Analysis: “Vernon Adams Will Have a BETTER Statistical Year Than 2014 Mariota”

Featured Ph Adams Stats

Our recent articles re VA have stirred the feelings of some coaches in my network, and I received the following analysis (below) from one of them, that, while controversial, is also illuminating. I added the GIFs, picture, and my personal endorsement to what he wrote. This is fun stuff, my friends!

Charles Fischer

So – why would some stupid guy state the absurd: “Vernon Adams will have a better statistical year next season than Marcus Mariota did last year.” I’m the guy (another FishDuck.com consultative coach), so let me state my case: Vernon is a very accurate passer.

His yearly completion percentages at EWU were 61%, 66% and 66% — and that (obviously) includes drops and throw-aways (Marcus’s were 69%, 64% and 68%). Of anyone who has seen him play, the first thing they say about VA is how incredibly accurate he is with his passes [“Just give him a small window …”]. And then there’s the eyeball test. Charles Fischer and I independently watched every pass Adams threw against Oregon State and Washington. Our verdict: incredibly accurate.

In stride...is this for real?

From Video

In stride … is this for real?

You skeptics say, “Yeah, but who was he playing against?” My response is, “How ’bout defenses whose every-down-emphasis was to stop Vernon Adams?” Do you know how hard it is to throw on 3rd-and-long? For EWU, every play was essentially 3rd-and-long. The Big-Sky conference’s defensive players might not have been Pac-12-worthy, but they were scholarship athletes, with very knowledgeable defensive coordinators.

Fifty yards in the air and over the shoulder? Insane.

From Video

Fifty yards in the air and over the shoulder? Insane.

You might have noticed VA did pretty well (above) against the far superior athletes of the Beavers and Huskies – who each had minimal respect for EWU’s running game. The Huskies had about 7 NFL-quality defenders and yet they gave up 7 TD passes to Adams. Washington’s defenders (after having watched VA shred OSU the previous year) certainly were very aware of, and highly motivated to stop, Adams. Coaches Chris Petersen and Mike Riley both admitted their defenders simply couldn’t contain him.

You might have noticed that Oregon often has wide-open receivers? This is mostly due to the respect that is paid to the Ducks’ rushing offense. Russell Wilson — who reminds me so much of Adams — has been aided by great rushing offenses at Wisconsin and now, Seattle. VA now has that great running game at Oregon to help get his receivers open in the play-action packages you see with the Ducks.

Have we seen Vernon’s true upside? Now that opponents must pack the box to stop highly-talented runners such as Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner — it leaves fewer defenders in the secondary (outside the box), and opens up more attractive one-one-one situations for the Ducks’ gifted receivers. With fewer defenders in the secondary … what can Adams do with his accuracy? Is a 70% completion rate possible? (Yes!)

VA throws on the run extremely well.

From Video

VA throws extremely well on the run.

Adams (above) is also a very elusive scrambler, who often ran to throw into broken coverages with wide-open receivers. Think carefully, Oregon fans, how often did Mariota “successfully” throw after scrambling? Marcus’ scrambles usually resulted in his keeping the ball and running upfield, or throwing the ball away to avoid a loss.

By contrast, Vernon constantly threw accurate completions while or after scrambling. I appreciate Marcus as much as any of you, but he wasn’t always accurate with his passes. It wasn’t just the missed open receivers, but many of his completions required his receivers to adjust to the ball and prevented them from running full speed after the catch. I think VA will greatly improve the Ducks’ YAC [yards after catch] statistics because of his accuracy. An important stat — to show a passer isn’t just dumping the ball off – is YD/A [yards per attempt]. VA’s were 9.1, 10.3, and 9.2. Marcus’s averages were 9.1, 10.6, and 11.5. 2015 will be VA’s chance to improve on his numbers.

In stride again?  This is not "lucky."

From Video

In stride again? This is not “lucky.”

