Vandy QB duel coming down to the wire

Monday, August 25, 2008 at 3:33pm
Chris Nickson hopes to start in Thursday's season opener. Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

As expected, Vanderbilt football coach Bobby Johnson was asked during his weekly news conference Monday who will start at quarterback for the Commodores in Thursday's season opener.

As expected, Johnson provided no answer.

Senior Chris Nickson and junior Mackenzi Adams will duel down to the wire for the right to start against Miami (Ohio). A Monday night practice, during which the VU scout team will simulate the Miami defense, will weigh heavily in Johnson’s decision.

Although the job has been up for grabs throughout August training camp after neither Nickson or Adams grabbed control of the job during the 2007 season, Johnson didn't expect the position to still be unsettled during the week of the first game.

"I don't know if it was a plan, but I kind of thought it would come this way because both guys have done it in the past and both guys have played extremely well for us in the past," he said. "I expect it to be a tough battle."

Vanderbilt players don’t seem concerned.

"It doesn't even matter to us, to be honest with you," center Bradley Vierling said. "We're going to put the ball down, I'm going to snap it and we're going to play. The coaches are going to make the right choice. That person, whoever it is, is going to do a great job and they're going to take us to victories."

Nickson won the starting job a year ago but his season fell apart mainly due to a separated shoulder that damaged his passing accuracy.

In October, Commodores coaches finally turned to Adams, who started the final six game of the season.

Nickson, who piled up 2,779 yards of total offense as the starter in 2006, has proclaimed himself healthy and ready to return to his old form.

As expected, Nickson and Adams have pulled away from young challengers Larry Smith and Jared Funk this month in the race for the starting job.

Nickson, based on experience, might be the front-runner. Vanderbilt still remembers his performance in 2006, when he passed for 15 touchdowns and rushed for nine. Against Duke that season, he passed for 250 yards and ran for 150.

Adams has also had his shining moments. He fired three touchdown passes against Tennessee last season and ran for 84 yards in a victory at South Carolina.

Nickson and Adams possess similar skills, making the choice that much more difficult for Vanderbilt coaches. Johnson even acknowledged that both could play in Thursday's opener.

"It just depends on circumstances," he said. "We're going to be prepared for both of them to play.

"That's the luxury we have with these two quarterbacks. We don't have to have a separate game plan. They can execute our game without us making major changes. We don't want to be preparing two different game plans."

SEASON OPENER

Vanderbilt at Miami (Ohio)

Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Oxford, Ohio

TV -- ESPNU

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