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Joshua Dobbs has a chance to cement his legacy at Tennessee in 2016

Joshua Dobbs has the talent to lead Tennessee to its first SEC East title since 2007. The only question is, will Butch Jones and Mike DeBord allow it to show?

Outback Bowl - Northwestern v Tennessee Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

We’ve heard all of the stories about Joshua Dobbs. He’s an aerospace engineering student. He’s become a role model to those facing the effects of alopecia. He’s the face of Butch Jones’ rebuild at Tennessee. The story that has yet to be told is what legacy will Josh Dobbs leave after his last season on Rocky Top?

There is no question that Dobbs is arguably the best quarterback in the SEC outside of Chad Kelly of Ole Miss. Despite all of the talent that Dobbs possess and a clear potential to be a star in this league, he has yet to reach the surface of his potential.

In 2013, Dobbs’ true freshman year, he was called upon to start four games, appearing in five, toward the end of the season, after an injury to starting quarterback Justin Worley. Dobbs’ talent showed out immediately, as he threw for 240 yards, rushing for another 45 in his first career start in a loss at eventual East champ Missouri. The talent was there but the lack of experience cost him in critical situations, leading Tennessee to a 1-3 records his those starts. Over those five games, Dobbs threw for 695 yards completing 59.5 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions.

Worley regained the starting position in 2014, but eventually was sidelined again. This time, Nathan Peterman was the first to get the call, starting against Alabama where he struggled. Dobbs came on in the second quarter and was electrifying in a game that had all but been decided by time of his entry. Dobbs threw for 192 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, adding 75 yards on the ground. In total, Dobbs led four scoring drives and outscored the Crimson Tide 24-7 while he was on the field.

The next week at South Carolina, Dobbs was tremendous in a comeback win over the Gamecocks. Trailing 42-28 with 4:52 remaining, Dobbs orchestrated two touchdowns drives to force overtime in Columbia. The Volunteers eventually pulled the game out on a game winning field goal by Aaron Medley. Everything great about Dobbs stood out that night at Williams-Brice. His leadership to urge his team on with the clock running down, his calm demeanor during those pivotal drives, and his ability to beat the Gamecocks with his arm and legs. Dobbs threw for 301 yards, running for another 166 with five total touchdowns. From that moment on Dobbs has been the signal-caller at Tennessee.

Last season, expectations were high for Dobbs and Tennessee, equally. Some thought that the Volunteers had the pieces to put together their first SEC East title since 2007. Both certainly looked the part until a second half to forget at home against Oklahoma, where a trend began. That trend continued on the road at Florida, at Alabama, and at various points last season. No, the trend that I’m talking about is not Tennessee failing to close out games. What I am referring to is the handcuffing of Dobbs in the passing game. As mentioned above, Florida was one of those that Tennessee let get away due to their conservative play calling later in the game in regards to Dobbs.

Questions have surrounded Dobbs’ ability to be an accurate passer. All of those are fair to a certain extent, but I don’t place all of the blame on Dobbs himself. When given the opportunity and vote of confidence from Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord he has excelled. Look back to last seasons win versus Georgia. Dobbs was outstanding in throwing (312 yards and 3 touchdowns) and running the ball (118 yards and two touchdowns). A large part of the reason, I thought, that Dobbs was so successful in both areas was due to the early 24-3 deficit. Coming off of another heartwrenching loss to Arkansas the week before, Tennessee was on the brink of watching its season spiral downward. Thus, DeBord and Jones had no choice but to open up the playbook extensively from the second quarter and on. In that time you saw passes like this:

A pass, that at first glance looks like it should have been intercepted was actually one threaded perfectly threw a Georgia defense for a touchdown. That pass in itself proves that the ability is there, as we’ve seen in the past.

The Georgia game is seen as Dobbs’ best effort of 2015 but he was equally as terrific versus Arkansas in a loss the week before.

Admittedly, particularly against Alabama, Dobbs has gotten away with a lot of poor throws. The accuracy hasn’t been the issue in those instances it’s been the decision-making. For an aerospace engineering student, you would think that he would make better decisions with the football at times. One at least has to respect his own confidence in his arm and willingness to spin it down the field.

One other thing that I would like DeBord and Jones to do this year is to get Dobbs out of the pocket more often when throwing the football. Look back to last years Alabama game where Dobbs threw a pinpoint strike to receiver Josh Smith.

Getting back to the run game with Dobbs, I’d also like to see his power utilized more often this season. In the deciding touchdown versus Georgia Dobbs showed sheer will and determination to get into the endzone from five yards out.

I know that Tennessee fans will hate this reference but it wouldn’t be to wild for the Tennessee offense to employ a similar set like Florida did with Tim Tebow. Dobbs has the strength and power to be a punishing runner in short yardage. Obviously Jalen Hurd is the main option, I just have a feeling that the Volunteers could have success with it.

2016 as we’ve stated over and over again this offseason is a big season for Butch Jones and Tennessee, along with their leader Joshua Dobbs. I don’t doubt for a second the abilities of Dobbs in leading this offense. I only hope that Jones and OC DeBord share the same confidence in his talents as I do.

Here are some highlights to take you out: