Players, coaches confident in Dobbs

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Before practice Tuesday, there was a loud knock on the door to the offensive line meeting room.

It was Joshua Dobbs.

Once inside, the freshman asked offensive line coach Don Mahoney to leave. The youngster then planted his feet and faced the room crammed with seniors and proven veterans.

He had a message.

"He said I believe in y'all," Ja'Wuan James recalls. "And he said I'm comfortable playing behind the best o-line in the country. I was surprised. That took a lot of confidence.

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Dobbs approached his first practice as Tennessee's starting quarterback with the same confidence he displayed in his two quarters against Alabama that left players and coaches ranting and raving post game.

"The big thing for Josh moving forward is he doesn't have to win the football game," Butch Jones said. "Just manage the game for us. And take it one snap at a time."

Dobbs takes over for customary starter Justin Worley, who Jones said had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his throwing-hand thumb and will miss an "indefinite" amount of time.

"Again, everything is how the body heals," Jones said when asked about Worley's return timetable. "It could be two weeks, it could be three weeks, it could be four weeks."

Still-redshirted freshman Riley Ferguson will act as Dobbs' backup.

Jones said Nathan Peterman practiced Tuesday, but didn't deem him back and ready to play, saying, "We'll see how he progresses."

Worley first injured the thumb when he hit it on the helmet of a South Carolina player and re-aggravated it against Alabama, playing the second quarter with a wrap on his hand.

In eight games, Worley completed 55 percent of his passes and threw 10 touchdowns.

James said he sent Worley a text message after his surgery.

<A HREF=//><A HREF=//><A HREF=//>Daniel Hood</A></A></A>
"I told him to keep his head up," James said. "As seniors we appreciate everything he did… leading us and everything. I said keep leading from the sideline, keep Dobbs' head right and all that."

Dobbs was 5-of-12 for 75 yards passing and added 19 yards rushing in his lone two quarters of football.

"I like how he's confident. I liked how he approached today," James added. "…I don't want to say perfect, but there's nothing really bad about the kid. He shows up everyday ready to go to work."

Dobbs has only been on campus for five months, but Jones has repeatedly said the full offensive playbook is at his disposal with the youngster behind center.

In fact, there will be added wrinkles to the Vols' game plan with the dual-threat athlete set to start.

"Everyone asks with a freshman quarterback, do you have to scale your offensive package down and your game plan? And it's quite to the contrary," Jones said. "We can actually do some more things in terms of our schemes with the quarterback and some different things."

Worley averaged 2.9 yards per rush and 7 all-purpose yards per game running Tennessee's up-tempo style that features the bread-and-butter zone read play.

Dobbs ran the zone read while in high school in Alpharetta, Ga.

"We're going to play to (Dobbs') strengths," Jones said.

But Dobbs brings more than a scrambling spark to the offense.

Jones praised Dobbs for his ability to make "anticipatory" throws, an area the first-year head coach said Worley struggled with.

Dobbs' anticipatory skills paired with his athleticism has slotman Alton Howard excited. He thinks it's a deadly combination.

"That can help create big plays," Howard said.

Dobbs and the Tennessee offense will be in for a test against a Missouri defense that has forced a turnover in 38-straight games, which is the longest active streak in the BCS.

"He's a freshman going up against one of the best defensive lines in the country – one of the best defenses in the country," Jones said. "So everyone around him has to pick it up."

APR threat lifted

After he finished his update on the current quarterback situation, Jones broke news that he dubbed "even bigger" and one of "the greatest victories in Tennessee football."

Jones was informed Tuesday by the NCAA that Tennessee made the APR and is no longer subject to its associated penalties for failing.

The APR measures the eligibility and retention of scholarship student athletes. One point is given if an athlete remains eligible throughout an academic term and that athletes earns another point by returning for the following term.

The Vols' multi-year rate of 931 was worst in the SEC and just one point above the new minimum standard that includes penalties such as reduced practice time, scholarship reductions and postseason bans.

"With a coaching turnover, that's nearly impossible to do," Jones said. "That is monumental to our football program."

Jones said opponents constantly used the Vols' dangerously low APR score against them in recruiting.

Tennessee defensive lineman Daniel Hood said the academic program has changed drastically since Jones took over for Derek Dooley in December.

"The biggest difference is he has measurements on it. He's not just been preaching do you academics, do your academics, but he's also going to check up on you," Hood said. "The system they have now, luckily I don't have to worry about it because I'm in one class, but for the other guys, coach Jones said he personally goes out and checks class some days. It seemed like there was always an issue from when Dooley was here. The class checkers didn't know who they were looking for."

Injury updates

Jones expects both Brian Randolph and Byron Moore to play against No. 10 Missouri Saturday.

Both players were in green no-contact jerseys Tuesday.

Moore sprained his ankle against Alabama and Randolph tweaked a shoulder.

Freshman linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin was moved back to safety for depth purposes this week and Jones said he is pleased with Reeves-Maybin's progress and adjustment to the new position.

Stopping Sam

Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam is tied for first in the NCAA in sacks, registering 10 in just eight games.

Sam lines up at both the left and right end position.

James, Tennessee's right tackle, is familiar with the standout and spoke highly of his opponent Tuesday.

"He is a great player," James said. "I thought he was last year. At SEC media days I said I thought he was one of the most underrated people in the SEC. He's a great player with a great motor."

Jones won't promise win

Immediately after Tennessee fell to top-ranked Alabama, left tackle Antonio Richardson boldly promised the Vols would beat No. 10 ranked Missouri.

Jones didn't condone the promise.

"Sometimes we get caught up in the emotion and that's part of the maturity of our football team and our football program," Jones said. "… Also our players have a lot of pride. I know that they were extremely disappointed in our performances with Alabama. It doesn't get any easier with a great opponent at Missouri."

More on Dobbs

Dobbs was the second-highest rated 2013 signee for Tennessee, ranking 33 spots behind now-target Marquez North at No. 136. Dobbs hasn't been made available to the media since arriving in Knoxville. However, InsideTennessee traveled to a National Signing Day ceremony in Georgia to speak with signal-caller. Both parts of that interview are available below:

Part I

Part II

Butch Jones, per the university

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