Butch Jones: Freshman Joshua Dobbs was only QB available for Bama, Mizzou games

Photos by Adam Lau/News Sentinel
Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) gets a pat on the helmet from a Missouri coach Saturday following Tennessee’s 31-3 loss to Missouri at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.

Photo by Adam Lau

Photos by Adam Lau/News Sentinel Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) gets a pat on the helmet from a Missouri coach Saturday following Tennessee’s 31-3 loss to Missouri at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones confirmed on Friday what had previously been suspected: True freshman Joshua Dobbs was the only scholarship quarterback available to play in recent games against Alabama and Missouri.

True freshman Riley Ferguson, who had competed with Dobbs for playing time, was out with an undisclosed lower leg injury. Redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman was out with a thumb injury.

Both quarterbacks are now healthy and would be available to play if needed when Tennessee (4-6, 1-5 SEC) plays Vanderbilt (5-4, 2-4) on Nov. 23 (TV: ESPN2 or ESPNU, 7 p.m.) at Neyland Stadium.

UT lost at Alabama 45-10 on Oct. 26, when Dobbs made his college debut after starter Justin Worley injured his thumb. Dobbs started his first game the following week at Missouri in a 31-3 loss.

Dobbs played the entire game against Auburn last Saturday in a 55-23 loss.

Prior to the Missouri game on Nov. 2, Jones insisted that Ferguson was fully healthy. When asked about reports that Ferguson was wearing a protective boot on campus, Jones downplayed its importance: “Half the team is in a boot,” he said.

In an interview with Nashville radio station 104.5 The Zone on Friday, Jones acknowledged that Dobbs was the only quarterback available and that the team was preparing emergency plans in case he was injured.

“You talk about the physical and mental toll, when we go play Alabama and Justin Worley goes down, Joshua Dobbs is your only quarterback,” Jones said. “You go to play Missouri, a top-10 team on the road, Joshua Dobbs is your only quarterback you have available for that game. Our players understand. We were getting our Wildcat package ready and all those things we might need.”

Jones said the trial by fire for Dobbs might help the offense in the long run.

“It becomes maybe a blessing that we were able to get through with Joshua and expand the offense as well,” he said.

In the same interview, Jones forcefully defended his veteran offensive line against criticism that it has underachieved and been inconsistent this year.

“Well, I totally disagree with that comment,” Jones replied. “I think if you look at everything, if we stay on schedule, it will be the best rushing season we’ve had at Tennessee since 2004.”

The Vols are, in fact, on pace to have the program’s most rushing yards in nine years.

All that production has come with a very young supporting cast and very few “splash” plays, Jones said.

“During this bye week, I’ve gone back and watched their body of work during the course of the season and we’ve been able to run the ball efficiently,” Jones said. “But the problem is we’re not getting 40-, 50-yard chunk plays.”

Both Jones and the radio host remained cordial throughout, but Jones clearly wanted to make a point amid growing criticism of the line.

“We’re going to need (the offensive line) down the stretch,” Jones concluded. “Do they need to play better? Absolutely. Everybody needs to play better. And we need to coach better the last two games.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 9

OrangePride writes:

Josh did an OK job in the games, but nothing to really make everyone sit up and take notice. Except for his having a few nice runs, he certainly did not establish his spot at the top of the depth chart. The one thing we did see, however, was good positive growth from game 1 to game 3. But with only two games left, I would not want to see Jones pull a Dooley and burn Ferguson's red shirt because he loses his temper in a moment of frustration. I continue to think our QB situation will look a LOT better as we bring in a few more playmaker receivers AND if Jalen Hurd lives up to even half his potential.

bUTch__please writes:

Shouldn't have to burn Ferguson's shirt. Not like replacing an inexperienced Freshman with a no experienced Freshman is going to make any more difference than using a redshirt Freshman with 2 quarters under his belt. Dobbs needs to get the deep ball fixed or he'll lose what little spark his mobility might provide.

Howard and North have plenty of playmaking ability, just takes some time to develop. Not to mention build chemistry with a QB, any QB quite frankly. Do need some depth so that when the second string receivers are in, the defense doesn't key the run..which is what AU was doing.

