Is Joshua Dobbs a better scheme fit for Tennessee than Justin Worley?
No matter how you label it, Tennessee’s offensive scheme is designed for speed. When Butch Jones was first introduced to the Volunteer faithful in December 2012, he promised a no-huddle, pro-style offense that would be “physical” and have a “finesse style associated with it.”
But the Vols offense has failed to live up to that promise this season and has looked flat in recent weeks. Tennessee scored four touchdowns in its first three SEC games, all coming in a Week 5 loss to then-No. 12 Georgia.
The Vols (3-5, 0-4 SEC) found themselves facing yet another tough defense in Saturday’s game against then-No. 4 Alabama– this time without starting quarterback Justin Worley, who was ruled out with an elbow injury. While Nathan Peterman started the game at quarterback, it was Joshua Dobbs that stole the show.
Entering the game facing a 13-0 deficit that grew to 20-0 by his second series, Dobbs managed to spark Tennessee’s offense by adding a dual-threat option capable of producing on the ground AND through the air.
The sophomore threw for 192 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 19-of-32 passing. He added a team-best 75 rushing yards on 19 attempts. The Vols outscored the Tide 20-14 for the remainder of the game, despite losing 34-20.
Though its far from legendary, Dobbs’ performance Saturday gained the attention of the Tennessee fan base and may have forced a quarterback controversy. On Monday, Tennessee released its official depth chart, with all three quarterbacks listed as potential starters. Whether Jones is refusing showing his hand, or Worley is healthy enough to make a return, the Vols must take a chance on Dobbs for the remainder of their schedule.
While this idea may seem illogical given Worley’s dramatic progression as a senior, Dobbs possesses the natural ability to succeed in Mike Bajakian’s offense from a scheme standpoint. Tennessee’s offensive line has been abysmal this season, ranking No. 123 overall in sacks allowed, the third worst in the nation.
Although many argue that the Vols offense is more pro-style than read option, the majority of plays involve play action and fall apart behind a weak offensive line. Dobbs brings an element that creates a threat for big rushing gains and avoid sacks in the pocket.
This was evident against one of the nation’s best defensive units on Saturday. Alabama ranks No. 5 overall in total defense, No. 2 in rushing defense and No. 27 in passing defense. While many worried that Dobbs’ lack of experience would hinder his play, the former starter finished with a surprising output against a stellar defense.
There is still room for improvement, given Dobbs’ blatant inaccuracy on several throws. However, the former four-star prospect has made noticeable improvements in his second collegiate season and is ready to take the reins of Tennessee’s offense.
While Dobbs was rushed into a starting role in 2013 as a move of desperation, the Vols should bestow their faith in the young quarterback regardless of Worley’s potential return this season. Tennessee needs to win at least two more games to secure bowl eligibility. With a capable offense, the Vols should be able to compete in all of their remaining matchups.
Last week’s game was the final of four meetings against a ranked opponent. Tennessee ends it season with games at South Carolina (4-4, 2-4), vs. Kentucky (5-3, 2-3) vs. Missouri (6-2, 3-1) and at Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-5).
Despite their flaws, the Vols have competed with far superior competition and should see an offensive boost with Dobbs under center. From both a personnel and scheme standpoint, naming Dobbs the starting quarterback remains the best option for Tennessee in its final four games.