KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Josh Dobbs has quickly become the most decorated Tennessee signal caller since national championship QB Tee Martin.
Athlon Sports named Dobbs the SEC Offensive Player of the Year on Monday, recognizing the production and leadership he showed despite playing behind behind an often inadequate offensive line.
More important, others noticed Dobbs, too, as he was invited to the Senior Bowl. It’s a good indication Dobbs also might be the Vols’ first quarterback drafted since Jonathan Crompton was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Tennessee has not had a player drafted since 2014, when the Vols had three players selected: OT Ja’Wuan James (first round), guard Zach Fulton (sixth round) and defensive tackle Daniel McCullers (sixth round).
Tennessee did not have any players selected in the 2015 and 2016 drafts — an indication of how far the program had fallen since the Vols regularly ranked among the nation’s leaders in draftees under first-ballot Hall of Fame coach Phillip Fulmer.
“It’s a great honor — it’s definitely an honor,” said Dobbs, who was the second team All-SEC QB pick according to the coaches and the AP writers. “I’m definitely excited for the opportunity.”
Dobbs joined Heath Shuler, Peyton Manning and Martin as the only Tennessee quarterbacks to be selected All-SEC by the coaches’ vote last week.
Vols cornerback Cam Sutton is the other Tennessee player going to the Senior Bowl, which features the nation’s top senior NFL draft prospects on teams representing the North and the South.
Sutton suffered a fractured ankle on Sept. 17 against Ohio and didn’t return until late in the season against Kentucky, on Nov. 12. He flashed some skills upon returning, but he needs to show consistency and durability in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 and at the Senior Bowl.
Sutton has been tentative in run support and gotten beat in coverage at key moments, such as the Vols’ 45-34 loss to Vanderbilt.
NFL coaching staffs coach the teams at the Senior Bowl, but the entire event has a convention-like feel.
Most all the NFL head coaches and assistants, along with personnel staffs, are on hand to watch the players compete in individual and group drill work leading up to the game.
There were 87 players drafted that competed in last year’s Senior Bowl, 76 from the 2015 Senior Bowl rosters, 84 from 2014 and 94 in 2013.
This year’s Senior Bowl game will be played at 2:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 28 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
Dobbs said Tennessee director of player personnel Bob Welton — a former NFL scout with the Cleveland Browns from 2004-13 — was the first to tell him he was in the elite all-star game.
“Coach (Butch) Jones called me … and then Coach (Mike) DeBord also called and congratulated me,” Dobbs said. “It’s definitely a high honor.”
Dobbs’ current focus is on getting the Tennessee offense prepared for the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, but he will then realize there’s plenty more competition ahead at the Senior Bowl.
Players’ draft stock can rise or fall, depending on their performances, at the Senior Bowl.
For a player like Dobbs, often under duress with seven different starting offensive lines, and strapped by an inconsistent receiving corps and subpar tight ends, the Senior Bowl is a prime opportunity to showcase his talents.
Other quarterbacks who already have accepted Senior Bowl invites this year are Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly, Baylor’s Seth Russell, Cal’s Davis Webb and Iowa’s C.J. Beathard.
— Athlon Sports (@AthlonSports) December 12, 2016
— Reese’s Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) December 12, 2016