Chris Petersen knows how valuable Dallas Dobbs is to the 2008 Boise State football team.
During his interview with the media following Monday’s intrasquad scrimmage in Bronco Stadium, the BSU head coach was asked about Dobbs, a senior linebacker and the team’s long snapper who is sidelined with a pulled hamstring. “When he’s not out there, does it make you appreciate all he things he does?” a reporter inquired.
“You don’t have to [tell] me,” Petersen responded, “especially when you start with long snapper. Everyone wants to talk about his linebacker play, but the long snapper is critical to us.”
But Dobbs means a lot more to the Broncos than just his ability to snap the ball through his legs for punts, field goals and extra points. “Dallas has a lot of energy, wisdom, knowledge and passion that he brings to the defense as well,” Petersen added.
You can add perseverance lots of it to those qualities.
When you first meet Dobbs, plenty of other words come to mind. At the start of a brief conversation with the Las Vegas native who has already earned his bachelor’s degree from BSU and is working on a master’s in accountancy, you think: polite, unassuming, bright, earnest.
When you ask him about his injured hamstring and if he’ll be ready for the Broncos’ season opener against Idaho State later this month, you think: determined, resolute, undaunted.
As he talks about his career at Boise State and how he worked his way up the depth charts from an unknown and seldom-used reserve in 2005, to a special teams player and the Broncos’ backup long snapper in 2006, to the first-string long snapper and a part-time starter in 2007, to the winner of last year’s most improved player award you think: persistent, relentless.
“Yeah, I kind of got lost in the shuffle when I first got here,” Dobbs said. “First, we were pretty deep at linebacker. Then I got injured as a grayshirt. Then I wasn’t in the reps [repetitions during practice] my redshirt freshman year. It was the same [the next year]. During that time you could count my reps in scrimmages on one hand. It was pretty frustrating.”
But things changed slightly for Dobbs in 2006, his sophomore season, when Petersen took over as head coach, replacing Dan Hawkins, who took the head coaching job at Colorado. Two of Petersen’s hires were defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Viliami Tuivai.
“When coach Vil and coach Wilcox came on, my reps increased,” Dobbs said. “Plus they moved me [from outside] to inside linebacker. I was a free safety in high school, and I thought inside linebacker was a more natural position for me.”
Still, Dobbs didn’t get much playing time that fall. “I’d get in if we were blowing somebody out,” he said. “I’d have a tackle here and there. I was probably in on four plays in the Fiesta Bowl, all on special teams.”
In 2007 Dobbs moved up to starting long snapper, but he wasn’t expecting extensive playing time at linebacker, although he played a fair amount in the Broncos’ lopsided season-opening win against Weber State. However, his status changed the following week when fellow linebacker David Shields injured his shoulder against Washington. Shields’ misfortune was Dobbs’ opportunity.
“When talking about Dallas the saying comes to mind: Success appears easy to those who weren’t there when it was being earned,” said Tuivai. “We talk a lot about roles on the team. He was a long snapper who worked his way into a position where he was no longer a scout team guy. He starting getting some reps last year and took full advantage of the opportunity to play when that arose last year.”
Dobbs went on to earn a starting spot and was named the inaugural winner of the Bronco Excellence Award, which goes to the team’s most improved player.
“It meant a lot to be recognized, especially after being off the radar screen at the start,” he said. “Coach Pete puts a lot of emphasis on getting better, so I felt good about that.”
His pulled hamstring notwithstanding, Dobbs hopes to see plenty of action at linebacker his senior year. Right now, however, he’s forced to sit and watch his teammates during fall camp as his leg heals. In the meantime, sophomore middle linebacker Derrell Acrey has performed well in the preseason drills and was a defensive standout in Monday’s scrimmage.
“Derrell is a good player and a competitor,” said Dobbs. “My attitude is to give it my all, and if things don’t work out, I’ll contribute somewhere else. I’m not necessarily looking to beat somebody out. Let’s just win games.”
Besides, no matter who gets the starting nod, Dobbs, Acree and the other members of the linebacking crew are likely to see plenty of action this fall. Much like the Bronco offense and its multiple substitutions, the Boise State defense also plans to use plenty of players this season.
“Coach Vil has said the days of three linebackers playing [an entire game] is over,” Dobbs said. “We are all going to rotate so nobody gets too gassed. On defense, we’re working to have guys in the games who are fresh, especially on the defensive line.”
Dobbs may not be a star, “but he’s a seasoned Bronco in terms of the way we do things here,” said Tuivai. “He understands what out standards are and how to work and meet our expectations. He’s a bright young man with a bright future.”