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VOL. 132 | NO. 25 | Friday, February 3, 2017

Back-to-Back Dak? Dobbs Shines at Senior Bowl

BY DAVE LINK, Knoxville Sports Correspondent

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To say Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs might be the next Dak Prescott is a stretch. Or is it? Prescott, the former Mississippi State quarterback, caught the eye of the Dallas Cowboys with his MVP performance in the 2016 Senior Bowl. The Cowboys chose Prescott in the fourth round (No. 135 overall pick) of the 2016 NFL Draft, and it proved a fruitful pick.

South squad quarterback Josh Dobbs of the University of Tennessee passes against the North squad during the first half last week’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

With starter Tony Romo out with a back injury in preseason, Prescott took over as the starter and retained the job when Romo was healthy late in the season. Prescott and teammate, running back Ezekiel Elliott, shared NFC East rookie of the year honors as Dallas went 13-3 and won the division.

Could Dobbs have a similar NFL future?

Well, his performance in last Saturday’s Senior Bowl was Dak-worthy.

Dobbs, a senior at UT in 2016, earned the starting job for the South team during practice. In Saturday’s game, Dobbs completed 12-of-15 passes for 104 yards with an interception when an offensive lineman got pushed into Dobbs during his throwing motion.

Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson, head coach of the South team, didn’t blame Dobbs for the interception.

“I thought Josh did a good job other than, he couldn’t control them getting in, hitting (him) and the ball flipping up in the air,” Jackson told the NFL Network’s Alex Flanagan at halftime.

“I thought he ran the offense, moved the ball and did the things we thought he could do. He did a good job.”

It was the type of job Jackson expected when he selected Dobbs as the starter over Cal’s Davis Webb and Antonio Pipkin of Division III Tiffin.

“Josh was able to handle the information, first and foremost, I think he’s really intelligent, and he’s able to take things from the classroom to the field,” Jackson told reporters in Mobile.

“Then, just his physical skills, I didn’t know he could throw the ball as well as he can. The ball comes off his hand the right way, the ball gets to the receiver pretty quickly, so he was able to take all that information and go out and execute what we asked him to do.”

Webb was MVP of the Senior Bowl, completing 11 of 16 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in the South’s 16-15 win over the North.

However, Dobbs was most impressive during the week of preparation for the bowl. Rob Rang and Dan Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com wrote this about Dobbs:

“SEC fans may have a hard time believing it, but Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs threw the ball very well on Tuesday [during a practice session]. The 6-foot-3 and 1/4, 216-pounder has always possessed a strong arm, as well as the mobility and intelligence scouts are looking for, but he has struggled with accuracy over his career. That was not the case Tuesday, however, as Dobbs threw accurately and on time on a variety of pro-style routes, including slants, outs, post-corners and deep balls. California’s Davis Webb and Tiffin’s Antonio Pipkins were significantly less consistent with their accuracy on Tuesday.”

Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News also had high praise for Dobbs before Saturday’s game.

Carucci labeled Dobbs as his potential winner of the “He Could Be Another Dak Prescott” award. The Buffalo News headline read: “14 takeaways from the Senior Bowl: Is Dobbs another Dak?”

“He doesn’t have the ‘wow’ factor Prescott or Carson Wentz had at last year’s Senior Bowl,” Carucci wrote, “but he did make consistent improvement during the three full practices Tuesday through Thursday. Dobbs has excellent mechanics, throwing a nice, tight spiral and releasing the ball quickly. He sees the field well, makes good decisions and showed more of a commanding presence by his final workout. An aerospace engineering major, his intelligence is off-the-charts and serves him well on the field.”

Carucci wrote Dobbs’ size has some NFL scouts concerned he can’t take punishment in the league, and therefore project him as a fourth-round pick, “where the Dallas Cowboys selected Prescott largely on the strength of his impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, or fifth round.

“Of course, Prescott proved he should have been the top overall choice, and it’s an extreme long-shot another rookie will have the incredible season Prescott did in 2016. Still, Dobbs is a fascinating prospect.”

