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3. Your quarterback.
Be ready to be enraged, Vols fans. Dobbs is a sure fire first three round draft pick, right? Maybe, but that doesn’t change the fact that your supposedly elite quarterback would be lucky to have his passing statistics described as pedestrian. Dobbs, a rare multi-year starter in the SEC, led what was the nation’s 92nd rated passing offense in 2015, trailing such powerhouse programs as Bowling Green State, Northern Illinois, San Diego State, and Syracuse.
With the endless boasting we hear about this “recruiting boost” Coach Butch Jones has given the program, one would think a supposedly NFL caliber quarterback could, you know, throw the football with some semblance of success while protected by one of the league’s best lines and throwing to a stable of receivers featuring four top 150 recruits. But so far, he’s been anything but elite.
2. Your horrifically overrated recruiting.
I’m not sure if it’s even fair to call it overrated, as I haven’t heard anyone outside of Knoxville claiming Coach Jones has assembled some sort of smorgasbord of blue chippers. But ask a Tennessee fan about the future and all you hear about is this next wave of superstars just waiting to mature their way into the college football playoff.
Except, we’ve heard this since the beginning of Coach Jones’ largely underwhelming tenure. Let’s look at the facts. These much-ballyhooed classes are okay, no doubt, but to call them elite is absurd, at least on paper. Tennessee lags well behind conference foes Alabama, Georgia, and Florida in average class rating since Jones took over, and an idiotic quantity over quality approach lags back towards the average of the conference in median star rating per recruit.
So, with what has realistically been SEC average level recruiting, far behind the more established programs, what is the rationale behind this endless chest thumping by the Volunteer faithful?
Oh yeah, fans are idiots. My bad.
1. Your coaching staff.
I honestly cannot come up with a coaching staff I’d least rather have in the fourth quarter of a close game than Tennessee’s. Last season, in a statistic that absolutely floored me when I read it, the Vols actually outscored opponents in the first quarter by a larger margin than any other SEC team. I’m serious. Conversely, Jones has led them to more blown leads in the fourth quarter than any team in the conference since his arrival in Knoxville. It’s downright pathetic.
Last season against Florida was a symphony of stupidity. Anyone who thinks Jones is an elite in-game coach, or even average, please watch the 2015 matchup with a very pedestrian Jim McElwain and educate yourself. Jones is an okay recruiter, and seemingly strong motivator, but he could not be worse when the clocking is ticking down.
Perhaps exacerbating the issues with Jones, Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord is one of the worst in the entire nation, crafting a bland and predictable offense at each of his previously failed stops. DeBord was chased out of Ann Arbor after Wolverine fans and coaches grew tired of his unimaginative attack, and was later fired after a horrific tenure with Central Michigan. I will never understand how or why Jones hired him.
Reasons for hope:
1. Bob Shoop
Apparently sick of working for the protectors of pedophiles, Shoop jumped ship on James Franklin’s Titanic in Happy Valley, taking his aggressive style to the SEC. Shoop is considered a top defensive mind, having kept PSU in the top four overall of the Big Ten while sanctions crippled recruiting and the overall roster. With the unbelievably inept Hackenberg-led offense during the Franklin era, most believe Shoop is the main reason Franklin is still employed.
2. Defensive line.
Derrick Barnett is a star nobody talks about because he plays in the same conference as Myles Garrett. Khalil Mckenzie looks like a super recruit that has come to fruition and the Vols bring back five of their top seven overall defensive linemen from what was one of the nation’s best the second half of 2015.
1. Could Dobbs finally make the leap?
He has the physical tools, a great frame, and athleticism for the position. But so far, as discussed, the Josh Dobbs era has been far more talk than an actual result. With a strong offensive line returning four starters, and what should be a powerful rushing attack led by Jalen Hurd, is this finally the season Dobbs realizes his potential?
A 4-0 record has Vols fans beating their chests like drunk monkeys after defeating rival Florida…finally. But things go south in a hurry, with a four-game losing streak capped with a shocker upset at the hands of Will Muschamp and South Carolina.
The Vols rebound to win out an extremely easy final part of their schedule, but again come up short of their SEC East title dreams. Is it time for Coach Butch Jones to feel a little warmth? I think DeBord is fired in a desperate move by a desperate staff..
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