Mark Schofield thinks Vernon Adams and Marcus Mariota share many of the same traits, making the transition from Heisman winner to FCS transfer easier for the Oregon Ducks. The big question is size, as Adams has the athletic ability and competitive toughness to succeed.
In addition to familiarity with the offensive schemes used by Oregon, Adams displays many of the same traits that Mariota showcased during his career in Eugene. At the outset, any trait-based comparison begins with a look at the size of the two players. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner possesses near-prototypical size for the position: At the 2015 Scouting Combine Mariota measured 6′ 4″ and weighed in at 222 pounds. Adams does not possess the pure physical stature of the former Ducks quarterback, as the Eastern Washington transfer is listed as 6′ even and 190 pounds. While this makes some pays from the pocket more difficult, size alone does not make a quarterback.
The move to the ability to throw while on the move is something Mariota excelled in during his college career. On this play against California, Mariota executes the read option before rolling left, and delivering a strike on the corner route:
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What is impressive here from Mariota is the way he points his shoulders and hips to the target, and then rotates his arm through the throwing zone. This is a great example of a QB generating torque to increase power in the throw.
Contrast that to Adams throwing on the move, rolling to his right:
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This is a designed rollout and pressure prevents Adams from using his lower body in the throw, forcing him to rely on upper body and arm strength. But the quarterback does a solid job of using his left arm and shoulder to create torque, and the result is a strong, hard and accurate throw along the sideline for a first down.
Mariota also exhibited arm strength ‒ or arm talent to be precise ‒ particularly with the ability to drive the football downfield on throws of 20+ yards when necessary. Here is a perfect example, on a throw against Oregon State:
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Mariota climbs the pocket before delivering a beautiful pass to the receiver on his post route. The throw is driven into a narrow throwing window with great velocity, carrying over 20 yards on the fly.
On this play against Sam Houston State, Adams delivers a similar throw. He is in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field in a 3X1 alignment, the single receiver on the weak-side right. The Bearkats have 4-2-5 personnel on the field showing Cover 4:
Watch as Adams drives this throw to the weak-side receiver on his post route:
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This is also a great throw, delivered into a small throwing window with the velocity needed to beat the coverage. Adams might see smaller passing lanes playing in the PAC-12, and this throw illustrates that he has the ability to make the throws he’ll need to.
The last trait of Mariota’s that jumps out every time you see him on film is his pure athletic ability. This was one reason a few scouts and draftniks placed him number one on their draft boards, as his ability to cover up mistakes in pass protection and extend plays with his legs is a coveted asset in today’s NFL. Here is an example of this trait, as he uses his feet to keep move the chains when a play breaks down:
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And, Adams, from the game against Sam Houston State:
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The Eagles face a 3rd and 9 in their own territory clinging to a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter when the left side of the offensive line collapses, forcing the quarterback to improvise. Adams escapes the pocket and turns a likely nine-yard loss into a 29-yard gain. This is a huge play in a big spot, and an example of not only pure athletic ability, but competitive toughness. Teams want a quarterback that can keep drives alive on third-and-long, and Adams delivers on this play.
One final aspect to cover is an element that Adams brings that was not implemented often during Mariota’s time in the offense. Last season the Heisman-winning quarterback took only five snaps under center, and was in the shotgun for 99.4% of his plays.
The Ducks enjoyed a great deal of success offensively, but the ability to operate under center brings an additional element to an offense, especially in short yardage and goalline situations.
Here is Adams against Montana. He starts this 2nd and goal play under center with 22 personnel on the field for, and the running backs in an i-formation. The Grizzlies have their goal line defense on the field:
The QB uses quite the exaggerated pre-snap stance and cheat step, before taking the snap and faking to the tailback an off-tackle run to the left. Adams then peels to the right, finding a tight end crossing from left to right for the touchdown:
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This is just one example of how Adams can bring a new wrinkle to Oregon in the fall. The ability and experience operating under center opens up the playbook just a bit more for the Ducks.
As the film illustrates, Vernon Adams and Marcus Mariota are very comparable. The former Eastern Washington quarterback operated in a system with very similar concepts to what Mariota ran for Oregon, sometimes running the same exact plays. In addition, both quarterback share a number of similar traits, from arm talent, athletic ability and competitive toughness. Given the similarities and familiarity, Adams should be able to step into the huddle at Oregon, win the starting job and keep the Ducks in position to compete and win in the PAC-12.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy DraftBreakdown.com