The Tennessee Vols (5-2) are off to the program’s best start since 2006. But, how has Josh Dobbs and the offense graded out this season?
We give our midseason grades as the Vols head into the bye week. The offense is part two of our three part series this week.
PART 1: Grades for the Coaching Staff.
PART 3: Grades for the defense.
Quarterback – Josh Dobbs
Josh Dobbs is the reason that the Tennessee Volunteers are in the position they are in. His offensive leadership and skills to make plays on the field have won the Vols numerous games this season.
I gave Josh Dobbs an A- because he is vital to the Volunteer offense but his decision making at times have cost the Big Orange.
Dobbs already has 19 total touchdowns on the year and is one passing touchdown away from tying his season total from last year (15). He’s a playmaker and there is zero doubt that the offense has to run through him, literally.
Josh Dobbs rushing rushing at Tennessee:
Wins- 1,197 yards & 23 TD’s
Losses- 456 yards 2 TD’s
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 13, 2016
This statistic sums up the Tennessee offense very succinctly. Josh Dobbs controls the game when he is using his legs first and arm second. The senior quarterback has developed the short passing game but when it comes to down field throws, besides the Hail Mary against Georgia, he struggles.
The other glaring stat that pulls Dobbs down has been is turnovers. 9 interceptions already on the year and 2 fumbles. Those kind of mistakes will keep the lesser opponents on the back half of the Vols schedule hanging around.
The A- can turn into an A or even an A+ by years end if Dobbs cleans up his accuracy on deeper routes and takes care of the football.
Running Backs – Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara & John Kelly
All three of these backs have contributed in some way due to the injury bug that has been going around. Hurd started the season strong, Kamara flashed out of the back field and Kelly has surprised with the small contribution that he’s made.
At the beginning of the season, offensive coordinator Mike DeBord tried to use Jalen Hurd too much. I think it held the offense back from starting as fast as it could, despite winning games.
In the 2nd half against Georgia, Hurd left with an undisclosed injury and in stepped Alvin Kamara. This gave the offense speed and Josh Dobbs was able to get the ball into the hands of Kamara to make big plays.
This running back group has talent, maybe too much. It’s been hard for the offensive game plan to utilize both Hurd and Kamara when both are healthy.
Now that Kamara is haggled by a knee injury, it will be up to Hurd to carry the load once again and pound the lesser opponents Tennessee has left on their schedule.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – Josh Malone, Jauan Jennings, Tyler Byrd, Jason Croom, Josh Smith & Ethan Wolf
For a read/option offense like Tennessee runs, the wide receivers are not asked to do a whole lot. And a lot of the success is predicated on Josh Dobbs getting the ball to them. I think that Malone and Jennings have stepped up when asked to do so and both have come up with some pretty impactful plays this year. The tight end position needs to be utilized much more than it has.
As mentioned before, Malone and Jennings bring this grade up but the rest of the supporting cast pulls the mark down.
Malone, time and time again, finds himself on the other side of the defense reeling in passes. He’s given Dobbs a reliable receiver down the field and plays off of the other wide outs very well. Jennings has the catch heard round the sun globe. Grabbing the Hail Mary in Athens, along with teetering the sidelines against Florida, has put number #15 on the map.
Tyler Byrd and Jason Croom have a couple of noticeable catches but haven’t been asked to do much. Josh Smith has just 8 receptions on the year and the high hopes of Preston Williams disappeared once he decided to leave the Knoxville ‘resort’.
Ethan Wolf has whiffed on some major plays in the first half of the season. Though he redeemed himself with a 20 yard touchdown reception against Florida, Wolf needs to be a security blanket over the middle for Josh Dobbs. Though Wolf is mainly used as a blocking tight end, I think Mike DeBord needs to implement him within the game plan a little bit more.
Injuries have played a major part for the entire Tennessee football team but none has been impacted more than the offensive line. With that being said, I still think that the offensive line has been disastrous.
The Vols have had five different starting units in seven games. An offensive line cannot be successful if they are constantly playing musical chairs. Some of the switch up has been due to the injuries that I alluded to earlier but this front has to improve in the second half of the season and I find that hard with lineman dropping like flies.
Chance Hall and Brett Kendrick were both knocked out of the game against Alabama. Jack Jones just underwent surgery to repair torn thumb ligaments. Senior Dylan Wiesman has been dealing with concussion issues. Drew Richmond is having trouble sniffing the field due to his play. And the list goes on and on.
Josh Dobbs has the ability to move and he will have to use that mobility even more during the second half of the season with this offensive line.
Overall Offensive Grade: B
Follow Zach Bingham on Twitter: @Bada_Bingham