Adams Gives ‘Dores Options on Offense

As you might recall before this season had begun I wrote an article heralding Chris Nickson as the only logical choice to start at quarterback this season. I referenced his play making ability as well as his experience as key reasons why Nickson would be able to lead the Commodores in to what at that point was the great unknown.

And that is why, with the benefit of hindsight and the hope that no one actually read that article, I am here today to eat some crow and officially give my endorsement to Mackenzi Adams.

One of the major question marks heading into the season was the state of the offensive line. After losing all five starters from the 2007 expectations were low for a group short on starting experience. My reasoning was for starting Nickson was, "Well, if the O-line can't pass block, at least Nickson can make something happen with his legs." Six games into the season it is Chris Nickson, not the offensive line, who has underperformed. The play of the offensive line anchored by center Bradley Vierling and left tackle Thomas Welch has been a welcome surprise for a Commodore squad supposedly in a rebuilding year. The offensive line has provided ample time in pass protection in addition to opening up running lanes for Nickson. Therein lies the rub: With Nickson lining up under center opposing defenses routinely stack as many as nine players in the box, daring Offensive Coordinator Ted Cain and Nickson to beat them throwing the ball. And if there's one thing we know heading into Georgia this week it is that Chris Nickson is not going to beat anyone throwing the ball.

As evidenced by his performances in both the Ole Miss and Auburn games Adams not only provides Vanderbilt with a passing game unfathomable with Nickson at the helm, but also brings an emotional intensity that Nickson does not seem to possess. In both instances Adams came in off the bench to replace an injured Nickson, and in both cases the offensive suddenly sprung to life, as if it had only been missing that one crucial element to get on track. This past Saturday's abysmal 107 yard offensive performance against Mississippi State further indicates that Vanderbilt may have been starting the wrong guy all year. After toiling in futility for over three quarters Bobby Johnson finally put Adams in the game after Nickson threw an inexcusably bad interception to set up State's second touchdown. Adams coolly responded by leading the Vanderbilt offense down the field, primarily through the air. That touchdown pulled Vanderbilt to within a field goal in the fourth quarter and put the ‘Dores right back in the game. It was painfully obvious to everyone in Starkville that day that if Adams had played more than in relief duty against the Bulldogs the outcome of the game could have been vastly different.

Now we find ourselves halfway through the season with a 5-1 mark and still very much alive in the SEC Eastern Division race. Upcoming games against Georgia and Florida will serve as a true measuring stick for just how far the program has come since last season. And despite the gut-wrenching loss to Mississippi State there are still plenty of reasons to be excited for the remaining six games. For a coaching staff that has made their money this season making key adjustments at crucial times, credit Bobby Johnson for naming Adams the starter before going in to practice this week. The timing of this decision allows the team to go through drills knowing that Adams will be the one delivering the ball on Saturday. It also lets fans know that the coaching staff is just as concerned about the low level offensive production as they are, and that they are actively looking for solutions. Now Adams has all the pressure sitting squarely on his shoulders, and a big day in Athens would put the ‘Dores right back on track.

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