You know what really helps improve that stat? It’s the ability of receivers run with the ball after they make the catch — providing they can catch the ball in stride. VA will be throwing to the likes of Byron Marshall, Bralon Addison, Dwayne Stanford and Devon Allen, coupled with the capable hands of the Duck running backs. Adams will be throwing to more experienced receivers and better run-after-catch men than Mariota did. (Thus my optimism.)

Some of you are skeptical because VA missed spring practice. Excuse me, but Adams has played three seasons of college football with opponents knowing they had to stop him to win the game. He led a lot of young men to many victories, and that to me, somehow seems a bit more important than missing a few practices. VA’s already had to read progressions against every possible coverage and make tough throws under pressure, often in lousy weather. How many of last year’s Pac-12 QBs could have achieved what Adams did at Eastern Washington?

So enjoy yourselves, Duck fans. We’re extremely fortunate to have Vernon Adams leading the Ducks — with the added bonus of him being a wonderful young man. He gave up a lot of well-earned glory to gamble on a dream that will continue in Eugene.

“Oh how we love to learn about our new beloved Duck!”

Charles Fischer

(FishDuck) Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo from Video

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Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • Godux

    Very nice, well thought out with good reasoning. The only thing I see as a limiting factor, that you did not address, is a higher rate of interceptions than Marcus had, which will stop some drives that might have been completed in the last few seasons. That is not to say it will be enough to hold down the score significantly. He may trade off that negative with a slightly higher completion percentage and YAC that you predict.
    I do see Oregon’s offense still as plug and play and Adams, if he wins the QB battle as we suspect, is a heck of an athlete to plug into it. He may well get more rushing yardage than he has gotten in the past, as well as produce more accurate passes, because defenses are not going to be able to devote as many assets to containing him. Those that are dedicated may be a tad better than what he saw at EWU, but he didn’t fail against the PAC12 units he faced in the past.
    I don’t have any insight into his deep pass game, something Oregon has generally eschewed due to long catch/run plays with fast quick receivers and good down field blocking. I’m not sure if Mariotta and his predecessors weren’t that good with that facet, or never really needed it.

  • Weston

    While this is all fun and exciting to speculate about, there’s a certain young Jeff who might have something to say about the primary assumption upon which this story is based. :)

    • SeattleDuck

      If VA doesn’t win the starting job, it’s because of VA, not because of Lockie. Two totally different talent levels.

      • fairweatherfoul

        The coaches will go with the QB they believe presents the best chance to win. None of us have seen Lockie in a position to run the offense yet, except in Spring scrimmages. He never entered a game to score points. He played to eat up the clock, and to protect Mariota from an unnecessary injury. Lockie had a few appearances because Mariota had to leave the game temporarily. Last year in real game situations I believe his completion rate was about 75%. Lockie has never been turned loose by the coaching staff, and rightly so, given the situations he faced and the purposes he served.

        I’m not criticizing VA, but UO football is predicated on culture and cohesiveness. Currently, Adams may be in the dark regarding these two, very important elements. We’ll learn what the coaching staff thinks when we see who starts the Michigan State game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lockie starts the Eastern Washington game and Adams finishes it. I hope Adams is great, but I want to see the team win, not some player win.

        • SeattleDuck

          Available to all of us are high school tapes of Jeff Lockie, a myriad of practice reports, teammates and coaches commenting on players abilities, 3 spring practices, and some in-season film. As a senior in high school, Lockie had enough arm to throw some over-the-shoulder passes to guys moving at the speed of molasses and won the MVP award of the East Bay Athletic League. He’s not a shmuck. Even if he’s 2nd string on the Ducks, that says a lot about his ability. But he’s also not the talent– arm, speed, timing, vision –that Vernon Adams is. So if VA doesn’t win the starting job, it’s on him, because his abilities are simply greater than Lockie’s.

