On Dec. 9, 2011, North Florida Christian quarterback Matt Dobson led his team to a massive, 69-0 win over Admiral Farragut Academy in the Florida Class AA state championship.
During his senior year, Dobson amassed 2,749 passing yards, 868 rushing yards and a 43 total touchdowns.
Needless to say, Dobson was a highly-touted quarterback when he signed with Georgia Southern prior to the 2012 season.
On the depth chart behind Jerick McKinnon, Ezayi Youyoute and fellow 2012 recruits Vegas Harley and Kevin Ellison, Dobson quickly found out his days of quarterbacking may be over.
It just so happens that after GSU lost safeties J.J. Wilcox and Darius Eubanks to the NFL, there was a job opening in the defensive secondary.
“(Dobson) came to see me after last season and he said, ‘Coach, I want to play. If you want me to, I’ll be glad to change positions.’ Seeing how we lost J.J. and Eubanks, there was a vacated starting position there,” GSU head coach Jeff Monken said. “He felt like maybe that was an opportunity for him.”
Dobson played safety for North Florida Christian during its state title year in 2008, and he got plenty of experience hitting at the college level last season playing on special teams for GSU while recording 13 tackles on kickoff coverage.
“Last year, when they asked me to do that, I was more than willing to do it and help the team out. I had fun doing it,” Dobson said.
“He probably could line up and play any position,” Monken added. “That’s the kind of football smarts he has.”
Still, starting in the secondary in college is not quite the same as it is in high school.
“In high school, you could get away with not using your eyes,” Dobson said. “You just kind of float around and make a play, be athletic. In college, everybody’s as athletic as you are, so you have to know what’s going on and react.”
Dobson knows he’s got big shoes to fill if he’s going to play among GSU’s likely contributors at safety; Deion Stanley, Tay Hicklin, Antonio Glover, Deshawntee Gallon and Pittsburgh transfer Steve Williams.
Wilcox and Eubanks combined for 165 tackles, 10 pass breakups and three interceptions last season.
“We’re different people, you know? I’m not going to be J.J. or Darius,” Dobson said. “I’m a different type of player. I just need to do the best I can to be the best that I can be.”
The move, for Dobson, was almost common sense.
“We knew based on our depth we were going to need some help (at safety).," Monken said. "Where we were at quarterback, we knew Jerick was going to be the guy, probably wasn’t going to beat Jerick out. Kevin and Vegas have enough talent there that we have some guys for the future, so Dobson was the best candidate of those guys to go to safety.”
“It was different," Dobson said, "but I just wanted to do whatever is best for the team, and playing safety this year is what’s best for us.”
All the preseason attention has been on the big-play skill guys returning to the offense, including McKinnon, Youyoute, Dominique Swope, Johnathan Bryant, Zach Walker and Kentrellis Showers. Dobson understands the 2013 defense has a long way to go to catch up to the offense.
“Our offense returns most everybody on the team, so we’re going to score some points,” Dobson said. “Our defense lost a couple of guys to the NFL and a couple more to graduation. As long as we work hard and reach our full potential, we’ll be fine.”
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.