Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams was benched Saturday in favor of backup Jeff Lockie during a 62-20 drumming from Utah, raising questions as to whether the graduate transfer from Eastern Washington can successfully direct the Ducks' normally explosive offense. An injured index finger on his throwing hand was thought to be a reason for his struggles in a 31-28 loss to Michigan State a couple weeks earlier. At least one college coach thinks the issue is much bigger than a bad finger.
"Vernon Adams is just a guy," an assistant coach, described as familiar with Oregon, told Sports Illustrated. "He put up numbers, but Eastern Washington is still putting up numbers without him. He wouldn't play at Ohio State or USC. Would he play at another great school? Probably not. He took a huge jump up."
Adams completed just 2 of 7 passes for 26 yards before coach Mark Helfrich pulled him Saturday. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks noted Monday that the scouting arrow is pointing down for Adams, though Brooks also pointed out that Oregon's defense deserves just as much blame for the team's problems.
Eastern Washington competes at the FCS level, but Adams had faced FBS programs while at EWU and fared well. Still, Oregon already has been saddled with two early season losses and its aspiration of a return to the College Football Playoff is all but unattainable.
For a team that Marcus Mariota led to the national championship game just nine months ago, that's a steep drop.
For the season, Adams has completed 43 of 71 passes for 581 yards and four touchdowns. But against Michigan State and Utah, he's completed fewer than 50 percent of his throws. That's not the kind of production that will sustain a program that relies on outscoring opposing offenses, rather than shutting them down.
However, his role as a starter might not be in too much jeopardy. Lockie wasn't very effective in the loss either, completing 10 of 20 passes with two interceptions.
Oregon plays at Colorado on Saturday.