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Josh Dobbs Can Have a Season Like Tee Martin

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The last time the Tennessee Volunteers won a national championship, they had a mobile quarterback who could complete passes when he needed to. They didn’t have a proficient passer who could set records through the air, nor did they have a glorified running back handling the snaps. No, the 1998 team was led by Tee Martin, a quarterback who was competent through the air and had a convoy of running backs to support him in the run game.

Tee Martin wasn’t the world’s greatest passer, however. In fact, his passing stats from the 1998 season seem extremely familiar.

Take a look at these stats without a player attributed to them. Which one helped his team win the 1998 National Championship and which one led the Vols to a 9-4 record in 2015?

57.3 completion percentage, 2,164 yards, 19 touchdowns, 6 interceptions
59.5 completion percentage, 2,291 yards, 15 touchdowns, 5 interceptions

It may surprise you to find out that the quarterback with the worse completion percentage and more interceptions was, in fact, Tee Martin. Although Martin did have more touchdowns and a greater yard per attempt average (8.1 yards an attempt compared to Dobbs’ 6.7 yards an attempt), he threw one more interception in 77 fewer attempts and completed a smaller percent of his overall passes.

Martin gets a better reputation as a passer because he was able to complete deep passes more frequently and set Tennessee’s record for consecutive completions in a game when he completed 23 passes in a row against South Carolina. But his career completion percentage was just 55.4 percent, and he never threw for more than 2,400 yards in a season.

Dobbs, conversely, gets a bad rap as a passer because of his inability to hit the deep pass like Martin could despite a better completion percentage and slightly lower career interception rate. Dobbs is also a much more skilled runner than Martin. In his two seasons as starter, Martin totaled 604 rushing yards on 184 attempts, scoring 16 touchdowns. Dobbs almost eclipsed all those totals just last season alone, rushing for 671 yards on 146 attempts and totaling 11 scores.

But the fact remains that the two have very similar numbers when it comes to their efficiency as a passer. And the similarities for their teams don’t end there.

The 1998 Vols didn’t win the championship just because of Tee Martin. No, they rode a bruising running attack and stout defense to an undefeated record that season.

Martin had a loaded backfield at his disposal, and he used them effectively. Jamal Lewis was the lead back before an injury sidelined him for the season, but behind him the Vols still had Travis Henry and Travis Stephens. There was even Shawn Bryson in the backfield. All four of the aforementioned backs would go on to play in the NFL.

That Tennessee team ran for a total of 2,536 yards and 27 touchdowns, giving them an average of 195.1 yards a game. Travis Henry totaled 970 yards, Travis Stephens had 477, and Lewis had 497 before going down with injury.

And that defense wasn’t too shabby either.

Tennessee’s defense held opponents to just 14.5 points a game in 1998. Opponents scored 14 or fewer points against the Vols in seven of their 13 games that season, and they picked off 16 passes on the year.

The Vols even had a solid special teams unit in 1998, as Peerless Price had a kickoff return for a touchdown to his credit and Eric Parker was a more than capable punt returner. Kicker Jeff Hall was efficient and made some timely kicks as well.

All of that should sound very familiar to Vol fans.

Tennessee ran for 2,908 yards and 32 scores last season, averaging 223.7 yards a game. Jalen Hurd had 1,288 yards, Alvin Kamara totaled 698 yards, and Dobbs recorded 671 yards.

While the Vols’ defense last years was plenty effective, allowing just 20 points a game and picking off 12 passes, there are extremely high hopes for Bob Shoop’s first season as defensive coordinator in 2016.

And as good as the 1998 team’s special teams unit was, the 2015 unit blows them out of the water. And the 2016 unit will be exactly the same, meaning more big plays are coming this season.

Josh Dobbs can have himself a Tee Martin-like season in 2016. He’s already done just that. All he needs to do now is complete more downfield passes and have his defense make a few more stops. And if that can happen, the 2016 season could end up being one to remember.

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