College football’s free-agent market is open and Oregon is searching for the next Russell Wilson to replace Marcus Mariota.
FCS All-America quarterback Vernon Adams from Eastern Washington plans to be in Eugene, Oregon, this weekend visiting with Ducks coaches. Adams is on target to graduate by June.
NCAA rules allow a player who has completed his degree to transfer to another school without sitting out a season, as is usually required. The player’s original school still needs to sign off, but it is as close to free agency as college football gets.
The graduate transfer quarterback market has become one of the most intriguing parts of the college football offseason in recent years as QBs program hop looking for playing time.
The big prizes this year could be Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, who will return from shoulder surgery to find J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones standing in his way, and Notre Dame’s Everett Golson, who had to share the job with Malik Zaire in the Fighting Irish’s bowl victory against LSU.
Other teams that could be in the market for a quick fix at quarterback include LSU, Florida State and South Carolina.
Adams is maybe the most intriguing prospect of them all, even though he would be trying to make an unprecedented jump from FCS to starting at quarterback for a major college powerhouse.
Listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds, Adams is about the same size as Wilson (5-11, 206), who spent his final college season at Wisconsin after starring for three seasons at North Carolina State.
Wilson, who will play in his second straight Super Bowl for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, led the nation in passing efficiency, accounted for 40 touchdowns and guided the Badgers to the Rose Bowl during his brief stay in Madison.
Adams told The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Washington, on Wednesday about his plans to check out Oregon.
“I’m not saying I’m leaving Eastern, but I’m just going to check it out and see what they have to say,” Adams told the newspaper.
Eastern Washington on Thursday released a statement that did not mention Adams by name, but spelled out the graduate transfer process. Either the player or the inquiring school must ask permission before contact can be made between a school and player who is under scholarship at another school.
“In the current situation that has arisen recently, we have granted the ability for our student-athlete to explore what opportunities may exist,” EWU said.
Eastern Washington plays a level below the Ducks in Division I, but with Adams leading the way the Eagles have beaten one Pac-12 team (Oregon State, 49-46 in 2013) and took another down to the wire (Washington beat Eastern Washington, 59-52 in 2014).
Adams passed for 886 yards and 11 touchdowns in those games, running a spread offense that could allow for a relatively easy transition at Oregon.
“He’s a heck of a player and he could probably play for anybody in the country, without question,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said after withstanding Adams’ onslaught in September.
The history of graduate transfer quarterbacks has plenty of hits and misses.
Wilson was the biggest hit. Wisconsin went back into the grad transfer market in 2012 for Maryland’s Danny O’Brien, but he ended up throwing only 86 passes for the Badgers.
Last year, the grad transfer who received the most attention was Jake Coker, Jameis Winston’s backup at Florida State in 2013 who transferred to Alabama. Many fans and media members penciled in Coker as the Tide starter in the summer, despite coach Nick Saban’s warnings.
Coker never started a game. He was beaten out by incumbent Blake Sims, who had the benefit of spring practice. Coker did not join the team until preseason practice in August and never caught up.
Adams would be in a similar situation at Oregon, where the Ducks have no clear cut successor to Heisman Trophy winner Mariota among four quarterbacks on the roster and incoming stud recruit Travis Waller.
Mariota’s backup last season was Jeff Lockie, who will be a junior next season and has thrown 41 passes in two seasons. Lockie is probably first in line heading into the spring based purely on experience.
“I’m not going there to be a walk-on or a second-stringer,” Adams told The Spokesman-Review. “But if I do go down there, I’m going to work my butt off.”