Top photo from video

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Jordan Ingram

Jordan Ingram

My name is Jordan Ingram and I am currently a student at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism. I am a proud Oregonian with an insatiable thirst for Oregon athletics. I am in hot pursuit of my dream career as beat writer for anything that goes “Quack.” Follow me on Twitter : @jpingram3

  • Dan

    Wow. After watching the interview above, VA is going to be blown away by Oregon’s facilities!

    The only question is whether it is worth the risk to him of coming to Oregon and not winning the starting job (vs. putting up insane numbers at EWU). IMHO, he would be the front runner based on his skills and experience, but he would still have to learn the playbook and prove that he is the best QB on the roster, since our coaches don’t guarantee anything.

    • Dan, that seems to be the biggest dilemma: Oregon doesn’t make guarantees. At least, not in the past. This could be different. But would making a pre-season guarantee compromise the principles of Win the Day and the philosophy of the entire Oregon football program? I wanted to ask that question because I’m just not sure the answer. Thanks for reading

  • Aggie

    Im a season ticket holder at EWU and im honestly not sure you realize exactly what you might be getting. He puts up great numbers and does some great things but he also has alot of flaws. I dont know how many times he has read the defense just horrible, never saw an open guy, but was able (with his athleticism) to make something happen. Hes a baller no question, but hes a high risk/reward type player. Who also has arguble the best receiving core in all of FCS.