I think it would be hard to walk away from watching Vernon Adam's performance against Michigan State without building some admiration for the new Oregon quarterback. The Ducks' new quarterback went across the country with a broken finger on his index finger after taking a serious shot to head last week and stayed strong for four quarters against one of the nation's best defenses.
That took some serious guts. But at the same time, it raises one of the biggest questions Oregon will face all season. Can Adams survive a full Pac-12 season?
With Adams having a history of injuries and listed at 5'11 200 (which means he is probably 5'10 185, I knew this would be an issue for the Ducks, but I am still a bit surprised that it has become an issue so quickly. We are just two weeks into the season and it seems like Adams has already been thrown through a meat grinder.
I thought the Ducks might use a comfy game against Georgia State as an opportunity to sit Adams for a week and let him heal, but it sounds like that won't happen and I get it. Adams' current issues don't seem like they will go away by sitting for just one week and random injuries can happen against any team, so there is no real point in sitting a starting QB just because you know you can win the game without him.
I think Adams will be fine against Georgia State. The Ducks will play vanilla, protect him, keep him in the pocket and run as much as possible and go home with the win, but it doesn't matter, because the Pac-12 slate is a whole different ball game.
Adams is going to have to play all out in Pac-12 play and it will leave him open for more injuries. He has great escapability that is somewhat comparable to Marcus Mariota's, but the problem is he doesn't have he elite speed that Mariota possessed to fully get away from defenders nor the bulk to absorb the big hits when they come and Oregon's offensive line isn't as protective as it was last season. The problem is that this escapability is going to extend plays and open up bigger plays, but also open him up to more hits that will now be coming from Pac-12 defenders as opposed to Big Sky defenders.
I saw it when Adams toasted Washington last year as an Eastern Washington Golden Eagle. Adams could escape a lot, but he also took a lot of hits and was limping half-way through the third quarter. Based on what I saw Adams do against against a Big Ten defense, I have a feeling his next nine game against Pac-12 defenses are going to be very similar even if the defenses aren't as strong as Michigan State's.
Since he already suffered an injury that is going to linger and will have to be played through like a broken finger, there is no question that Adams is going to have to run the Pac-12 gauntlet at least the banged up.
With this is mind, there are a few key things that loom large for Oregon once we hit Pac-12 play.
How effective can Adams be if he gets any more banged up? Adams played fairly well on the road against a really good defense while injured, but will he be able to maintain that level of play if he suffers any more injuries?
Will Oregon limit Adam's movement until they reach their "gauntlet?" The Ducks open up at home with a somewhat challenging game against Utah but things lighten up quite a bit for a while after that with three games against struggling teams (Colorado, Washington & Washington State) in four weeks. Might Oregon try to protect Adams in these games and limit his mobility until they hit their late-October/early-to-mid-November gauntlet of games against Arizona State, Cal, Stanford and USC?
How capable is Jeff Lockie? It seems inevitable that the guy Adams quickly beat out will likely have to take at least some meaningful snaps in Pac-12 play. Will Lockie be able to play up to a level that doesn't drag Oregon down or will starting Lockie make the Ducks a vulnerable team in Pac-12 play.
Overall to me, the Ducks still look like a legit Playoff contender and as good as any team in the country other than the one that bashed them in the National Championship Game last year if Adams is healthy.
However, that is a pretty big if.