Much to many a Duck fans’ delight, Vernon Adams returned to the field to lead the Ducks in vanquishing the University of Washington Huskies. He was very effective converting on third down and made several great downfield throws when opportunity arose. This analysis focuses on one of Vernon’s traits that almost assuredly aggravates his coaches, but is even more aggravating for the opponent. It is the apparent fact that Vernon makes some of his most impressive throws while off his feet.
Most QB throws are made from a good stance in the pocket (see photo above, red arrows pointing to Vernon’s planted feet). A good, solid base is a fundamental part of effective throwing. Feet planted on the ground provide friction for a quarterback to deliver torque (power) to the football.
You can see this effect from the towel hanging behind Vernon; it appears to be swinging left as Vernon’s hips twist into the throw. Throwing from a firm stance is the norm when the pocket is holding up against a defensive pass rush.
But when the pocket starts to break down, what is a QB to do? Scramble, right? more specifically, scramble to a spot where he can set up in a good stance and deliver the ball downfield.
However, when Vernon sees a window of escape from the pocket, he becomes a freelancer. And sometimes that freelancing doesn’t lend time to proper footwork and stance. The image above shows Vernon launching the rock (yellow circle) while he is clearly off his feet (red oval).
When we refer to the “window” it means the precise moment to throw the ball to the window where the receiver is going to be. Some QBs can picture that in their minds in advance, but most cannot. It is a very unique skill to see the window in the milliseconds before it appears.
What makes Vernon Adams unique is (1) how he sees the window in advance; and (2) how he squares up his hips to deliver a throw of sufficient force. Moreover, he maintains his accuracy and delivers a catchable ball.
Vernon’s ability to hold in the pocket until it breaks down, evade the rush, see the emerging window downfield, and launch the ball while wholly in mid-air is best seen in live speed, as shown above. Coach Jeremy McGuire points out that Vernon’s success is in part due to the squaring of his hips and shoulders during the throw, whether grounded or aloft.
While the outcome of the pass in the photo above was incomplete, it was only due to a great defensive play on the ball. Vernon again escaped a collapsing pocket and launched himself and the ball right on the money.
A FishDuck.com photographer, Kevin Cline, caught Vernon just at the point of lift-off on this wonderful long toss to Bralon Addison (see above). Vernon dodged the nose tackle, scrambled into the open, and just before a linebacker could catch up, launched this awesome throw. You can see a full clip of the play directly below.
So why is this happening? Why do Vernon’s leaping passes so often land on-target? Obviously he does very well from a stable stance, yet when stressed and on the move, he often makes magnificent throws…while airborne.
The answer lies in his rare ability to see the window for his receiver, and knowing the time to throw is now, he is able to instinctively align his hips and shoulders as he begins his throwing motion. The end result? Adams delivers a beautiful ball into that window in a way only he can.
Vernon teaches quarterbacks that even if your feet and legs are not pointed in the right direction, if you can point your hips where you want to throw, even in mid-air, your shoulders will automatically turn and you will have the torque to complete the throw accurately. Thanks to Coach Jeremy McGuire for pointing this out so all of us Duck fans can watch for it the rest of the season.
“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”
Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Top Photo by John Sperry