North Cobb linebacker Joshua Josephs is the 2021 Cobb County Defensive Player of the Year.

On the defensive side of the ball, there isn’t much North Cobb linebacker Joshua Josephs can’t do.

Rush the passer? Check.

Cover a slot receiver? Check.

Man up and get physical in the run game? Check, check, check.

It’s a big reason why the 6-foot-3, 215-pound four-star recruit had more than 30 Power 5 scholarship offers. It likely means the University of Tennessee has gotten one of the best all-around players in the southeast to come and help anchor its front seven.

“He’s so versatile,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “That’s what he’s going to bring to Tennessee.”

For the season, Josephs finished with 121 tackles, 22 for loss and eight sacks. He consistently made momentum and game-changing plays, and for his efforts, Josephs is the 2021 Cobb County Defensive Player of the Year, as voted on by the coaches.

“There’s a lot of good defensive players in Georgia,” Warriors’ quarterback Malachi Singleton said. “But there is no player better than JJ. He makes so many plays. His arms are so long, he’s fast, and he can drop into coverage.”

In 2020, Josephs had a breakout season. He finished the year with 98 tackles, seven for loss, and four sacks, but he knew that would have to get better this year, so he went to work in the offseason. He added good weight and worked on his strength.

“I was able to handle more this season,” he said. “I was able to take on more blocking and still make the tackle.”

Maybe most importantly, he learned the valuable lesson of extensive film study, which allowed him to react instead of having to think things through on the field.

“I watched more film,” he said. “It helped me a lot. I knew what play our opponents were going to run based on their tendencies. It turned me loose to just go make the play.”

As he prepares to head to Knoxville at the conclusion of his senior year, Josephs said his college coaches are stressing to him to continue getting stronger and to work on his overall game. Once he arrives, Josephs said he’s been told he will play what Tennessee calls the “Leo” in their scheme — a hybrid outside linebacker/edge rusher position. It’s a continuation of the way he’s played the last few years.

“When I was a junior I kind of modeled my game after (Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker) T.J. Watt,” he said. “I still watch a lot of the things he does.”

Unfortunately for Queen and the Warriors, Josephs graduating from the program ends an era. He was the fourth of fourth brothers to play at North Cobb. He had been in the program since the sixth grade.

“Believe it or not, when I first saw him he was a running back,” Queen said. “He knows our culture and he knows what it means to be a part of our community. He has represented them well.”


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