  • cfluegge

    Great read, but until Adam’s is eligible to play for the Ducks, he’s nothing but a tantalizing prospect. And tantalizing prospects can’t throw touch down passes.

    • Hey Casey,

      In summer of ’94 eight of our best players that would take us to the Rose Bowl that year had to complete between one to three summer classes each to be eligible to play that fall.

      They passed every class, thus I feel one player can pass one class this summer. (And why I have not spent any time on that subject)

      • SOD

        Charles, those eight players you referenced had already been on the team the previous year. They knew the offense, they knew the other players and they knew where they fit in the scheme. Adams, for the most part, knows none of those things at anywhere NEAR the level those players did. Also, those players were enrolled at Oregon so they could continue attending the official team functions. Adams isn’t and can’t…which is a major obstacle in his path.

        Could he be outstanding? Yes. Could he just be good? Yes. Could he end up being Lockie’s backup? Yes.The point being, we won’t know until he finally gets enrolled and can join the team in its study and practice sessions just what his future holds here.

        • SOD! Nice to have you comment; do go up the right side of this site and click on “Debunking the Myths surrounding Vernon Adams” as much of your first paragraph is covered in that analysis.

          • SOD

            Sorry, Charles…I don’t see “not taking part in official activities” (including film study) with his future teammates as a “myth”. I was responding to the comparison you made re: classwork. His is for a school far north of here which precludes his official entry into Oregon. Their’s was for Oregon and didn’t stop them from any football activities.

            I think VA has a chance to be VERY good; but, as someone else said, that ain’t gonna happen unless he gets enrolled. And every extra day of practice with the team or film study with the other QBs that he misses out on just makes the hill he’s going to be climbing a little taller.

          • Eric

            well SOD, just saw him in front of Lillis yesterday so I’d assume that he’s done with his math class? Or why else would he be here instead of EWU? Let’s just sit back and see how it plays out.

          • SOD

            Eric, I’ve heard he’s down here for a while now (which I think is a great sign for him AND the Ducks). That’s not the point. He can’t do the official stuff with the team (including Fall Practices) until he’s enrolled and (from what I’ve heard and understand) he can’t do that until mid August – a few days to a week after practices begin. THAT is what I think might cause him some problems.

            I have no doubt he took the class.Nor do I have any doubt he passed it. It’s the timing of when he can finally become involved in practices that’s the possible problem (IMO). And, honestly, it has nothing to do with VA personally. If it were a RB who was going to be missing those meetings or an OL or any other position, I’d still say their road is at least a little bumpier than it could have been, too

          • duckusucker

            One point to consider before we anoint Adams: no QB has shined in the zone-read offense without a few years of preparation. That’s the only obstacle I see– but it could be devastating. Could coaches put in a different offensive set for him? I don’t expect so.

  • Platypus1

    And let’s not forget what the pundits say about Mariota in regards to his high completion percentage: The spread offense produces lots of high percentage throws. A good deal of ‘Dinks and Dunks,’ as Bellotti used to say. Placing VA, a quarterback that produced very good accuracy throwing longer routes, into that offense could very well produce incredible completion percentages.
    Also remember that he will not only have excellent running backs, but he will be on the field with superior athletes at every position. That wasn’t the case when his team faced Oregon State and Washington.

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      in other words he played on a gimmick system that allowed him to win by dishonorable means. blah blah blah..what a lame excuse. if the dishonorable system was so good at racking up wins shame on any team that didnt switch to it but is still trying to find excuses for losing

  • MarcTheDuck

    I like all the things you wrote, Charles, but I do think there is still a downside that VA will have to overcome. I don’t think it’s all a done deal for him yet. He’s new to the team and that has to have some impact on knowing his new teammates’ traits, the playbook and the speed of Oregon’s offense. It’s hard for me to see how someone can show up essentially 3 weeks before the start of the season and plug right in. Yeah, he has a lot of experience… just not with this team. And timing and playbook are important on this team. Also, I’m not sure about his interception rate. Was it good last year (I haven’t looked)? If it was only average then fans who are used to MM’s nearly 0 interceptions will be unhappy. Of course, whoever comes in will face that problem. He may be the guy; I’m not ruling it out. I just don’t consider it a no-brainer yet. Also, I’m concerned if he hasn’t finished that math class yet. It’s another distraction from learning at at time when he needs to be learning a lot of things. But I am pulling for him (not that I’m worried about Lockie doing a good job – I think he would), just not as sure as you are.