Can he be the next Prescott? We’ll see.

Here is a list of Tennessee’s 12 NFL Draft-eligible scholarship players (in alphabetical order with NFLDraftScout.com rating):

DE: Derek Barnett

6-3, 265, Jr., Brentwood Academy, Nashville

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 3 end behind Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett and Stanford’s Solomon Thomas out of 231 defensive ends.

Barnett was a consensus All-American in 2016 and finished his career with 33 sacks, breaking UT’s career record held by Reggie White (1980-83). His 52 career tackles for loss is one behind the career record held by Leonard Little (1995-97). Barnett played in 39 games at UT and had 197 tackles (131 solo), and was the starter at defensive end since his freshman season in 2014. In 2016, he had 56 tackles (40 solo), 19 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks. Four-star rating by 247Sports out of high school.

LB: Kenny Bynum

6-1, 235, R-Sr., Raines High, Jacksonville, Florida

NFLDraftScout.com rating: Not rated out of 241 outside linebackers.

Bynum played in all 13 games with two starts each of the past two seasons and finished each with 11 tackles. As a sophomore, Bynum played in seven games with one start, and he played in four games as a redshirt freshman in 2013. He played in 37 games in his four-year career. Three-star rating by 247Sports out of high school.

DB: Malik Foreman

5-10, 190, Sr., Dobyns-Bennett High, Kingsport

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 83 out of 259 cornerbacks.

Foreman played in nine games with seven starts in 2016 at nickel back and cornerback and had 26 tackles, a crucial interception against Georgia and forced fumble against Texas A&M. He played in 13 games with 10 starts as a junior at nickel and had 25 tackles, and as a sophomore played in 13 games and had 10 tackles. He was a backup cornerback in 2013 and played in nine games. Three-star rating by 247Sports out of high school.

TE: Jason Croom

6-5, 246, R-Sr., Norcross High, Norcross, Georgia

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 25 out of 115 tight ends.

Croom moved from wide receiver to tight end before his senior year in 2016 and played in 12 games with six starts. He tied for fourth on the team in catches (21) and was fourth in receiving yards (242). Croom was hurt in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl and missed the 2015 season with a knee injury. As a sophomore in 2014, Croom played in 12 games with one start and had 21 catches for 305 yards and four TDs. He played in 12 games with seven starts as a freshman and had 18 catches for 269 yards and two TDs. Four-star rating by 247Sports out of high school.

QB: Joshua Dobbs

6-3, 216, Sr., Alpharetta High, Alpharetta, Georgia

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 10 out of 178 quarterbacks (before Senior Bowl).

Dobbs had his best year as a Vol in 2016, completing 63 percent of his passes for 2,946 yards and 27 touchdowns while leading the Vols in rushing (831 yards) and rushing touchdowns (12). As a junior, Dobbs started all 13 games and threw for 2,291 yards and 15 TDs. He was a part-time starter as a freshman and sophomore. Dobbs posted a 23-12 record as a starting quarterback, and his 9,360 yards total offense ranks third in school history. Four-star rating by 247Sports out of high school.

RB: Alvin Kamara

5-10, 215, Jr., Norcross High, Norcross, Georgia, Alabama, Hutchinson (Kansas) Com. College

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 4 out of 213 running backs behind Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.

Kamara led the Vols in all-purpose yards with 1,188 in 2016 (seventh in SEC) and had 13 total touchdowns, tied for third in the league. He was the team’s third-leading rusher (596 yards) with nine rushing TDs (second on team), tied for second on the team in catches (40) and was third in receiving yards (392). He redshirted at Alabama in 2013, and the next year rushed for 1,211 yards in nine games at Hutchinson Community College. As a sophomore at UT, he was second on the team in receptions (34) for 291 yards and had three TD catches. Four-star rating by 247Sports out of junior college and No. 3 all-purpose back out of high school.

DL: LaTroy Lewis

6-4, 256, R-Sr., Archbishop Hoban, Akron, Ohio

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 82 out of 231 defensive ends.

