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How Good Is Joshua Dobbs?

Can Dobbs lead Tennessee back to the top of the SEC and how realistic are his chances at a future Heisman Trophy?

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor's Note:  Today we welcome Michael W. Bratton to the writing staff at RockyTopTalk, a Tennessee grad who joins us with experience from Fox Sports and his own site.  Welcome Mike!)

Joshua Dobbs' Tennessee career thus far has been very up and down.  His freshman year, Dobbs failed to excel on the field and looked to be anything resembling the answer at QB for the Vols.  Coming into his sophomore year, Dobbs appeared to have lost the faith of the coaching staff and was buried at third on the QB depth chart behind Nathan Peterman.

Two games into Dobbs' sophomore season, a number of people were ready to anoint him as the best QB in the SEC East and a Heisman candidate for 2015. Dobbs was not able to keep up that pace as teams began to study his gametape and exploit his weaknesses in passing accuracy and at times questionable zone read decisions.

Dobbs is clearly the future of Tennessee football and should progress with the majority of reps during the bowl and offseason practices, but how realistic should his expectations be for 2015 and beyond?  Is it accurate to be projecting him as a possible Heisman candidate?  I've compiled the stats of Dobbs and six other QBs for a comparison - please note, these stats are from SEC starts only...

Here's a look at Dobbs' number after eight career starts, all against SEC competition:

Comp. Att. % Pass Yds Pass TD INT Rush Yds Rush TD
168 277 60.6 1580 8 10 507 7

The numbers aren't bad, especially considering Dobbs was forced into action early due to injuries to Justin Worley both seasons he's had an opportunity to play.  Let's see how his numbers stack up against three recent SEC Heisman winners:

Cam Newton's numbers after his first eight SEC starts in 2010

Comp. Att. % Pass Yds Pass TD INT Rush Yds Rush TD
103 150 68.6 1303 12 3 1084 15

Cam didn't throw for as many yards as Dobbs, Auburn was rarely having to go to the air to force offense as they went 8-0 in these games, but Newton did crush Dobbs in touchdown-to-interception ratio and doubled his rushing yards and touchdowns. It goes without saying that Newton is a once-in-a-generation type talent that carried Auburn to an undefeated national championship season. Dobbs has yet to show that type of skill level yet, although Cam was at his third school at this point and was older than Dobbs. Not the greatest of comparisons.

Tim Tebow's numbers after his first eight SEC starts in 2007:

Comp. Att. % Pass Yds Pass TD INT Rush Yds Rush TD
142 213 66.6 1996 17 5 587 16

Despite the criticism of Tebow's passing at the NFL level, he was an effective thrower in college as these numbers show.  Tebow passed for more yardage and had an incredible touchdown-to-interception ratio that Dobbs can't compete with.  Their rushing yards are very close but Tebow has more than twice the rushing touchdowns of Dobbs. Prior to his Heisman season of 2007, Tebow did serve as an understudy to Chris Leak on a national championship team and got plenty of on the field action as well that Dobbs was not afforded.

Johnny Manziel's numbers after his first eight SEC starts in 2012:

Comp. Att. % Pass Yds Pass TD INT Rush Yds Rush TD
200 284 70.4 2289 11 6 698 11

Manziel has Dobbs beat with considerably more accurate throwing, a slightly better touchdown-to-interception ratio on passes and rushing.  Manziel also had the benefit of winning a QB competition in the offseason and going into the season knowing he would be the unquestioned starter.  Texas A&M also faced a weaker overall schedule than the murder's row Dobbs has had to face in his starts.  Manziel was also redshirted his first year in college and was not forced onto the field like Dobbs has the last two seasons.

Dobbs didn't quite stack up to those SEC legends, but how about some of the better QBs in the league that have carried their teams to a number of victories on the field:

Nick Marshall's numbers after his first eight SEC starts in 2013:

Comp. Att. % Pass Yds Pass TD INT Rush Yds Rush TD
98 164 59.7 1371 9 5 769 10

Not surprisingly, Dobbs has Marshall beat on completion percentage and passing yards, however Marshall did have a better touchdown-to-interception ratio and more rushing yards and touchdowns.  Again, Marshall won the preseason QB competition prior to starting his career at Auburn, which was his third school he attended.  Despite those factors, it's fair to say Dobbs outperformed Marshall's early performances.  Although Marshall continued to progress that season and into this year.  If Dobbs can progress in a similar fashion, he will prove to be one of the best QBs in the SEC before long.

Dak Prescott's numbers after his first eight SEC starts in 2013 and 2014:

Comp. Att. % Pass Yds Pass TD INT Rush Yds Rush TD
158 240 65.8 1929 9 9 666 11

Dak's number are similar to Dobbs' numbers, however Dak did record better number across all counts.  Prescott has helped to lift the Bulldog program from obscurity and had elevated himself to Heisman contention at one point this season before cooling off after suffering a foot injury that curbed his hot streak.  If Dobbs can progress in a manner similar to Prescott, he may too lead the Vols back to the top of the SEC.

Connor Shaw's numbers after his first eight SEC starts in 2011 and 2012:

Comp. Att. % Pass Yds Pass TD INT Rush Yds Rush TD
120 172 69.7 1226 10 6 455 5

Shaw has got Dobbs on touchdown-to-interception ratio but Dobbs outshines him on the ground and in the air. The often overlooked Shaw helped lead South Carolina to 33 wins and matured into one of the best SEC QBs in recent memory, including an incredible 24 to 1 touchdown-to-interception ratio his senior season.  Dobbs outperforming Shaw early on in his career should be seen as quite the accomplishment.

Judging by the numbers, Dobbs has shown he has yet to perform on the level of the Heisman winning SEC QBs of recent memory but he has performed as well, if not better than, some of the better QBs in Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State history.  Not bad at all.  One area Dobbs will need to significantly improve to take the next step in his game is his protection of the ball.  Tennessee has not shown they have the ability to overcome mistakes on a consistent level in the SEC.  If Dobbs can improve that area of his game, it won't be long before Vol Nation will be singing Rocky Top in the Georgia Dome.