Even though Oregon has had a lot of success at the quarterback position over the last 15 years, Vernon Adams will be the first Duck senior QB to make it to and start on Senior Day for Oregon since Joey Harrington.
Here’s a look back at each QB that followed Harrington and who failed to play in their Senior Day game.
After Joey’s successful career, the next man up was Jason Fife. Following an all-time great such as Harrington was no small task, but it seemed as if Fife was up to the task.
He led Oregon to an upset of then-No. 3 Michigan, which resulted in him making the cover of Sports Illustrated. Oregon seemed like they hadn’t lost a beat — until it turned out to be a fluke. They lost three in a row and five overall, and as Fife struggled down the stretch, he was eventually replaced by Kellen Clemens.
With Clemens running the show, Oregon looked to find more consistency on offense, but that was not the case with the 2004 season. The season started off with Oregon ranked 24th; however, six losses later Oregon missed making a bowl game.
Entering Clemens’ senior season people did not know what to expect. Surprisingly to some, the offense was much more potent as the new spread offense was introduced. But while some hoped for an upset that year, Oregon became just another team that USC steam-rolled that season.
They won their next three games, though, by absolutely dominating teams. Then in a game with Arizona, Clemens was flushed from the pocket and was sacked, breaking his ankle as it was rolled up on.
This opened the door for two promising young players in Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf. The two combined to win out the regular season but lost a close Holiday Bowl to Oklahoma, 17-14.
The two of them had a fierce position battle in the off-season with Dixon winning in the end. The season went very similarly to the season Fife had as they pulled a stunning upset of a highly ranked team in Oklahoma — only to fade down the stretch.
The struggles of Dixon led to him splitting time with Leaf. Again Oregon headed into a season with mixed expectations. This time, however, Dixon had a full grasp of the offense and the scores showed as much. Except for the close loss to Cal — Oregon was running through the Pac-10 and heading straight to the national championship.
Instead fate intervened, and Arizona claimed a senior Oregon QB.
Leaf tried to salvage the season as best he could, but he, too, succumbed to an injury, leaving the Senior Day game to unknown Cody Kempt. Mercifully the season ended with Justin Roper leading Oregon to a Sun Bowl win.
The next season started with Roper leading the way, but that quickly changed after an injury at Purdue. This opened the door for Jeremiah Masoli. He led Oregon to a surprising two-year run in which Oregon won the Holiday Bowl and made it to the Rose Bowl.
This was not meant to last as Masoli was dismissed from the team for stealing a laptop. Thus another QB did not make it to their Senior Day game.
Following Masoli it was Darron Thomas who now led the Oregon offense. Building on what Masoli had done, Thomas led Oregon to an unprecedented run of success. Making it to the national championship game and claiming a Rose Bowl victory was setting Thomas up for the greatest Oregon career ever.
Instead he surprised everyone by declaring for the NFL draft, continuing the Senior Day enigma.
Although many of us never knew, Thomas was being pushed by an unknown player the whole time. Marcus Mariota, for all intents and purposes, gave Thomas the choice to go pro or ride the Duck bench as a demoted senior. Mariota was just that good, and we are all perfectly aware of his accomplishments.
He holds practically every school QB record, Fiesta, Alamo and Rose Bowl wins, a national championship berth and a Heisman Trophy. By accomplishing all this, there was no reason for Mariota to come back to Oregon for his senior season.
The risk of getting hurt or subjugating himself to even more scrutiny from draft analysts wasn’t worth one more year, and thus another QB left before their Senior Day.
So, here we are, 15 years later, and Oregon finally has a senior QB who made it to their Senior Day. While the Ducks didn’t have Adams here for multiple years as they did with Mariota or Thomas, he still left a lasting imprint on the program.
The Civil War will be Vernon’s last game in Autzen Stadium, and we should celebrate him — and all the other seniors for making it to their Senior Day game.
Still unconvinced that the Ducks have not had a senior QB since Joey Harrington? Then check for yourself with the Mighty Oregon DVD. Relive all the action of these past Oregon QBs today.
Featured Photo by David Pyles
Article Inspiration from The Mighty Oregon DVD
For more on stories of Oregon past visit http://www.mightyoregondvd.com