Is Oregon QB Vernon Adams ready for the spotlight?
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) In perhaps the ultimate irony of college football’s opening weekend, quarterback Vernon Adams makes his debut for Oregon against his former team, Eastern Washington.
The No. 7 Ducks face the Big Sky’s Eagles on Saturday in Autzen Stadium.
Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich says the game is more about how Adams fares with the Ducks than how he fares against his former team.
”It is a rare and somewhat unfortunate set of circumstances that it is him versus them,” Helfrich said. ”It’s not that.”
Adams announced in February that he would transfer to Oregon for his senior season, taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allowed him to join the Ducks without sitting out a season after he wrapped up his degree at Eastern Washington. He arrived at fall camp several days late because he had to take one last final exam.
Adams, a repeat Big Sky offensive player of the year, passed for 10,438 yards and 110 touchdowns while rushing for 11 more in 37 career games with the Eagles. He has eight games with five or more scores.
But he’s got big shoes to fill in replacing Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, arguably the best quarterback in Oregon’s history. Now with the Tennessee Titans, Mariota led the Ducks to a 13-2 record and a spot in the championship game of college football’s first playoffs.
So all eyes will no doubt be on Adams, including his coach’s.
”Some guys go out and throw the ball 205 miles an hour over a guy’s head and you’re like, OK. You know their first throw is out of the way,” Helfrich said. ”All that stuff, getting hit, getting in the flow of the game, is important and what’s their reaction to it is the important thing.”
SCOUTING THE EAGLES: Eastern Washington was ranked No. 6 in the preseason FCS coaches poll after going 11-3 and winning the Big Sky last season. The Eagles’ season ended with a loss to Illinois State in the playoff quarterfinals. Adams’ replacement is Jordan West, who made four starts as an injury replacement and three other appearances last season, throwing for 1,072 yards and nine touchdowns with one interception.
VERSATILE DUCK: Charles Nelson caught 23 passes for 327 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman last season. Oh, and he also rushed 11 times for 101 yards. And he returned 11 punts for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Then in spring practice this year he played at cornerback. He’s back listed at receiver this season, but Nelson could really turn up anywhere. ”He would play ever down of every game if he had his way – and if the coaches had their way,” Helfrich said.
RUNAWAY DUCKS: Oregon’s backfield will be led by sophomore Royce Freeman, a power back listed at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, who finished with 1,365 yards rushing last season – a Pac-12 true freshman record – and 18 touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass. He was named the league’s freshman of the year on offense. The Ducks are without running back Thomas Tyner for the season after shoulder surgery. Tyner, a homegrown prep star, appeared in 11 games last season, gaining 573 yards and scoring five touchdowns, primarily serving as the backup to Freeman while he struggled with injuries.
HISTORY: The two teams have never met. Oregon has a 13-0-2 all-time record against Big Sky opponents; the Ducks won the last one 69-0 against Portland State in 2010. The Eagles, meanwhile, have seen success in recent years against Pac-12 opponents – with Adams at quarterback. The team upended Oregon State 49-46 in Corvallis to open the 2013 season, then came close against Washington 59-52 last season at Husky Stadium.
RANDOM RECORD WATCH: Oregon has thrown a touchdown pass in 68 consecutive games, a Pac-12 record and one shy of the national record set by Texas Tech from Sept. 23, 2006, to Oct. 22, 2011.