Legendary Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant was once asked what it takes to be a successful coach. He answered:
You need a good wife, a good huntin’ dog, and a good quarterback … and not necessarily in that order.”
If there was ever a team that quip applied to, our beloved Ducks fit the “bill” because some of the most potent skill position players ever at Oregon return on offense … except at quarterback.
Vernon Adams has the opportunity to be the most impactful transfer in the history of Oregon football this fall, yet with all the articles written about him, much is inaccurate. I spent some time recently going over VA’s games with a coach to get a better understanding of the skills of this player, and realized that many of the assumptions about Mr. Adams are simply not true; or not taken in the correct context.
If Oregon could be led to the College Football Playoffs by this remarkable quarterback — let’s dispel some of the myths right now!
“Adams does not know the Oregon Offense.”
The touchdown play above was a sweet drop on the money by Vernon, and I was impressed with the timing of it; it was after the receiver beat his man and before the safety could come over the top to help. “Anything else you notice about the play (the coach was curious to hear my answer)?” I did not notice anything more immediately and then he asked to run the play again as he described the action.
“It is an outside rub play where the inside receiver hopes to have his defender held up a touch to get open, as we saw on this play. It is one of Oregon’s most common pass plays as well. The Ducks have scored scads of touchdowns off this play.”
Whoa. I watched again and he was right! In fact three touchdowns thrown in that game by Adams were “Oregon” plays. Thus, the adaptation time for this quarterback will be very short. Watch the full video and note many of the routes used by Eastern Washington are the same as the Ducks, such as the bubble screens, the drags over the middle, and the short hitch passes for quick first downs. He has already been running the Oregon offense!
“Adams is not used to our speed in the No-Huddle.”
Boy is that a whopper of a myth. What is he doing in the GIF below?
VA ran No-Huddle at the end of the game and this example of No-Huddle was in the first quarter of this game two years ago!
Vernon Adams will not have a problem operating at Oregon’s pace.
“Vernon Adams is not very fast.”
The word I have is that Vernon has fast feet for his elusiveness in the pocket, but his straight ahead speed is not in the league of Mariota … but then few, if any, are. What you see above is a demonstration against a Pac-12 defense that his speed is quite adequate for Oregon’s needs. Remember that Darron Thomas took us to the national championship game. He ran the Zone Read extremely well, but did not have breakaway speed. Adams has more than enough for this offense.
“Vernon does not know the Zone Read, and there is not enough time to learn it.”
This has been a myth perpetuated by many, and I confess to supporting it until recently. Note above how he ran the Zone Read out of the Pistol formation above (as we did in the UCLA and Washington games), made a great read, and ran for a first down. Remember that this game was two years ago; he has probably improved at the Zone Read since.
“Vernon Adams is a superb Math student.”
OK … that one IS a myth.
“Adams’ abilities are overblown.”
“Vernon Adams’ brain is way ahead of most college quarterbacks. He sees things other QBs don’t see.”
The plays that make you shake your head are too numerous to count. He sees a small window that will open in a second and he does not plant the foot, cock the arm, look downfield and throw as most quarterbacks are taught. If he had, the window would be lost. The coach (who gave me the quote above) and I witnessed on film umpteen touchdowns thrown by VA where he is off-balance, throwing off his back foot, and even side-armed in order to squeeze the ball into a window between the closing safety and cornerback.
What you see above is an example of his improvisation, in addition to throwing into a tight window. The receiver ultimately dropped the pass, but Adams escaped the blitz of the OSU middle linebacker and, as he was moving, saw the upcoming window and fired.
This is a gift, a vision and anticipation that few quarterbacks have. My natural question to the coach was, “Will they change his form at Oregon?” The coach looked at me incredulously and answered that you “do not change the brilliance of a player like that. Vernon throws with traditional form in the pocket when given the chance. His gun-slinging comes when scrambling or buying time; the Duck coaches won’t change that.”
“The football IQ of Adams is off the charts. It is like having a coach on the field.”
In VA’s game against Oregon State he was quickly snapping the ball and catching the Beavers with defenders trying to get off the field. He did this twice to help keep Eagle drives going in Corvallis. I keep using this Oregon State game as an example because it was so remarkable and he was only a sophomore in the first game of the season! All of his skills have improved in the two years since then.
“Adams throws the ball up for grabs too often.”
At Eastern Washington, the statement above was true. However we need to consider the context.Vernon had some very talented wide receivers that he had confidence in — and they did not let him down. (The video below is set on the precise play; click on it and you will see the play immediately)
In the video above we see a pass that never should have been thrown, but between the poor defense and tremendous effort by the EWU player — a big play was made. That happened often for the Eagles, because it had to; EWU did not have much of a running game and in order to win, Adams would chuck it up and hope for the best.
Adams will have a full offensive attack at Oregon, hence the “chuck-and-duck” approach is unnecessary and I am quite sure that Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost will break that old habit early with Oregon’s new star.
What about his other negatives? Are you going to ignore them FishDuck?
I acknowledge that there are significant negative components to this Vernon Adams situation. Let’s address them as well:
- “He is small and fragile.” He did get hurt in games and missed part of this Oregon State game featured. And yes, he is not over six feet tall. All quarterbacks at Oregon are vulnerable and it has been a rare season that we do not have a QB injury. He is pretty nimble on his feet and will escape most major shots at him, and he will have better protection and more time to throw with the threat of an actual running attack. It is part of the game.
- “He does not know the Oregon terminology.” No disagreement from me, but I feel that is a low hurdle that will not impede his success.
- “He has not built relationships and team chemistry yet.” I am not the least bit concerned about that as we have had many transfers come in, play well and gain the respect of his teammates quickly. Again, this is a low hurdle for VA.
- “He holds the ball out in a very vulnerable way versus D-1 teams.” I agree with that as his ball security must improve, and again because he has a balanced attack and superb coaching, this swashbuckling will not be as necessary at Oregon and will be contained a bit.
“Why go out on a limb FishDuck? Are you high or just plain stupid?”
Don’t you hate the “experts” who say that “Adams will be a good matchup with Oregon and can lead them far — we’ll see!” That was a prediction? You read that all the time and it is where wimps reside.
Vernon Adams will be a mega-star at Oregon, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and will lead Oregon to being the Pac-12 North Division champion, the Pac-12 Conference Championships winner and into the College Football Playoffs. Charles Fischer
Now THAT is a prediction. It is nuts to some, but it is what I believe after having watched him play and conferred with those who know more than I. Yours truly has a track record that is better than most, and I am not concerned if I am wrong.
I won’t be.
Of course, if all of my prediction comes true, my critics will say, “that was an easy call; everyone could see it.” Yes they can after the season begins … but where are pundits right now?
“Oh how we love to learn about our new beloved Duck!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Top Photo from Video