Fiery Adams shoulders Vanderbilt offense

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 1:08am

Mackenzi Adams doesn’t just appreciate the opportunity to be Vanderbilt’s starting quarterback.

He eats it up.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore is poised to receive his second career starting assignment Saturday when the Commodores host Miami of Ohio at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Whether or not Adams leads VU to a second straight victory, he’s sure to have fun in the process.

“Mackenzi is easy to coach,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. “He likes to play football and he likes to practice football.”

Indeed, Adams is one of the team’s more vocal and peppy players in practice. Before a drill, few players jump up and down and excitement, but Adams does.

Vanderbilt hopes that his ability to effectively play the position will soon catch up to his enthusiasm and love for the game.

“It’s a lot about competing,” said Adams, a native of Tulsa, Okla. “You can be mentally sound and go out there and know exactly what’s going on, but if you’re not going to go out there and play your heart out, you’re probably not going to do very well. I just love to play the game and always have loved it.”

He doesn’t even mind a hard hit from opposing defenses, chalking it up as part of the experience.

“I don’t mind taking shots,” Adams said. “I like it sometimes.”

Adams finds himself in the starting lineup partly by default after junior Chris Nickson, who had started 18 consecutive games before last week, fell out of favor after struggling this season.

All along, Adams showed up every day in anticipation of eventually getting his turn.

“We’ve seen that for a couple years now,” Johnson said. “Mackenzi comes to practice wanting to get better every day. You’ve got to be ready for that moment whenever it comes, whether it’s a promotion or somebody gets hurt. You’ve always got to be ready to play.”

On paper, the differences between Nickson and Adams are slight. Neither is a prototypical drop-back passer. Both can run and are expected to be an integral part of the rushing attack.

“We think all of our quarterbacks have mobility,” Johnson said. “We recruit that way. We like that in a good quarterback.

“It helps you make some big plays with the run, but it also helps you avoid the rush sometimes and get something out it where you normally wouldn’t with a quarterback who could not move.”

Last week, in his first start, Adams wasn’t spectacular but did enough to help the Commodores post one of the biggest wins in school history in a 17-6 decision over previously sixth-ranked South Carolina.

He started quickly, tossing two first-half touchdown passes as Vanderbilt raced to a 17-0 lead. He also rushed for a team-high 84 yards on 13 carries. No surprise for a VU quarterback.

It was just what the coaches had wished for.

“He’s played well,” Johnson said. “He’s played within what we’ve asked him to do. He’s doing exactly what we hope our quarterbacks will do, which is direct the offense, make the reads and make the correct throws.”

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