Analysis: Vernon Adams’s Hot Hand, Off His Feet!

Vernon Featured Photo

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.

Classic well-grounded stance upon release of the ball.

From Video

Classic well-grounded stance upon release of the ball.

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.

Vernon getting some air.

From Video

Vernon getting some air.

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.

Vernon catching some air.

From Video

Vernon catching some air.

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.

The point of take-off!

Photo by Kevin Cline

The point of take-off!

A 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!”

Jay MacPherson
Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo by John Sperry

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Jay MacPherson

Jay MacPherson

I told my wife I might spin some yarn for FishDuck. She replied "You know nothing, Jay Mac." She is probably correct, but since her name isn't Ygritte, I'm jumping in. First off, you should know that I know almost nothing about football. Not the terminology, the techniques, the standards, the...wait for it...tradition. So I'm figuring at least I've got 1/4 of this covered from Duck perspective. Until two years ago at the age of 55, I played sports regularly. Much of it was Ultimate (that disc game, which is now officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee). So what? Well, in Ultimate, every player is a receiver, a cornerback/linebacker, and (to varying extents per play) a quarterback. The skills at getting open, at covering, at throwing (successfully) all apply to football. The object simply behaves differently while in flight. Oh, and there are the plays: getting people open, keeping opponents from getting open, etc. Thus, after playing a somewhat similar game for 33 years, and being a coach much of that time, I might know a little bit about player heart, techniques, and teamwork. I hope I can illuminate something new in Duck sports for you once in a while.

  • duckusucker

    GREAT analysis!
    Adams is that true rarity, a one-of-a-kind athlete that breaks the rules but is successful, to a high degree.
    I can only think of Joe Namath in considering such strange style: Joe could be stepping backwards and launch off his back foot with amazing velocity and accuracy. Not occasionally, but all the time.

    Adams is a sensational player—- his evasiveness is uncanny; he makes minute head, neck, and shoulder feints that make would-be-tacklers and rushers miss him by almost comical distances. And he has a strange release that may influence the spin and lead to a very unique descent: his throws descend precipitously, far faster than a defender expects.

    His performance in clutch situations is second-to-none: 6 for 9 with third downs? Considering the pass rush, the on-again, off-again running game that set up those situations too often———– amazing stuff.
    Especially considering he’s been sitting for almost a month!

    On paper, our new injuries and the killer line-up of our looming foes would make me less than sanguine about our prospects. But—- Vernon is a special kind of athlete: gifted physically, yes, but also with a competitive fire that makes it impossible NOT to think he can do anything he wants.

    Let’s hope he stays healthy: the greatest show on earth is alive, again!

  • GoDucks

    Love that Vernon Adams.