  • duckified

    If VA can put up those numbers using Division 1 receivers who probably have no stars at all, think of what he can do with really talented receivers who can catch the ball, even if it isn’t perfectly thrown. I just wish we could get pass the math test suspense and get him enrolled.

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      on the upside his(adams) receivers dropped many passes and against stronger opponents his O line was challenged so he will have better support there with the ducks…particularly picking up the blitz. on the downside adams size was sometimes an issue..he had passes batted down and things will only get worse with the bigger faster D linemen at the next level.

      • duckified

        That’s one thing I like about VA. He is very good at throwing on the run. As good as MM in my opinion. He is quick and can elude those D linemen better than anyone else on the roster.

  • Eugene Bradford

    If Oregon can use the Keyshawn Johnson system and just get the receivers the damn ball then a lot of YAC will result. Many receivers on the depth chart that are better than K Johnson and Bralon Addison is a great runner after catch. It will be exciting to see some deep touchdowns to speed burner receivers like Devon Allen. VA has very good arm strength, those are some long completions against UW and right on target deep. Defenses playing against the Ducks will be in for many long days because after big bombs completed and a lot of YAC they will have to try and chase down and tackle Tyner and Royce Freeman…… Good Luck

    • Ducknow

      Devon Allen may grey shirt. Otherwise, I agree with you that our RB and WR quality should make the QB job much easier than many past Oregon QB’s have had.

      • Eugene Bradford

        Devon Allen track career might be more important than football especially with a shot at USA Olympic track team, not sure when summer Olympics are next. Byron Marshall and Addison on field at same time will provide lot of problems for defense and maybe a 3rd receiver will emerge with Carrington out for 6 games. 2nd game with Mich State will be tough for either quarterback, the defense and special teams will have to come up big to pull out a win in East Lansing, either JL or VA will have to play well and limit turnovers the way MM did.

        • duckusucker

          Dwayne Stanford is a proven weapon; at 6’5″ he’s a nightmare for corners: he’s gonna be a star!

  • duckusucker

    A brilliant analysis. I think Marcus was a talented guy, but it was largely the system that allowed him to shine. He really was a mediocre passer. How did he put up such great numbers? Well, the fact is the Ducks (since Chip) have been a run-oriented offense. Defenses keyed on runners, cheating up to do so. That is why so many of Marcus’s throws were to wide open receivers. And to stretch the field, how often did we see him throw those high percentage horizontal heaves to the sidelines?
    Adams appears to be the better pure passer. I argue he will shred Marcus’s records, both in passing AND running yards.
    The only question is whether or not Adams can win the big game at the end of the season. For several seasons, he failed to do so…

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      “……………..he(mariots) was really a mediocre passer..” and yet he racked up the second highest QB efficiency rating in NCAA history. and yet he was drafted #2 by a pro style ground and pound team that uses a system that isnt remotely similar.

      mariota isnt accurate? i think the only thing that isnt accurate is your eyesight.

      • duckusucker

        You probably think Darron Thomas was a dynamite passer, too?
        It’s the system.
        Marcus has a slowish release, doesn’t handle pressure in the pocket well, isn’t a comfortable pocket passer, and 99% of his throws have been to open receivers.
        In college, because of the running threat of his terrific RBs AND his speed, he was very successful and merited all the accolades and success.
        In the pros, where it’s a different game, he’ll fail.

