Joshua Dobbs was a forgotten man in Knoxville. After starting four games as a true freshman in 2013, the Alpharetta, Ga., native slipped behind Justin Worley on the depth chart in preseason camp and was destined for a redshirt season.
With four-star recruit Quinten Dormandy arriving from Texas next season, most Volunteer fans no longer considered Dobbs the team’s quarterback of the future. Sure, Dobbs might be in the hunt in 2015 when Worley would be gone and Dormandy would be a true freshman, but he would be no more than a stop gap.
Well, opinions might have changed around the Volunteer State on Saturday night. With Worley sidelined with an injury and Nathan Peterman struggling, Butch Jones went to his bullpen in the first quarter (with his team trailing 13–0) and opted to play Dobbs for the first time this season.
It turned out to be the right decision. Dobbs provided a much-needed spark due in large part to his ability to make plays with his feet. He was productive on the ground — rushing 19 times for a net of 75 yards — but it was also the threat of a running quarterback that softened the Alabama defense and allowed the Vols to pick up some yards in the passing game. Dobbs completed 19-of-32 passes for 192 yard with two touchdowns and one interception. He missed some throws, including one into the end zone late in the game with the Vols down 17 points, but he looked better than at any point last season.
Dobbs is now clearly ahead of Peterman on the depth chart, but Jones must decided who will get the start when Worley returns from his shoulder injury — assuming he does return. Worley was having a solid senior season, but his lack of mobility was becoming a problem, especially playing in front of the Vols’ struggling offensive line.
Jones must weigh several factors; he desperately wants to get his second Tennessee team to a bowl game (UT needs to win three of its final four to reach six wins), but he also wants to set his team up for success in 2015. If the latter is more important, than naming Dobbs the starting quarterback for the rest of the season is the only move to make. If it’s the former, Jones has a difficult decision to make: Go with Worley, the seasoned veteran, or Dobbs, who gives the offense a different dimension but lacks polish in the passing game.
The guess here is that Dobbs will take over as Tennessee’s starting quarterback for the remained of the season.