Vol Freshman QB Dobbs Will Get Start Against 10th-Ranked Missouri
Worley Out Indefinitely After Undergoing Surgery On Injured Thumb
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
- by Larry Fleming
Tennessee football coach Butch Jones said Tuesday that quarterback Justin Worley has been declared out for the Vols’ game against No. 10 Missouri on Saturday and that freshman Josh Dobbs will get his first collegiate start in Columbia, Mo.
Dobbs replaced Worley in the second half in the Vols’ 45-10 blowout loss to top-ranked Alabama last weekend after Worley suffered a thumb injury late in the second quarter.
0001pt;">Dobbs, playing poised despite facing the nation’s No. 5 defense, completed 5-of-12 passing attempts for 75 yards and no interceptions. Worley went 8 for 15 for 120 yards and two picks.
Jones said Worley underwent surgery on his right thumb (throwing hand); much like Nate Peterman did after he was hurt in the Florida game. Worley, who originally injured his thumb against South Carolina, will be out indefinitely and Peterman hasn’t played since the loss in Gainesville.
“The live reps Joshua Dobbs received last week will be huge,” Jones said in remarks posted on Twitter by the school’s sports information department. “It has been an unusual year with two thumb injuries that are pretty much the same.”
Jones also said freshman Riley Ferguson will be Dobbs’ backup.
“He’ll continue to push Josh moving forward,” the coach said. “I’m comfortable with both quarterbacks.”
Against Alabama, Dobbs rushed three times for 19 yards and that’s something Jones wants to take advantage of – Dobbs’ running skills in a spread option offense that has had no threat from the position through the first eight games.
Worley has 56 yards on 19 carries for a 2.9-yard average. In his only action of the season, Dobbs average 6.3 yards per carry. The Tigers’ defense will have to account for him. Like other opponents, Missouri could basically ignore Worley running the ball.
Dobbs directed the Vols to their 10 points – Michael Palardy’s field goal and a short touchdown run by Rajion Neal – in the second half.
“Justin is a pocket passer first and foremost,” Jones said. “Josh and Riley are high-vision quarterbacks. We can call some more designed quarterback runs with Josh in. That’s a dynamic he’ll bring to the offense. We will play to his strengths.”
Dobbs, a 6-foot-3-inch, 193-pound freshman from Alpharetta, Ga., was rated the nation’s No. 8 pro-style quarterback coming out of high school and threw for 3,625 yards and 29 touchdowns while rushing for 419 yards and 10 scores his senior season.
As a junior he passed for 3,113 yards and 29 touchdowns and had 200 yards and two scores on the ground.
All that high school playing time pales to what Dobbs faced last week and will face Saturday against the Tigers, who have positioned themselves to win the SEC East in their second year in the league.
“It’ll be a great challenge for him in a great venue against a great opponent,” Jones said. “I know he’s looking forward to it.”
Versatile Alton “Pig” Howard said Dobbs is a different breed.
“He’s wired different,” Howard is quoted as saying in the Vols’ press release. “He’s a leader. He came in from day one working hard and knowing the playbook inside and out.”
The Vols are 4-4, 1-3 heading into this week’s game against the Tigers (7-1, 3-1), who are coming off their first loss of the season, a 27-24 double overtime loss to South Carolina.
Missouri, which clipped the Vols, 51-48, in a four-overtime thriller in the first meeting between the two schools, will provide the Vols with their fourth consecutive nationally ranked road opponent on a brutal schedule.
It is just the second time in Tennessee's 117-year history of football the Vols have played four straight road games against ranked teams. The first time occurred in 2005.
In their first three road games against ranked foes, the Vols played at No. 2 Oregon, No. 19 Florida and Alabama and lost by an average score of 45-14.
The Vols lost to Georgia (34-31 in overtime) before upsetting the Gamecocks (23-21) on Michael Palardy’s field goal as time expired in home games before heading to Tuscaloosa.
Prior to last week’s loss to the Gamecocks, coach Gary Pinkel’s squad knocked off Georgia and Florida on successive weekends.
While Dobbs made his college debut against the powerful two-time defending champion Crimson Tide before 101,821, it will be imperative that Tennessee’s offense score enough points to challenge the high-powered Tigers’ offensive unit.
The Tigers average 499.8 yards of total offense, which rates just behind Texas A&M (584.9) and Auburn (511.0) in the Southeastern Conference rankings. And they ranked second in scoring offense with 41.8 points per game, and only the Aggies (48.0) score more.
Tennessee looks to knock off their second top 15 opponent of the season after having previously defeated South Carolina. Missouri is coming off an overtime loss to the Gamecocks.
“Coach Pinkel has done a tremendous job and I've said it," said Jones. "He's built that program over time and they're tough and they're physical and they've got great team speed and it makes it exceptionally challenging.
"Now you throw in a young quarterback and the speed of the game is going to be fast. That's why we have to do a great job of mixing things up, mixing tempos up, different personnel groupings and making the quarterback a factor in the running game as well."
Jones walked away from the Alabama loss impressed with his young quarterback poise in a tough situation for even a grizzled veteran signal caller.
“The live-game reps that he received last week are very beneficial,” Jones said. “Now, to have the amount of first-team reps will be big. Everyone asks with a freshman quarterback if you have to scale back your offensive package, it’s quite to the contrary.”
That’s not by accident. Dobbs is a 4.0 student majoring in Aeronautical Engineering at Tennessee.
And he’s got guts.
Dobbs walked into the offensive line meeting Tuesday and spoke to the unit.
“Dobbs told us that he believed in us and that he feels comfortable going out there and playing behind the best O-Line in the country,” JaWuan James said. “I like how he is confident and how he approached today.”
Dobbs didn’t knock on the door and wait for an answer. He strolled in and asked offensive line coach Don Mahoney if he could wait for a second because he wanted to address the team.
“I was surprised, that takes a lot of confidence and belief in us for him to do that,” said James. “That takes a lot of guts and I like that about him.”
Dobbs’ confidence also exudes on the field, a lot of which starts with knowing the playbook.
“The freshmen have been here for five or six months,” James said. “For him to know the playbook like he does and all of his progressions and to be able to stand there confident in the huddle and telling us the plays, going through his reads and everything like that, it is a lot for an 18-year-old.
“I remember having to play as a freshman and he is more locked in than a lot of us. That shows in the game, his preparation. He played well, he didn’t look frightened, or scared or anything.”
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)