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Insider Mailing: Georgia Week Edition

Joshua Dobbs-1-2

In 1989, I was disappointed in the decision to replace Sterling Henton with Andy Kelly. Sterling was an exciting player with a big arm and the ability to make plays with his legs. I didn’t realize at the time that Sterling didn’t have the accuracy and other intangibles to be a top-tier SEC QB. Enter Andy Kelly, and the rest is history.

Are we looking at a similar situation with Dobbs & Dormady? Is Dobbs the second coming of Sterling Henton? Would Tennessee’s offense be better off with a QB that has the ability to accurately throw the ball downfield instead of the QB being a threat to run with it?  Ray

Reed: First up, that 1989 team was certainly underrated. I went back and watched some highlights from that season after receiving your questions and, mercy, those Vols were good. Kelly took over as the starter against Alabama in the 6th game of the season – when the Vols were 5-0. Talk about a gutsy move. Tennessee lost that game but won the rest and Kelly took his place at the top of the record books…until some guy named Peyton Manning broke many of his records.

As to what Tennessee has at QB? I don’t think anyone knows, Ray. Dobbs hasn’t been terrible this year – but he doesn’t look as comfortable as last season. His mechanics break down at times, his completion percentage is lower than last year and he’s only accounting for about 200 yards per game. He looks like he’s overanalyzing things and just needs to play some football.

Now, Dormady has a great arm. Best arm since Tyler Bray for sure. But we have only seen him throw it against an overmatched FCS team. Maybe it makes sense to put him out there in 3rd and long situations when the Vols have to throw it, but I don’t know that the season has come to that yet. Dobbs made a few nice throws against Arkansas and his receivers dropped multiple balls. He needs to put it all together for the Vols to have a shot this weekend.

John: I can’t answer your question any better than Reed did, but I did want to point out three things. First, that was an excellent question. Next, that 1989 team was one of my favorite teams. That UCLA game really set the tone. I somehow watched a portion of that recently (I think thanks to a piece @TheVolColonel wrote for Basilio’s site) and, man, the Vols had playmakers flying all over the field. And half of that is true this year. The Vols have playmakers all over the field. They’re just not flying all over it! But third, and speaking directly to your question, I’m anxious to see Dormady play and I hope he sees some action against GA. But I’m also quick to defend Dobbs. Because Reed’s right. Dobbs looks like robot out there who has too much on their mind. If football is part science, part art (which I believe it is), he’s focused too much on the science and the artistry of his athleticism isn’t showing through. During a recent presser, Butch Jones said that a quarterback has 40 things he has to be thinking of when he goes to the line of scrimmage. I’ll let others debate whether or not that statement was a little heavy-handed, but I’ll also say this. Dobbs sure looks like a guy who has 40 things on his mind on a lot of plays. And I feel that he’s been coached that way.

Kevin: We know next to nothing about Quinten Dormady, other than a decent performance against Western Carolina, which should be expected from a QB of that caliber. We do know something about Joshua Dobbs, he’s the only quarterback Tennessee has put on the field to beat a ranked team since 2010. He’s also won an SEC road game, and I don’t think his struggles thus far this year are (entirely) his fault. Dobbs has been constrained by his coaching staff, and not helped by his receivers on the season, plus his running ability has been huge for the Vols this season. The last four or five years has seen UT throw multiple quarterbacks into games before they were ready, and the Vols have paid the price for it, with the exception being Joshua Dobbs in 2014. UT needs to stay the course with Dobbs, and take the reigns off of him so he can play the role he did in the last five games of 2014.

How great would it be to stop the run game Saturday and force Lambert to beat us, instead of Chubb and Michel? – Charles M.

Reed: Chubb will get his yards, but the Vols HAVE to limit big plays. Georgia isn’t really an offense that scares you schematically. Players will have to win their one on one battles and avoid missed tackles or Michel and Chubb will eat them alive. Lambert can’t beat Tennessee by himself. He’s the worst FBS quarterback the Vols have faced this year. He doesn’t have the mobility of Will Grier, Baker Mayfield or Brandon Allen and doesn’t have the arm of Matt Johnson. If the Vols can bottle Chubb and Co. up on the ground by limiting big plays, Tennessee’s defense will be in very good shape late in the game against the Bulldogs. Especially if they have a lead – the Vols will be able to pin their ears back and put pressure on Lambert.

Daniel: That has to be the goal, in my opinion. One telling stat about Georgia is that the Bulldogs are dead last in the SEC in third-down conversion percentage (29.17%). However, they are also second to last in third-down attempts. What that tells me is that most of the time, they’re using those backs and their offensive balance to move the ball. But if you can get stops on first and second down and put them behind the chains a bit, they’re going to struggle when Lambert has to drop back and make plays.

Kevin: Lesser backs have torn Tennessee apart this year so I expect Chubb to have a nice day in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee must contain Lambert, and even the slightest bit of pressure should make that a real possibility-but can the Vols get any? To put it simply, Tennessee will need to score a lot points (I think 27+ is the key number) to beat UGA, and some of those are going to have to come in the second half.

Is the lack of a “true” qbs coach hurting the development of Dobbs? – @OzTHEgr8

Reed: The loss of Bajakian the QB coach has really been overlooked. There’s a reason he’s coaching quarterbacks in the NFL – he knows what he’s doing. DeBord works primarily with the offensive line in the open portion of practice and players have said that’s the case for the rest of practice, too. That means graduate assistant Nick Sheridan has been working directly with the QBs. Sheridan is a bright young coach, but he simply doesn’t have the experience and track record of Bajakian. Though we can’t blame Dobbs’ struggles on a coaching change, it’s impossible to say that Bajakian’s absence hasn’t played a role.

