It’s been a whirlwind of a season already for Oregon fans. It’s hard to admit and we try to convince ourselves otherwise but in most fans’ minds, one question lingers. . .Can Vernon Adams Jr. be the X-factor that takes Oregon back to the Natty?
Let’s face it, after a long, solid run with Super Mariota in the Ducks’ driver’s seat, it’s hard to turn the page. No, it’s not fair to compare every post-Mariota Oregon quarterback to Oregon’s first Heisman Trophy winner, but it’s hard not to. Eugene has been incredibly blessed and no one wants to see a downhill departure. So, with Adams Jr. stepping in as Mariota’s first successor, it’s going to come with the territory. The expectations for Oregon’s newest QB are high.
But do they need to be?
The past couple of years have been particularly exciting under Mariota. Looking back over those years- particularly last year- however, circumstances required Mariota, in many ways, be that X-factor. Between young and developing running backs and receivers, and the ever-present O-line injuries, Mariota often had to carry the team. He had help of course, but if the Ducks were going to make it, Mariota was going to have to pull all the tricks out of the bag- even if it meant risking injury by flipping into the end zone.
That was then.
As Oregon has settled into the 2015 season, one thing is clear- its offense is packed full of reliable and experienced talent. The offensive line is solid, with redshirt senior, Tyler Johnstone, leading the way and despite the loss of running back, Thomas Tyner, this season, running back, Royce Freeman is more than capable of handling the bulk of rushing load. Add to that some solid help in the backfield ala Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James and suddenly the need for Adams Jr. to be the season’s savior (not that he can’t be) isn’t quite as high. And, we haven’t even talked about the receivers yet.
This season, more so than any other in recent memory, Oregon’s receiving corps is solid. After a few year lull (following Jeff Maehl’s departure), it seems the Ducks now have not only one solid go-receiver, but several. If you had to pick a favorite, it would be hard. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Last week, we witnessed the return of Charles Nelson, who showed several moments of gridiron genius. If you ask me, had he not been in, we all would have licked our post-loss wounds a little bit longer. Meanwhile, Bralon Addison earned himself the Pac 12 Special Teams player of the week award and proved he’s a 1oo% healthy after a spending a year on the bench.
And we’re not done.
The route-running, play maker list keeps going with Byron Marshall, who is about as dependable as a receiver can be, emerging go-to, Dwayne Stanford and Devon Allen, who is due for a full-return any game now. That’s a very, very solid group that collectively might just be its own X-factor.
Sure, the current Oregon system depends heavily on a solid, duel threat quarterback. Adams Jr. is that. It depends on a quarterback who can lead. Adams Jr. can do that. It depends on a quarterback that can think fast and run an up-tempo offense. Adams Jr. can do that.
Mariota had to do all of that and more. He had to be an X-factor. With so many other play makers on the field this season, I’m not so sure Vernon Adams Jr. has to be.