Ryan: Nickson is the Man

With opening kick literally days away and excitement for the upcoming season reaching a peak in some ways the Vanderbilt football team is exactly where they left off the 2007 season: In need of a true starting quarterback. NOTE: This article was written before the announcement that Chris Nickson would be the starter.

As anticipated, the release of the game notes and depth chart for the Miami (OH) game earlier this week sheds no further light on the situation as Chris Nickson and Mackenzi Adams were "dual listed" as starting quarterback, and as the old adage goes, "If you think you have two number ones, you really have two number twos."

Since sustaining an injury in the Alabama game early last season Chris Nickson has not shown the form that garnered the Redshirt Senior a Third Team All-SEC selection before the 2007 season. A serious lack of decisiveness coupled with the physical limitations of playing hurt served to undermine Nickson's ability to run the Commodore offense last year. Enter Adams, who after coming in relief efforts in the Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia games made his first collegiate start against then #6 South Carolina, leading Vanderbilt to an impressive victory in Columbia. While Adams certainly didn't light up the Gamecocks' defense he showed a calm demeanor managing the game and avoided making critical errors. This same strategy backfired later in the season however, as Vanderbilt jumped out to a sizeable lead against Tennessee in the first half, in a similar fashion to the USC game, before going M.I.A. in the second half, contributing to a crushing loss to the Vols. Both quarterbacks have lead the Commodores to key victories in front of large and hostile crowds and both have looked like they couldn't direct the offense out of the locker room.

Regardless of who has lined up under center Vanderbilt's passing offense has been anemic. With total passing usually coming between 100 and 200 yards neither Nickson nor Adams have been the second coming of Jay Cutler. Clearly nothing happened in spring or fall camp to change that as there is still no clear cut number one. Bobby Johnson insists that competition between the two experienced quarterbacks has been heated and that he feels no obligation to name a starter before the Vanderbilt offense hits the field, which has served to fuel speculation about the continued shortcomings of both quarterbacks.

When push comes to shove on Thursday night against Miami I think the nod has to go to Chris Nickson. Those in the Adams camp may say that Vanderbilt was the only school to recruit Nickson as a quarterback coming out of high school and that he lacks the mental fortitude and intangibles to excel as an SEC quarterback, but I feel that the superior athleticism that Nickson brings to the position cannot be undervalued. Keep in mind that this competition is not occurring in a vacuum. In addition to lacking a game-breaking running back, which is nothing new, Vanderbilt will be breaking in five new offense linemen and a crop of unproven receivers. While Adams may be the better pure passer, Nickson possess the ability to make plays on his own that may prove to be crucial this season. In Vanderbilt football's Debate 2008 my vote goes to Nickson.

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