        • DuckPlanner

          I think you are selling Marcus short. I didn’t see any of the things you claim. I don’t think he will fail in the pro’s, but he was a terrific college player regardless. the college game is what this discussion is about, and the system qb stuff seems short-sighted and doesn’t recognize the skill it takes to be a qb in college. the system player claim seems to insinuate that you could be the successful qb for the Ducks by virtue of the system. Marcus’ completion percentage is too good to say that he was only successful because of the running game. isn’t that the idea of every football team? balance the threats?

          • duckusucker

            Marcus was a terrific player IN THE DUCK system. Mediocre QBs put up great numbers immediately before him. He was better than they were, largely because of his (for a QB) great speed that forced would be defensive pressure to hang back. Marcus also, arguably, had the most talented supporting cast of offensive weapons in the country for those years.
            I’m not selling him short, I just don’t think he was a great passer. Obviously, he was good enough (he actually was “great” [in that system]) to take the team to the rarefied air of the championship game.
            I stand by my analysis of his faults. I very much like the young man, acknowledge he was the most successful among his peers when his career is examined. Objectively, I just don’t see him succeeding as a passer at the next level.

  • Ducknow

    Fish says: “We’re extremely fortunate to have Vernon Adams leading the Ducks”

    Except … he’s not, yet.

    Hard to conclude VA will have a better statistical year than MM if VA doesn’t actually start the first few (or any) games.

    VA has already stumbled out of the gate. He missed Spring practices (and JL did well) and will miss the first week of Fall practice. Perhaps
    that won’t hurt VA’s chances of starting. Who can say? But, I don’t believe the coaches to expect that either VA or JL will be an upgrade (or even an equal to) MM’s stats. I think they’ll be happy with a QB that doesn’t lose games with turnovers, manages the game well, and gets the ball into the hands of the play makers at RB and WR.

    This column suffers from too much wishful thinking. Fish’s contention that VA will post better stats than MM is predicated
    on so many grand assumptions that it is very hard for me to take it
    seriously. First, we have to assume that VA wins the starting job, even
    thought he’s slow out of the gate to playing with the team. Second, we
    have to assume that his lack of experience with the Oregon system and
    lack of playing time with Oregon players doesn’t adversely impact his
    performance from the level he obtained at EW. Third, we have to assume
    that, to the contrary, he’ll perform at a higher level at UO than EWU,
    despite that he’ll be facing better opposition in a higher division of
    football. Finally, we have to assume that despite all the obstacles to
    success he has to overcome (e.g. lack of familiarity with system, lack
    of experience with players on the team, increased pressure from
    opponents, etc.), he’ll actually obtain a level of statistical success
    that not only is new heights for him, but better than that obtained by
    the last Heisman winner (who was very familiar with the system, his
    teammates, and opponents)..

    I’d prefer a more realistic take than what I see in that column.

    Ultimately, this just seems like a back-handed slap of JL and perhaps also the Duck coaching staff.

    • Please read last week’s analysis that covers many of your points. Scroll up on the right…the “Debunking Myths” analysis.

      Slapping the coaches? My good man…do you think the coaches would have brought in VA for ONE year if they had complete confidence in Jeff Lockie? What was that saying to Lockie?

      But I love the disagreement; it will be fun to refer back to this later as either I will be toasted or fried!

      • Ducknow

        “My good man…do you think the coaches would have brought in VA for ONE
        year if they had complete confidence in Jeff Lockie?

        Yes. Yes I do. Here’s why:

        First, I don’t think the coaches “brought in” VA. VA is a windfall. VA made himself available to a list of schools, including UCLA, Texas and others. The coaches didn’t go out and try to convince VA to graduate early and come to Oregon. They weren’t on a nationwide hunt for someone to replace JL. VA’s transfer is not the product of secret negotiations and promises he will start. Instead, VA made himself available and Oregon was one of VA’s targets, and Oregon decided he’d be worth having. Obtaining VA was a very low effort option for Oregon.

