Vernon Adams beginning to live up to hype
When the news broke last offseason that Vernon Adams was heading to Oregon to step in for departed Heisman winner Marcus Mariota as the Ducks’ quarterback, this week’s performance against USC is the kind of game that was flashing through minds of Oregon fans. Adams earned his highest grade of the season, a +6.3 overall mark, and connected on six of eight deep balls against the Trojans, five of them going for scores.
For much of the season, however, Adams failed to live up to the high expectations that come with playoff hopes at an elite program. Adams’ lacking play contributed to an up-and-down start to the year and then he missed significant time with a finger injury that lasted four games. Oregon found themselves 3-3 after their first six contests and far removed from any playoff talk. With Adams grading at -2.7 in that time and backup QB Jeff Lockie producing a -7.8 grade as the stand-in, any turnaround would require better play at the position.
It’s no coincidence to see Adams boasting a much improved +8.7 overall grade since returning in Week 7 against Washington and the team riding a five-game win streak that has lifted them to the second spot in the Pac 12 North Division standings.
Adams’ basic passing numbers during that span have been among the country’s best – he’s third among Power-5 QBs in both TD passes (18, Washington State’s Luke Falk is first with 20) and NFL passer rating (130.1, behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Brandon Allen of Arkansas), but some of his deeper statistics have stood out as well.
His accuracy percentage on deep throws, 66.7 percent, is third-best and he tops the Power-5 deep ball TD list since Week 7 with 10. He’s fourth in yards in the air percentage – pushing the ball downfield and not relying on yards after the catch to boost his totals – and one of two QBs to put up over 1,000 yards through the air. When pressured, his accuracy percentage has been sixth-best.
Also, as is to be expected with his style of play, Adams’ average time to throw of 3.33 seconds is the second longest in college and he’s done damage with the extra time he’s created – his 139.4 passer rating on attempts coming after 2.5 seconds is the best among 63 qualifying QBs.
The second-half surge of Adams and the Oregon offense won’t get them back to the playoffs but the strong finish after an uneven start has to be somewhat satisfying for the former FCS star and the Oregon faithful.