KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs says because Georgia overlooked him in the recruiting process doesn’t provide an extra chip on his shoulder as he prepares to face his home-state school.
“Who you’re playing shouldn’t really affect your intensity level and the chip you play with,” Dobbs said. “You should play hard each and every week. That’s how I approach it every single time I step on the field.”
Dobbs, the reigning Southeastern Conference offensive player of the week, will try to help the 11th-ranked Volunteers (4-0, 1-0 SEC) take command of the Eastern Division race Saturday when they visit No. 25 Georgia (3-1, 1-1). Tennessee already is the only SEC East team unbeaten in conference play.
Dobbs graduated from Alpharetta High School — about 60 miles from Georgia’s campus — and should see plenty of familiar faces this weekend. That includes his high school coach, Jason Dukes, a former Georgia Tech player who said he is forgoing the Yellow Jackets’ home game with No. 14 Miami to watch Dobbs instead.
“I think over half my high school graduation class goes to Georgia,” Dobbs said.
The quarterback acknowledged he wasn’t seriously recruited by Georgia.
“In my class, they had a QB commit like my sophomore year in high school, so they were kind of off the QB radar early,” Dobbs said. “I hadn’t even played varsity by that point.”
The quarterback from the 2013 class who committed to Georgia after his sophomore year was Brice Ramsey of Camden County High in Kingsland, Georgia. Ramsey was rated the nation’s No. 100 overall prospect in his class and Dobbs was 164th according to composite rankings of recruiting websites compiled by 247Sports.
Ramsey is currently third on the Bulldogs’ depth chart and has 74 career pass attempts with no starts. Dobbs has made 26 starts for Tennessee and had one of the finest moments of his career last week.
Dobbs threw four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth score — all in the second half — to help Tennessee erase a 21-point deficit in a 38-28 victory over Florida that ended the Vols’ 11-game losing streak in this annual series.
“This was probably the grittiest game Joshua Dobbs has played in his career,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “On most of the touchdown passes, I thought he stood in the pocket, he took a hit and a lot of times he didn’t even see the conclusion of the play. All he could hear is the roar of the crowd.”
Dobbs has benefited from the emergence of 6-foot-3 receivers Josh Malone and Jauan Jennings. Malone ranks second in the SEC in touchdown receptions (five) and yards per catch (22.1). Jennings caught three passes for 111 yards against Florida, including a 67-yard touchdown that put Tennessee ahead for good.
They’ll be facing a Georgia team that ranks 13th out of 14 SEC teams in pass efficiency defense, ahead of only Kentucky.
“They have big, big receivers,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “It’s another challenge for us to go up and make some plays and get some guys in the game that can compete and fight to make the plays down the field.”
Georgia also must find a way to stop Dobbs. Even if the Bulldogs slow him down early, Dobbs has shown a knack for playing his best in the second half.
Dobbs rallied Tennessee from a 24-3 deficit last season in a 38-31 victory over Georgia and produced a similar comeback against Florida. Tennessee trailed 21-0 early and 21-3 at halftime.
“You can look at it where we’re down 21-3 and feel sorry for yourself and feel like you’re down and out and not go out and compete,” Dobbs said. “Or you can just think about all the extra reps you put in (during) the summer, all the extra time you put in for moments like that on Saturday to go out and make history.”
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