The Tennessee Volunteers are one of the proudest programs in the country, but they have been a program in trouble the last few seasons.
In 2008, the Vols went 5-7 and they thought it would be a good idea to get rid of long time coach, Phil Fulmer.
They hired Lane Kiffin the former Oakland Raider coach and went 7-6 in 2009. But, Kiffin took off for the bright lights of Los Angeles and Hollywood after one season and left them holding the bag. The Vols hired Derek Dooley, the son of legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley, in 2010 to resurrect the program.
Dooley went 6-7 in 2010, 5-7 in 2011 and then 4-7 in 2012 before the powers that be lost faith and fired him.
Tennessee then brought in Butch Jones from Cincinnati.
Butch Jones coached the Volunteers to a 5-7 record in his first season. But, in all fairness, the Volunteer football team was over matched against most teams they played.
The Tennessee Volunteers brought in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation this year. With 35 signed players there are more than 20 true freshmen playing regularly on the Volunteer team which is not really a good thing.
But, these youthful players at Tennessee are a talented bunch and they bode well for the Volunteer program to return to where it belongs, among the upper echelon of SEC teams.
There was only one problem.
There was not a single Quarterback recruit among those 35 guys they brought in.
Justin Worley was the incumbent at Quarterback. Seems like a good guy, but never really excited me much as a viewer.
His back up was Nathan Peterman. I don’t mean anything personal against either of these players, but they were just not going to get it done at Quarterback for the Vols. Plus, Worley is a senior and will obviously be gone after this season.
Enter sophomore Joshua Dobbs. The Volunteer coaching staff tried Dobbs last season after Worley was injured but it was clear he was not ready yet.
This season, when they have needed a Quarterback other than Worley, they have gone to Peterman.
On the third Saturday of October, the Vols had their customary game with long time rival, Alabama. The Tide wasted little time going up 27-0 and even scored on an 80 yard pass from Blake Sims to Amari Cooper on their very first play.
After the Tennessee Vols inserted Joshua Dobbs, their offense immediately got significantly better and they started to move the ball on the Alabama defense.
The final score was 34 to 20 and Dobbs was 19 out of 32 passing attempts for 192 yards and 2 Touchdowns. I do realize that those numbers are not that impressive, but the attitude of the entire team was different after Dobbs came in the game. Plus, he also ran for 75 yards.
Moral victories don’t help you in the Win column and the Tennessee Volunteers were still 3-5 on the season going into Columbia, South Carolina last weekend.
But, now, something was different, the Tennessee Volunteers had finally found themselves a Quarterback.
This game was a see saw battle for the most part. The Vols took a 21-14 lead into the locker room at half time. The Gamecocks have some fight in them and came roaring back and threatened to run away with it in the 4th quarter.
But, Joshua Dobbs kept his team in the game and brought them back from behind. Dobbs threw a 9 yard Touchdown pass after leading the Vols on an 85 yard drive to tie the game up at 42 with 11 seconds left.
The Volunteers won the game 45-42 in Overtime and improved to 4-5 on the season with possible Bowl Game chances on the line with 3 games left.
Joshua Dobbs threw for 301 yards and 2 Touchdowns on 23 completions on 40 attempts. Dobbs also led the team in rushing with 166 yards and 3 Touchdowns on 24 carries.
That’s player of the week kind of numbers.
This changes everything in Knoxville. They finally have themselves a Quarterback that a fan can get excited about. Expect Tennessee to be in the thick of things for the rest of this season and going into next season they are going to be just flat out dangerous.
Let’s just be honest here. The SEC is a great conference, indeed. But, that greatness is pretty much entirely in the West and the East is about the level of many lessor conferences. You can beat your chest and chant SEC all you want to, but the SEC East is an entirely different level of football than the West.
Why not consider the Tennessee Vols as favorites for next season now that they have a Quarterback that can lead them? Kentucky will be maybe their biggest challenge. Georgia will likely underachieve again with a brand new Quarterback and losing a lot of other talent. Florida has Will Muschamp who is a great defensive coach, but they may never have an offense down there with the defensive minded Muschamp sticking around. South Carolina and Spurrier are on a down hill slide. Missouri will be good as long as Pinkel sticks around, but they aren’t world beaters.
For next season, right now I would go with the Volunteers and the Kentucky Wildcats in the East. Both of them have exciting Quarterbacks and a ton of young talent.
Whatever else happens, Tennessee, Butch Jones and Joshua Dobbs will be a fun program to watch for a while.