Much has been written about Joshua Dobbs – who’s headed into the season as the clear No. 1 quarterback for the Vols – and rightfully so. For the first time in Butch Jones’ tenure, Jones has “his guy” quarterback for an entire offseason. And for the first time in Joshua Dobbs’ career, he’s not chasing an upperclassman for playing time.
He’s the elder statesman at quarterback for Tennessee and, if spring practice is any indication, he’s in line for a massive year.
That’s saying something considering his considerable production last season. He set Tennessee’s single-game rushing record for a QB, led the Vols to one of the most dramatic victories in school history and recorded the fourth most production from a Vol in the history of the program…all in his first start.
The Vols closed the season with a 4-1 record with Dobbs at the helm thanks to his individual heroics and his ability to make his teammates better.
Tennessee simply wouldn’t be appearing on multiple preseason Top-25s without Joshua Dobbs’ play to close the season.
Looking ahead to this fall, Tennessee will have the advantage at quarterback in every single game. How long has it been since Vol fans could say that?
This isn’t sensationalism – right now, on paper, the Vols have the best quarterback on their schedule.
It’s no secret that quarterback play in the SEC was down last year and it is likely to take a step back this season, but Tennessee is a clear exception. A quick look at the 2015 slate for the Vols drives that point home.
Tennessee’s season (no disrespect to Bowling Green, Western Carolina or North Texas) will come down to eight conference games and a stellar home non-conference matchup with Oklahoma. Seven of those nine teams have serious questions at quarterback and don’t have a clear starter headed into the summer.
Oklahoma: Incumbent Trevor Knight has all the tools to be successful but was pedestrian (at best) for most of last season. He was miserably bad against Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl (17-37, 103 yards, 3 INTs, 0 TDs) and struggled to separate himself from the other Sooner QBs during the spring. Should you expect anything more from someone who had a shot at Katy Perry but completely blew it?
Knight might lose his job to Baker Mayfield – the transfer from Texas Tech who threw two interceptions in the spring game and was inconsistent during spring practice. Either way, there’s no denying the Vols are in better shape than the Sooners at the most important position on the field.
Florida: For the first time in his career, Joshua Dobbs is set to get his shot at Florida. The Gators have loads of questions at quarterback and even more along the offensive line. This report from Florida’s spring game sums it up: “The Florida Gators wrapped up spring practice with the Orange & Blue Debut game Saturday, and if there was one thing that was certain it’s that neither Will Grier or Treon Harris are ready to lead the offense.”
Arkansas: The first clear starter on this list, Brandon Allen should have a big season for the Razorbacks. He threw 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions last season and if he can improve on some accuracy issues (he completed just 56% of his passes in 2014), he could lead the SEC in passer rating this year.
He’s a more than solid SEC quarterback, for sure, but he’s not asked to do as much as Dobbs and doesn’t have the tools to carry his team. Dobbs edged him in passer rating and QBR in 2014 all while playing behind the worst offensive line in the league – Allen played behind the best.
Give the edge to Tennessee.
Georgia: Hutson Mason is gone after one respectable season and the Bulldogs are again facing a void at signal caller. Mark Richt made it clear that he’d like to have a quarterback in place for summer workouts, but Georgia broke from spring practice without a clear leader at the position. After spring practice, Richt signaled that QB play “is a legitimate question right now.”
Even with a punishing ground game and talented defense, the Bulldogs need better production from their quarterbacks to challenge Tennessee and Missouri for the SEC East crown.
Alabama: A rumored landing spot for both Braxton Miller and Everett Golson this offseason, Alabama may not have a great answer for all their quarterback questions on the roster. Jake Coker and David Cornwell combined to go 26-52 for 293 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions during Alabama’s spring game and they struggled to complete routine passes at times.
History shows us Saban is likely to right the ship and have things clicking by the season, but right now you have to give the edge to Dobbs and the Volunteers.
Kentucky: Patrick Towles started every game for Kentucky last year but was thrust into a QB competition with highly regarded prospect Drew Barker during the spring. Towles appeared to edge out Barker but Mark Stoops didn’t name a starter at the conclusion of spring.
If you watched SEC football, you know Dobbs outperformed Towles last season. Nothing should change on that front this year.
South Carolina: Gone is Dylan Thompson and suddenly the Gamecocks have all kinds of issues at the QB position. Presumed starter Connor Mitch has attempted a total of six passes in college and he failed to separate himself from the competition during spring ball. The battle there is expected to extend into the summer.
Again, advantage Vols.
Missouri: Maty Mauk joins Brandon Allen as the only other clear starter on the meat of Tennessee’s schedule. He struggled mightily with accuracy issues last season (Mauk completed 53.4% of his passes) and will have to be much more efficient this year for the Tigers to win the SEC East.
Dobbs, by most measures, was better than Mauk last year (he handily beat him in passer rating and QBR). This is the toughest call on the list, but Dobbs has the higher upside and better numbers even though Mauk has the larger sample size and two SEC East Championships under his belt.
Give me Dobbs in a relatively close one.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores played what seemed like two dozen quarterbacks last season and none of them were any good. Expect more of the same in 2015.
There you have it – no one on Tennessee’s schedule has it better at quarterback than Tennessee. Things will obviously change before/during the season and several of these teams should have someone take the starting job by the reins.
But you’d be hard pressed to find any team on the schedule who wouldn’t name Joshua Dobbs the starter at the drop of a hat.
For the first time in what seems like ages, the Vols outclass their competition at quarterback.
Watch out, SEC.