In the FCS Huddle: Adams has big game, little ego

Park City, UT ( - Sometimes all Vernon Adams has to do is throw a bubble screen to wide receiver Cooper Kupp and the Eastern Washington quarterback reaps many of the rewards.

"On the stats sheet," Adams laughs, "(it would say), 'Vernon, 1-for-1, 60 yards.' It can look like a 60-yard bomb, but it's only a bubble."

His teammates do make him look good, but in many ways, Vernon Adams has become the face of Eastern Washington's powerhouse program and FCS football in general. His dual-threat style translates to today's game and he puts up big offensive numbers to win big games, often on a national stage.

But the redshirt junior who is called "Big Play VA" wouldn't be the Walter Payton Award favorite this year - after being the runner-up in 2013 - if he wasn't surrounded by 300-pound offensive linemen, speed to burn in the skills positions and a program that has some of the best talent in the nation.

The Big Sky Conference's preseason offensive MVP - yet another honor for Adams announced Monday at the Big Sky Kickoff preseason festivities - is always the first to tell anybody and everybody about it.

"They call me 'Big Play VA' and all that stuff," Adams said, "but, you know, I don't see it like that. All I have to do is give them the ball and they make the play. So they make me look good, they make me look better than everybody thinks I am. I just appreciate my team, they just don't get enough recognition like they should. ... Walter Payton, preseason, if I'm on it, my whole team's on it."

The Big Sky champions each of the past two seasons, the Eagles just may be the team to beat nationally this season as they try to get back to Frisco, Texas, for the national championship game. The Eagles were the last winner (2010) before North Dakota State's run of three straight national titles.

Having been stopped in the national semifinals each of the past two seasons, coach Beau Baldwin and the Eagles believe another power-packed schedule will prepare the Eagles for the next step. Their squad will have the national spotlight again when it hosts nemesis Sam Houston State in the first game of the entire college football season on Aug. 23.

"Just talking with Vernon during this trip (Big Sky Kickoff)," Portland State wide receiver Kasey Closs said, "he says they all love playing for Beau and they all come together as one. I feel like that's the chemistry they have. And I think that almost separates themselves."

"I think," added Southern Utah defensive end James Cowser, "(Adams) represents the program really well in the sense that those guys are confident, they expect to win, they have a tradition of winning. I really respect that program in how hard they work, the attitude they have coming into the game, the way they play the game. That's what you want your program to be."

Eastern Washington, which finished 12-3 last season, placed a Big Sky-best six players on the preseason all-conference team. Adams racked up 4,994 yards and 55 touchdowns through the air and another 605 yards and four touchdowns on the ground a year ago. His average of 9.0 yards per offensive play and 10.28 yards per passing attempt were FCS single-season records.

He's worked in the offseason to get bigger - he's 6 feet, 195 pounds - and improve his technique. The native of Pasadena, California, even became a father last month when his girlfriend, Cheyenne Merritt, gave birth to Vernon Cash Adams III.

He has plenty of family already in Cheney, Washington, and they wear red and white. And while his teammates like to kid Adams about being the star, he graciously shines the spotlight back on them.

"I love to give praise to my teammates," he said. "I don't want nobody to think this 'Big Play VA'-hype thing is who I am. I'm not that guy."

Northern Arizona and Montana, which finished second and third, respectively, to Eastern Washington in the Big Sky standings last year, had the second-most players on the Big Sky preseason squad with five each. Montana senior defensive end Zack Wagenmann was named the Preseason Defensive MVP.


Offensive MVP - Vernon Adams, Jr., QB, Eastern Washington

Defensive MVP - Zack Wagenmann, Sr., DE, Montana


*QB - Vernon Adams, Jr., Eastern Washington

RB - Kristaan Ivory, Sr., Cal Poly

RB - Gabe Manzanares, Sr., UC Davis

FB - Nick Butier, Jr, Northern Arizona

TE - R.J. Rickert, Sr., Northern Arizona

OG - Trevor Poole, Sr., Montana

OG - Cornelius Edison, Sr., Portland State

OG - JP Flynn, So., Montana State

*C - Roy Garcia, Sr., Northern Arizona

*OT - Clay DeBord, Jr., Eastern Washington

OT - Jacob Julian, So., Northern Arizona

*WR - Cooper Kupp, So., Eastern Washington

WR - DeAndre Carter, Sr., Sacramento State

WR - Ellis Henderson, Jr., Montana

*PK - Brady Stuart, Jr., UC Davis

Returns - Shawn Johnson, Sr., Montana State


*DE - Zack Wagenmann, Sr., Montana

DE - James Cowser, Jr., Southern Utah

DT - Tonga Takai, Sr., Montana

DT - Dylan Zylstra, Sr., Eastern Washington

LB - Ronnie Hamlin, Sr., Eastern Washington

LB - Austin Hasquet, Sr., Northern Arizona

LB - Nick Dzubnar, Sr., Cal Poly

LB - Leilon Willingham, Sr., Northern Colorado

CB - Deonte Flowers, Sr., Montana State

CB - Deon'tae Florence, Sr., Weber State

S - Matt Hermanson, Sr., Montana

S - Tevin McDonald, Sr., Eastern Washington

P - Kyle Loomis, Sr., Portland State

Special Teams - Chad Newell, So., Montana State

* - Unanimous selection