Last Saturday the offensive line did something they had not done in SEC play and only twice this whole season. They kept the quarterback from being sacked less than three times. Utah State and Arkansas State are the only two teams that failed to get the Tennessee quarterback in the backfield more than twice. Against Alabama, one of the best defenses in the country, Tennessee only allowed one sack per half.
So what changed? Some players could play Saturday that couldn’t a week before, yet others that did play against Ole Miss were out versus the Tide. Did, Don Mahoney’s group get magically better in a week's time?
While I wouldn’t rule out some progress being made in the front five, the answer is an obvious one. A mobile quarterback, like Josh Dobbs, is exactly what Tennessee needed to help a struggling o-line.
Offensive line coach Don Mahoney agrees that last week Dobbs was a big part of the success the offensive line had but also credited his guys on the line for their continuos efforts to improve.
“It was Josh Dobbs having the ability to do some things,” Mahoney said. “It was a combination of both but I did see some things that guys did in protection better.”
Nate Peterman was the first quarterback of the game to be sacked. That means Dobbs was only tackled in the backfield once in the game and it didn’t happen until the final drive when the game was well out of reach.
“Sometimes there’s lines out there that do a great job,” Mahoney said. “Then sometimes there’s a running back out there with a line that’s not very good. We use the term 'make us right when we're wrong.' Josh sometimes made us right when we were wrong with some of the things that he did."
The Vols offensive coordinator, Mike Bajakian, also says that Dobbs gives Tennessee a few more options and has helped bail the offensive line out of potentially bad situations.
“There is a difference in gameplay,” Bajakian said. “Obviously, (Dobbs) has the ability to extend the play a little more."
It was just one performance, so the small sample size isn’t enough to exactly call Joshua Dobbs the savior. With that said, even wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni says his players benefit from a quarterback that has the ability to roll outside of the pocket and make a play.
“It helps a lot,” Azzanni said. “He’s able to get us out of some trouble when we need it. It forces you to not have to be so perfect on everything."
"Either way, whether it’s Nate or whether it’s Josh we’re going to go out there and do the same job we’ve been doing every week," Azzanni concluded.
Butch Jones and his staff are not giving any hints as to who will be the starting quarterback, other than maybe Azzanni leaving off Worley in the above quote. They see the players everyday in practice and they want to win. They’ll put the player in that they believe give them the best opportunity to do so. Whether it’s Joshua Dobbs or Nate Peterman…or Justin Worley.
Wednesday's practice highlights
Zach Azzanni on Dobbs