SALT LAKE CITY — Boobie Hobbs exudes confidence, especially when it comes to his speed. The Utah defensive back takes pride in his quickness.
“I believe no one can run faster than me at this point,” said the senior, who clocked a team-best 4.38 time in the 40 last spring.
Since then, the Utes have added speedy freshman Javelin Guidry to the roster. As a high school senior, he set a California state record with a 10.13 time in the 100 meters.
Although Hobbs acknowledged that the “big 10.1” by Guidry was great, he believes he’s faster.
“Speed on a football field,” Hobbs added. “My reaction speed, in my opinion, is better than my straight down the line speed because I’m able to switch directions fast without having to set my feet. But Guidry is pretty fast, man.”
Hobbs and Guidry are both in the mix at nickel back.
“We’re very competitive,” Hobbs said. “We joke about it all the time, He’s just a great kid.”
However, football is a bottom-line business.
“Speed is a big part of who I am, and I want to show the world my speed,” Hobbs added.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted that the Utes have four or five guys with sub 4.4 times in the 40.
“Boobie’s one of those guys,” he said. “It’s a big weapon, and it’s a huge asset for a DB to possess that speed because he’s got catch-up speed. If you get a little separation, he can make that up.”
Hobbs is versatile as well. Besides topping the depth chart at nickel, he’s an accomplished punt returner. The former New Orleans prep star took one back 55 yards for a touchdown last season against Colorado.
“He’s a very good punt returner. He’s really started to develop as a punt returner. When he was first back there, a little too much east and west, but now he’s starting to get the feel of getting up the field,” said Whittingham, who then referenced the punt Hobbs took back to the house in Boulder. “By the end of the season, he had become a viable weapon for us on punt return and he’s going to have that role again this year.”
Hobbs has returned 45 punts in his first three seasons with the Utes, netting 359 yards. It’s a job he enjoys.
“I feel like I’ve got a big chip on my shoulder. I’ve got a lot to prove, and I’m not done proving it,” Hobbs said. “ A lot of people overlook me as a returner.”
Hobbs admits to making a couple of bad decisions earlier in his career, but he has moved forward with an attitude of a having a lot to prove and a lot to work on.
“I’m not scared to catch the ball. My biggest problem is just trying to make the spectacular play. That’s what I was known for in high school,” Hobbs said. “Coming to college, it’s just about catch the ball and give your offense a chance. You know, it’s a team thing. That’s what I had to learn and it took my a while. But I’ve got it down pat and I’m still learning and still working.”
Cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah agrees with the latter. Shah and defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley recruited Hobbs out of New Orleans. Because of the high number of talented players in that city, he explained, many who go elsewhere for college believe they’re deemed to be starters.
“That’s who I am. I played in one of the best cities in the country. I can come to Utah and start,” Shah said. “Well, it’s not that easy, baby. We’ve got good ballplayers here, too.”
Shah added that it took time for Hobbs to become a college football player. That included learning how to not just rely on his God-given ability and talent, as well as understanding the schemes, concepts and principles to become a good defensive player.
“This year Boobie has really stepped up in a huge way,“ Shah said. “I love his maturation process, love his leadership skills. I love who Boobie is trying to become.”
Shah predicts big things for Hobbs — on defense and special teams. Scalley is optimistic as well.
“Now it’s his time to shine and I’m excited for him,” Scalley said. “He’s really worked hard. He’s smart football player and he brings a ton of energy. So I’m excited for him this year.”
Defensively, Scalley noted that Hobbs has been in the shadow of Justin Thomas. The four-year starter, who concluded his career in 2016, played in 50 games — not leaving a lot of time for Hobbs.
“He hasn’t gotten a ton of reps, but he’s been a team guy,” said Scalley, who explained that Hobbs could have easily been a ‘me guy’ who could have asked to play outside corner and maybe get a shot for more playing time. “He didn’t do that. He continued to work. He came in games where we had our dime packages, made a play against Cal (in 2015) that helped us win the game.”
The late pass breakup showcased the skills Hobbs has on defense. Even so, he’s played in 37 games for the Utes with just 14 career tackles.
“I’m kind of nervous, you know what I mean. I don’t know what my future holds,” Hobbs said. “I’ve got another season to show what I can do — hopefully, to make it to the next level, But I just take it day-by-day.”
Two words followed: “hard work.”
It fuels his determination. Despite heavy graduation losses and the early departure of safety Marcus Williams to the NFL, Hobbs is extremely confident about Utah’s cornerbacks and safeties.
“We lost a lot of guys to the NFL, a lot of good guys, a lot of guys I was close to. But I think the secondary this year is going to be even better,” he said, referring to teammates like safety Corrion Ballard and cornerback Casey Hiughes as studs. “We’re just ready to get after it.”
As a senior, Hobbs is taking more of a leadership role. He said that a lot of the younger guys look up to him and ask a lot of questions. The subject matters cover topics on and off the field.
Hobbs approaches his leadership role with an aim to take things day-by-day and be consistent in what he does.
Same goes for his mentality as a player.
“Wherever they need me. I feel I know everything in the secondary. I know almost everything on the defense,” Hobbs said. “So wherever they need me to play, I’ll play it.”