The most publicized test in the history of Eastern Washington University has been graded. My only regret is that this wasn't being run like a Supreme Court ruling, thereby depriving us of sports media interns sprinting across the EWU campus to deliver the exam results. When Vernon Adams arrives at the Hatfield-Dowling complex and dons the winged helmet for the first time, the highly-anticipated quarterback competition will officially begin. But Oregon has their starting quarterback.He's been here the whole time.
Obviously, only the most unreasonable of person is assuming Vernon Adams will show up to practice and immediately be handed the starting job. When he joins the team, he'll be at least four practices behind, meaning he won't be able to participate right away with the rest of the team. The five-day fall practice acclimatization period is the same for every individual; the rest of the team will be in full pads starting tomorrow, while Adams can't suit up fully until at least next Thursday. That gives him, at most, six practices and a walkthrough where he's fully integrated with the rest of the team before the Ducks take the field against Eastern Washington. That just isn't enough time to get acclimated to the offensive scheme, tempo, and to football in general, considering he's been on his own for training and workouts since he announced his intent to transfer back in February. Adams will undoubtedly see his first action against his former team; those snaps will just come in the fourth quarter, with Oregon up 30 and Lockie on the sidelines, his job done.
Jeff Lockie is the best option at quarterback for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with Vernon Adams, but considering I wrote the first two paragraphs of a post titled "The Case for Jeff Lockie" without mentioning him by name once, it's worth restating those reasons.First, Lockie has the trust of the program. The coaches believe in his ability, with Mark Helfrich having "total confidence" in Lockie, he's built chemistry with his offensive contemporaries, and the younger players like Royce Freeman look to him as a leader and a mentor. He's been locked in since the first snap of fall practice, and has the look and demeanor of a top-flight college quarterback capable of leading Oregon to a second-straight Pac-12 championship. Second, it's his fourth year as a Duck, and he's got command of the playbook in a way that Adams won't ever have. Adams might have a higher ceiling than Lockie in terms of pure tools, but no one's putting points up on Michigan State in four weeks with only half the playbook at their disposal. Lockie gives Scott Frost and the offensive coaching staff the full range of options, and has the knowledge and awareness to execute that full game plan. Lastly, Lockie as the starter in 2015 offers the biggest reward looking ahead to his senior season in 2016. Oregon is here to stay as a perennial national title contender, and the continuity of a multi-year starting quarterback is a welcome asset to a playoff hopeful.
The narrative surrounding the Vernon Adams transfer saga made his coming seem like he was saving the Oregon football program, and has labeled his ascent to the starting job as inevitable. But considering the timing of his arrival, he simply can't, and won't, do enough to earn the starting job by Week 1. Instead, he gives Mark Helfrich and company a valuable luxury: a proven safety net. Should Jeff Lockie falter in September - shaky against EWU, rattled and ineffective against Michigan State, harried and inept in the Pac-12 opener against Utah - then Oregon has a playmaker they can turn to in order to right the ship. But if Lockie plays well, and he's more than capable of doing so, then Vernon Adams will remain Oregon's backup plan.