Daniel: I think so. That’s nothing against Nick Sheridan – he might be one of the best GAs in the country based on his experience and will be a full-time assistant at UT or another major program very soon. But I think you have to at least look at the fact that this staff doesn’t have anybody on it that has previously carried the title of quarterbacks coach at a major level as a possible contributing factor to why Dobbs and the passing game haven’t lived up to the hype yet.

Kevin: I don’t know about a QB coach, but I think Mike Bajakian’s scheme was well built for Dobbs’ talents. While this current scheme has some elements built in for him, he isn’t given the freedom to play his style of football and he’s struggling to mentally handle the structure of Debord’s system.

How much of a difference do you think Mike Bajakian would have made this season compared to Mike DeBord? As always, I love y’all’s input. – Cameron Ramsey

Last year Worley couldn’t pass this year it’s Dobbs, CBJ could you and your system be the problem? –@DavidSteppee

Reed: There are some real concerns about the offensive system at this point. With more overall talent on the field, the Vol offense has clearly regressed. Dobbs shredded bad defenses with Bajakian calling plays last year and hasn’t been able to replicate that success this season. Dobbs didn’t turn into a bad quarterback overnight. I don’t think the staff is consistently putting him in great positions to succeed; yet, when they do, there’s no doubt Dobbs has missed some throws.

Overall, I don’t think the offense would be struggling this much with Bajakian still running the show. They were finally finding their stride last year and Dobbs, then, looked like a perfect fit for Tennessee’s system.

Daniel: Good questions. I was never sold that Mike Bajakian was the root of all of the offensive issues last year. In 2014, Tennessee’s biggest hinderance to success offensively was that the Vols couldn’t block anybody and that made it tough to run consistently and to protect. And once Joshua Dobbs came in, I felt like that helped in both of those areas because defenses had to account for his feet and he could buy time running around.

I do think Mike DeBord (in addition to better personnel) have helped the physical aspect of this offense. The Vols certainly run the ball much better this year and the offensive line has taken a decent step forward, which was what I think Butch Jones envisioned with DeBord. But I think there’s been sacrifice in the passing attack, and I, truthfully, think the loss of Bajakian has contributed to that.

All-in-all the decision to hire DeBord was a statement by Butch Jones that he didn’t want to change or innovate – he wanted to perfect and enhance his own system. I don’t blame him for that necessarily since he has had a lot of success in his career. But so far the results have been an offense that, while better in some aspects, isn’t getting the job done overall, especially in pressure situations.

Kevin: I’m maybe the biggest hindsight proponent of Bajakian, though he never understood how to make the power run game work, something that Mike Debord has drastically improved. Bajakian knew how to work with Dobbs though, and his creative play calling gave a young, inexperienced offense a chance to stay in games they didn’t deserve.

Sausage or Bacon? – @wesleywhitener

Reed: Bacon 100 times out of 100. Specifically thick cut Benton’s bacon.

Kevin: Bacon has recently become something of a cultural phenomenon, which is a bit of an insult to those of us who have been on the bandwagon for decades now. I love bacon, but mostly I just love breakfast food, and I won’t stand here and discriminate against one form of pork or the other.

Bob:  Finally…something I’m qualified to weigh in on!  Bacon, or what I call “the candy of all meats”!

Daniel: (The bacon needs to be extra crispy though or you’re wasting your time)

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Is the defense making any kind of adjustment that will enable them to sack the QB? – @CilleBeasley 

Reed: They need to be more aggressive to beat the Bulldogs this weekend. That means bringing run blitzes, bringing corners and daring Georgia to beat them over the top. The Vols recorded 2.7 sacks per game last year (3rd in the SEC) – they’re averaging just 1.6 sacks per game this year. Maggitt’s injury has certainly played a role, but so has Tennessee’s defense sitting back and not bringing pressure. That needs to change this Saturday.

Daniel: I spoke to Steve Stripling about that a bit this week. He said that’s been a big point of emphasis in film study and practice. He said, often, guys are just off on their alignment and just missing sacks by a yard or two or by a split second. I agree with that assessment. Tennessee has been close so many times and is bringing a decent amount of pressure (when they rush at least four). But the numbers haven’t been there. The Vols, after finishing 2015 ranked third in the conference in sacks, have fallen to 10th so far this season.

What would you give for a Pal’s to be in Knoxville? – Tony Geist

Reed: What would you give, Tony? Clearly, I’d give all my health and a good portion of my money – I’d eat there multiple times a week and balloon to around 300+ pounds.

John: Fast food is gross, man. Next thought: Pal’s is the best tasting gross shit ever.

Daniel: I would love that, though it’s probably good for my weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and overall health that it remains an occasional treat when passing through the Tri-Cities (goes back to eating his Cook-Out lunch).

Kevin: I’ve never been to Pal’s, but I grew up around Cookout and I know East Tennessee has greatly appreciated Cookout since it arrived a few years ago. Nothing is finer than things made in Carolina, Tony, so I have no need for a cheap imitation.

Bob:  I’ve not graced the gates of Pal’s either, although I hear from many that it’s amazing on all sorts of levels.  BUT…the last time I heard a review like that before Pal’s was when I was told I absolutely had to hit a WhataBurger when I was going through Alabama on my way to Seaside one time.  I of course obliged, and was thoroughly disappointed in the end, ergo my trepidation to try Pal’s.  This leads me to my old faithful of garbage food checkpoints…hello Jack In The Box!  Just had some Jack Tacos up in Indianapolis this past weekend, and I’ve been de-toxing daily ever since!

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