        Second, Oregon’s history has shown that you can never have enough depth at QB. Why wouldn’t Oregon want ANOTHER guy with starting potential? The conclusion that the coaches must not have “confidence” in JL is based on the assumption that the coaches would only want one guy on the team who they would have “confidence” could be the starter. That’s a dumb assumption.

        Third, coaches love competition. Even if the coaches think that JL is head and shoulders above VA, they might still want VA on board if they think VA’s better that whoever was slated to be JL’s backup. Competition makes everyone better. And if the coaches this VA and JL are close, or VA might have more raw talent, than that would lead to even more competition.

        Fourth, of course, the coaches also had nothing to lose in taking a flyer on VA. Sure there’s a lot of “IF’s” about VA. Can he learn Oregon’s system, can he gel with his new teammates, can he learn his teammates tendencies and skills, can he handle better defenses, etc. But, it’s no skin off the coaches noses if he can’t. They can afford to take a flyer in the HOPE that VA might end up being a better option that JL, because there’s no risk if VA’s not. The only one taking a risk is VA. And that get’s me to …

        Fifth, I don’t think the coaches were as desperate as you seem to think. The coaches have known since MH took over too recruiting periods ago that someone not named MM was going to be the starter in 2015. And I haven’t once seen them panicked or desperate about that fact. They weren’t out beating the bushes for JC QB transfers in prior recruiting periods. They haven’t looked like coaches who were desperate for a potential starter they could have “confidence” in to supplant JL.

        Which is why I view your comments as a backhanded slap not only at JL but at the coaching staff. The whole notion that the coaches have no “confidence” in JL or anyone else on the QB roster pretty much assumes that the coaches have failed on the recruiting and development front with five different players. And then failed to find other options in regular recruiting periods. Until, miraculously, VA fell into their lap as a “savior” for the coaches failings up until that point.

        I don’t buy that story. I think the coaches, like MM, have confidence that JL can start for Oregon. Their decision to take on VA is not a vote of “no confidence” in JL. It’s just a reflection of the reality that more talent never hurts. It’s a reflection that VA provides another strong option at QB, either at starter or as backup.

        We’ll all find out which option the coaches pick for our QB after Fall practices, practices wherein VA will miss the first week. VA might well end up the starter. Who can say? But, even if he does, I really don’t think you can say based just on accepting VA’s transfer to Oregon that the coaches had “no confidence” in JL. That’s just not fair to JL or the coaches. It’s an insult to both.

        • It is nice to see a well-thought out response, and I welcome it. I am disagreement with much of what you wrote but note on this site we don’t stoop to insulting other posters or the principal. (“That’s a dumb assumption,” is what I am referring to)

          Other sites do that, but not here. Reasoned disagreement (as the majority of your work was) is fine, but I do not want others to think they can get away with it here.

          Next time it is deleted, and I would not want to do that with the work you put into the response.

          • Ducknow

            Charles, no offense meant. Obviously, my time on other sites has roughened my manners. My apologies.

          • GoDucks

            Nicely done both of you.

        • Anthony Joseph Gomes

          “…………..vernon adams made himself available to a list of schools……….” that statement right there makes you suspect. UCLA and texas started recruiting adams only after the ducks did. they were never even on the radar until adams said he would give the ducks his answer in a week.

  • GoDucks

    This one reminds me of Out On a Limb by Shirley MacLaine. Way too early to tell if VA will top MM’s stats, but I can see why they may be comparable. Not buying the ‘let’s go after VA because we have no faith in Lockie’ spin at all. VA was targetted because, like MM, he is ‘special’. Oregon would have been foolish to not kick that tire, especially given how compatible he is with the Ducks offense. That said, I have much faith in JL. I think he’ll pick his spots well enough, and with his support if he doesn’t blow things there’s enought talent for us to go return to the Final Four.

  • picomanning

    Absolutely right on!