NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The scary thing about Tennessee senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs is not just that he can run and throw. It’s also his natural instinct when improvising.
That is what’s making Nebraska coaches sweat this week as the Huskers prepare for the Music City Bowl on Friday (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“I’m more worried about him chucking and ducking then I am him running,” said defensive backs coach Brian Stewart on Tuesday.
Dobbs threw for 2,655 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season for Tennessee. It is his second straight season with more than 2,000 passing yards and 15 touchdowns or more.
“You’ve got a senior quarterback who’s been in the offense for quite some time. He knows it inside and out,” defensive coordinator Mark Banker said Tuesday. “He’s athletic, he’s got a good arm. I think he’s really a good quarterback. He’s perfect for their system.”
Nebraska, meanwhile, will be rolling out some new tactics in the secondary to combat Dobbs. With the ineligibility of senior safety Nate Gerry, Nebraska will start sophomore Antonio Reed in the safety position. They’ll also play more nickel than usual, which means true freshman Lamar Jackson will get increased playing time.
Tennessee and Dobbs will likely attack Jackson on Friday. That’s why at practice, Nebraska is attacking Jackson to prepare him.
“He’s been prepared and we’ve been attacking him like that at practices,” Stewart said. “I’m excited to watch him. It’s time to play.”
Nebraska will also have to prepare for some taller, quicker wide receivers than some they’ve seen in the Big Ten, Stewart said.
“SEC receivers look like thoroughbreds,” Stewart said. “They’re long, they attack the ball. That’s gonna be a good challenge for our corners whether it’s (Josh) Kalu or (Chris) Jones or Lamar Jackson.”
Tennessee is the second-best offense in the SEC, behind only No. 1 Alabama. Volunteers throw for an average of 234 yards per game. Josh Malone, a 6-foot-3 junior, leads Tennessee with 45 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jauan Jennings is Tennessee’s second-leading receiver. The 6-foot-3 sophomore has 34 catches for 521 yards.
Nebraska’s corners aren’t small, either, which is by design, Stewart said. Kalu and Jones are both over 6-foot and can guard receivers taller than 6-foot-3.
“We’re not a small secondary. And hopefully the matchups will prove the reason why,” Stewart said.
Regardless, Tennessee’s height across the board is what worries Banker most. Like the potential mismatches with Jackson, Nebraska is going to have to be aware of possible places Tennessee will want to attack.
“We’re going to have our hands full, no doubt,” Banker said.