Tennessee fans certainly want to see their Vols For Life go on to do great things. However, if the latest crop of former Vols go on to NFL fame and fortune, it could be a bit disconcerting.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs and Alvin Kamara may be the two best examples of that.
Dobbs, for instance, has wowed scouts since his college eligibility expired. Sure, there have still been questions about his accuracy downfield, but he’s certainly risen up the draft board in most analysts minds. He’s even been compared to former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
So where will Dobbs fall in the NFL draft? Likely higher than most projected during the 2016 season.
But no matter where Dobbs is drafted, the mere comparison to Watson is startling. Watson was a two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up during his final two seasons and helped lead Clemson to a national title. Dobbs showed flashes but didn’t reach those heights. Was that his fault?
“Josh Dobbs, who was down at the Senior Bowl, again he continues to impress me,” former NFL scout Louis Riddick said at the NFL Combine last week. “He looked very comfortable, looked a little bit robotic in some of his drops, but his accuracy, again, was good, and he didn’t flinch at all in this, which I think continues to bode well for his prospects once he continues to get the kind of NFL environment coaching he’s going to get.”
Dobbs’ accuracy was good? That doesn’t sound like the quarterback Tennessee fans had become accustomed to cheering for.
Frankly, I didn’t think Dobbs looked even close to being an NFL quarterback during his time at Tennessee. I figured he’d be designing rockets by now. But what if I was fooled by an offense that wasn’t in rhythm?
Keep in mind that Dobbs had two offensive coordinators (Mike Bajakian and Mike DeBord) while at Tennessee. One could argue he had a third in coach Butch Jones.
It’s also worth noting that the Vols didn’t have a full-time coach on their staff with extensive quarterback coaching experience. Graduate assistant Nick Sheridan was in charge of tutoring the signal callers. Following the 2016 season, Jones hired Mike Canales to coach quarterbacks full time. That may be too little, too late.
Much of the same can be said about Kamara, who probably was underused during his two seasons at Tennessee.
Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson likes Kamara’s versatility as a player and calls his effort on the field “absolutely outstanding.”
“They hand him the ball, he runs with it,” Robinson said at the NFL Combine. “They throw him the ball, he catches it and runs with it. And he’s pretty good in pass protection.”
Yet, Kamara was the second string tailback until Jalen Hurd quit the team in October. Before Hurd left the Vols, the numbers are staggering. Hurd received 399 carries to Kamara’s 167 during their careers. In 2016, Hurd averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Kamara averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
Hurd has admitted that he wasn’t a good fit for Tennessee’s offense and is currently trying to find a new college to play for. Meanwhile, Kamara, who seemed like a great fit for the offense, is trying to slip into the first round of the NFL draft.
If Dobbs proves to be a mid-round pick up in the draft or if Kamara goes in the first or second round, it seems more than reasonable to ask if the Vols got the best out of them. Neither had poor college careers, but their draft selection wouldn’t quite match it if current projections hold.
Still, in fairness, Jones and his coaching staff didn’t completely strike out. They seemed to get the best out of defensive end Derek Barnett, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and cornerback Cam Sutton. However, the potential missteps at quarterback and running back could be enormous if Dobbs and Kamara go on to have great NFL careers.
Tennessee fans will root for the two in the pros. Maybe Jones should think otherwise.
(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)
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