Lewis played in 12 games with four starts in 2016, moving from end to tackle near the end of the season due to injuries to the defensive front. He finished with 36 tackles (career high), four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He played in all 13 games the previous two seasons with six starts (five as a junior, one as a sophomore). Three-star rating by 247Sports out of high school.

WR: Josh Malone

6-3, 200, Jr., Station Camp High, Gallatin. NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 21 out of 415 wide receivers

Malone had career- and team-highs in catches (50), receiving yards (972) and TD catches (11) as a junior in 2016. His 972 yards were the 10th most in UT single-season history and the most since Justin Hunter’s 1,083 in 2012. His 11 TD catches is the third-most in UT history and the most since Robert Meacham’s 11 in 2006. His 19.4-yard average is a school record for receivers with at least 50 catches. As a junior, Malone started 12 of 13 games and had 31 catches for a team-high 405 yards. He started six of 13 games as a freshman and had 23 catches for 231 yards. Four-star rating by 247Sports out of high school.

LB: Jalen Reeves-Maybin

6-0, 230, Sr., Northeast High, Clarksville

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 16 out of 241 outside linebackers.

Reeves-Maybin played in four games in 2016 before having season ending surgery for a shoulder injury dating to last spring. He started all 13 games as a junior and posted 105 tackles, ninth-best in the SEC, and led UT with 14 tackles for loss (eighth in SEC) and had six sacks (second on team). As a sophomore, he started all 13 games and tied for the team-high with 101 tackles and had 11 tackles for loss (third on team). As a true freshman, he had the team-high 11 special teams tackles. Four-star rating by 247Sports out of high school.

DB: Cameron Sutton

5-11, 186, Sr., Jonesboro High, Jonesboro, Georgia

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 10 out of 259 cornerbacks.

Sutton started every game at cornerback for the Vols during his first three seasons and was a Sporting News All-American as a punt returner in 2015 after leading the nation with an 18.7-yard average and returning two punts for touchdowns. He was limited to six games in 2016 due to a foot injury sustained in the third game against Ohio and returned for the 10th game against Kentucky. In 45 career games, Sutton had 127 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, and his 37 career pass break-ups is a UT record. Three-star rating by 247Sports out of high school. (Note: Rang of NFLDraftScout.com wrote last Thursday scouts are “excited about the play of cornerback-turned-safety Cam Sutton.”)

“The former All-SEC pick has played both positions this week for the South team, showing instincts, range and hand-eye coordination to rip at the ball as it arrives,” Rang wrote.

“Sutton was particularly early on in Thursday’s practice, breaking up three passes over the first of a few one-on-one and skeleton drills, alternating between the two positions. At just 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, Sutton would seem better suited to remaining at cornerback in the NFL, but his willingness to try a different position this late in the process speaks to his selflessness and preparation.”

DL: Corey Vereen

6-2, 249, Sr., West Orange High, Winter Garden, Florida

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 43 out of 231 defensive ends.

Vereen started 11 of 13 games in 2016 and finished with 36 tackles (23 solo) and had career-highs with seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss, two fumbles recovered and three pass break-ups. He played in 13 games with seven starts in 2015 and had 39 tackles; as a sophomore he started 11 of 13 games and had 24 tackles. Vereen hurt his knee in training camp as a freshman but returned to play in nine games. Three-star rating by Rivals.com out of high school. (No 247Sports rating available).

OL: Dylan Wiesman

6-4, 310, Colerain High, Cincinnati, Ohio

NFLDraftScout.com rating: No. 70 out of 249 offensive guards.

Wiesman was versatile enough to play both guard spots and center in his four years at Tennessee. In 2016, Wiesman played in 10 games with four starts at right guard and six starts at center, and in 2015 started all 13 games – 12 at right guard and one at left guard. He started two games in 2014 – getting his first college start at center against Missouri – and was a backup right guard and played in 10 games as a true freshman. Three-star rating by 247Sports out of high school.

Dave Link is a freelance journalist living in Knoxville.

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