He’s still only 6 feet tall, but Vernon Adams’ stature is growing by the minute.
Ignored in his youth by the bigger football schools, Eastern Washington’s record-setting quarterback is being courted by the University of Oregon as a possible replacement for Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
“They told me a lot of things I wanted to hear,” said Adams, a two-time most valuable player in the Big Sky Conference, who confirmed Wednesday that he’s been offered a scholarship to play for the Ducks next season.
Playing for Oregon would offer “a shot at playing at a higher level every single week,” said Adams, who will fly Friday to Eugene for a three-day visit.
Adams, a redshirt junior, has only one year of eligibility remaining but is scheduled to graduate in June with a degree in recreation management. He could play at any school that offers a graduate degree in that field.
Coincidentally, Eastern and Oregon will open the 2015 season against each other Sept. 5.
“I’m not saying I’m leaving Eastern, but I’m just going to check it out and see what they have to say,” said Adams, who has caught the attention of pro scouts and rival colleges with his rare blend of arm strength, mobility and pocket presence.
Adams had those qualities in high school in Pasadena, California, but never grew past 6 feet and drew little interest from Pac-12 programs as a senior in 2011. With scholarship offers from Portland State and EWU, he chose the latter – and made history.
In 2013, Adams led the Eagles to a 49-46 upset win at Oregon State; last year, he threw seven touchdown passes in a 59-52 loss at Washington.
In three years, Adams has thrown for 10,438 yards, 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions while helping EWU go 35-8 overall and 22-2 in the Big Sky. For the past two years, he has finished second in balloting for the Walter Payton award for the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Oregon’s interest in Adams surged two weeks ago, when Mariota announced his intention to declare for the NFL draft after Oregon lost the national title game. Lacking an experienced replacement for Mariota, the Oregon coaching staff has cast about for other candidates.
Several names had surfaced, including those of Adams and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.
Adams confirmed late last week that he spoke with several Oregon coaches, including head coach Mark Helfrich.
Two factors might dissuade Adams from making the move to Oregon. First, he’s not guaranteed to play, let alone start, should he transfer. The returning Oregon quarterbacks are familiar with the Ducks’ offensive system, while Adams would not be able to participate in spring ball. However, Adams plays in an offensive system at EWU that’s similar to Oregon’s spread.
The Ducks current roster includes 2014 backup Jeff Lockie and Morgan Mahalak, Ty Griffin and Taylor Alie. Four-star recruit Travis Waller, from Anaheim, California, is expected to sign his national letter of intent Feb. 4 and is expected to enroll early for spring quarter.
Adams’ trip will help him evaluate his chances, he said. “I’m not going there to be a walk-on or a second-stringer,” he said.
“But if I do go down there, I’m going to work my butt off,” Adams said.
A reason Adams would stay: There’s unfinished business in Cheney, where for three straight years the Eagles have fallen short of a spot in the FCS title game.
The other reason is more personal: “Just the family I’ve made here and the people. I love it in Cheney,” Adams said.
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