Vanderbilt football coach Bobby Johnson says little separates Commodore quarterbacks Chris Nickson and Mackenzi Adams.
Johnson, however, is hoping one pulls away from the other this week as VU prepares for Saturday’s game against Georgia.
The starting job is for grabs after Nickson completed only five of 16 passes in a 35-7 loss at Auburn last Saturday.
It was his second straight disappointing performance and third in five games this season. Commodores coaches don’t seem willing to wait around for a fourth.
“We’ll see who’s playing the best and who’s practicing the best,” said of this week’s practice sessions.
Deciding how to divide snaps this week will be the most difficult decision, Johnson said.
“It’s harder to make a quarterback change, obviously, than other positions because the position has so much preparation involved during the week,” he said. “You want to have a guy who you say is your starter so you can get him more reps than the backup guy.
“It will be a priority to decide what we’re going to do there, but we’re not going to rush that decision. It’s an extremely important decision for our team, and we’re going to give it as much scrutiny as we can.”
Nickson, a junior in his second season as a starter, has completed only 41.3 percent of his passes and tossed five interceptions in Vanderbilt’s past two games and in a Sept. 8 loss to Alabama.
Adams, a sophomore, played the entire second half last Saturday after Nickson was benched and completed four of nine passes for 24 yards.
Their similarities as players – which includes good mobility – make this week’s decision more difficult.
“It sure does,” Johnson said. “There’s no particular reason why you would choose one over the other because he throws it better or runs it better or whatever. It will probably be a grasp of the game plan and who executes.”
VU center Hamilton Holliday said he’s not concerned about the sudden uncertainty.
“We’d like one solid guy in there, but both of them are great leaders and have a great presence on the field,” he said. “As long as one of them makes the better reads and is playing better, it doesn’t really have a direct effect on me or anybody else on the offense.”
Johnson noted that Nickson, a third-team pre-season All-SEC pick by league coaches this summer, has had shining moments at Vanderbilt.
Last year against Kentucky, Nickson piled up 517 yards of total offense. Against Duke, he passed for 250 yards and rushed for 150. He led the team in season rushing yards with 694.
By year’s end, Nickson’s total of 2,779 yards of total offense ranked fourth all-time at VU for one season. It was the best mark ever by a Commodore sophomore.
“We’re not throwing Chris into the back of the bus,” Johnson said. “We’re going to try to coach him back up and make sure he’s seeing what we’re seeing. We’ve got a lot of football to play.
“Chris Nickson has played wonderfully for us at quarterback before and he will do it again.”