Yea, we need a RB who hits the line of scrimmage downhill with a bad attitude. Till then...not much will change for any qb we put in there.

FWBVol writes:

Butch had to play the shell game trying to convince people that Ferguson could play against Missouri and Alabama.

It just shows you that even with four scholarship QBs on the roster you can never be certain that you have enough bodies at the position. But you really can't afford to carry more than four QBs because of the 85 scholarship limit.

I think Dobbs has done an adequate job considering the level of talent he's been playing against. It's not like he was thrown into the fire against South Alabama or someone like that. He's been forced to play against Top 10 teams every game.

This situation is on Dooley and Kiffin (mostly Dooley) for how they recruited not only at quarterback, but the other positions.

I still can't grasp that Kiffin told Tajh Boyd he should look for another place to play. Who knows how the last few years would have been different with Boyd wearing Tennessee orange instead of Clemson orange.

That said, you dance with the folks at your ball and give these kids time I think they will dance just fine for Butch.

underthehill writes:

Dobbs has been excellent ..all things considered..he is the type player you can build the offense around..and will be the man unless injury dictates otherwise..

fannotsheep writes:

I think if they are both healthy, you go with experience this year. Worley is more capable of winning the final two games if he is 100 percent.

GerryOP writes:

At this stage of the season, the best that we can hope for is that our future stars get a little bit of game experience. If we can win the last two games, fine. But more importantly, let guys like Dobbs, North, and the rest of them get ready for next year. I hope that the '13 season is the end of this losing crapola.

fannotsheep writes:

in response to GerryOP:

At this stage of the season, the best that we can hope for is that our future stars get a little bit of game experience. If we can win the last two games, fine. But more importantly, let guys like Dobbs, North, and the rest of them get ready for next year. I hope that the '13 season is the end of this losing crapola.

Doubt it. Next year's schedule is brutal again, you replace the O-line and much of your D-line. Jones does bring in lots of young talent if he holds the class together, but you don't win much in the SEC with young talent.

This is a long haul. Unlike the NFL, Jones loses bricks almost as fast as he acquires them, and while he can sign some JUCOs to fill temporary gaps, he can't go out and buy free agents. Looks like Jones could be the right guy. Even if he is, he needs time. And patience from the fans.

rockypop writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

Shouldn't have to burn Ferguson's shirt. Not like replacing an inexperienced Freshman with a no experienced Freshman is going to make any more difference than using a redshirt Freshman with 2 quarters under his belt. Dobbs needs to get the deep ball fixed or he'll lose what little spark his mobility might provide.

Howard and North have plenty of playmaking ability, just takes some time to develop. Not to mention build chemistry with a QB, any QB quite frankly. Do need some depth so that when the second string receivers are in, the defense doesn't key the run..which is what AU was doing.

Yea, we need a RB who hits the line of scrimmage downhill with a bad attitude. Till then...not much will change for any qb we put in there.

I keep reading about Ferguson taking a redshirt this year, and I keep wondering why he would choose to do that instead of transferring. If he takes a redshirt, chances are he wouldn't have a chance to start until his senior year (assuming nothing happens to Dobbs, or he doesn't declare early). If Ferguson transferred, he'd sit out a year, but could possibly start for three years somewhere else if he lives up to the hype.

If he stays, there's also a chance that Jones will finally get an elite QB who may displace him. With all the highly rated WRs on the way, and an unresolved situation at QB, UT would certainly be a very attractive option for a top QB. Also, the assumption is that Ferguson will automatically become the back-up next year, but he'll still have to beat out Worley and Peterman, which isn't a given.

It sounds like UT has four QBs that if merged would make one good SEC QB. It has got to be unsettling to have four seemingly equal talents at the most important position on the team - none of whom seem to be able to separate themselves from the others. Something's got to give, and I think that means someone's got to go. And, Ferguson seems to be the most likely.

TommyJack writes:

in response to fannotsheep:

I think if they are both healthy, you go with experience this year. Worley is more capable of winning the final two games if he is 100 percent.

Can't see it.

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