There weren’t many tangible differences between last year and this year when Joshua Dobbs ran onto Haslam Field for Tuesday’s first fall camp practice.
It was the same lush green grass Dobbs sprinted over when he first arrived for camp last season as an unnoticed sophomore. He passed the same black iron gates, the same media faces taking dutiful notes on the sideline and the same fancy facility that grandly looms over the practice field.
There was, however, one glaring change. This time around, Dobbs wasn’t just a guy.
He’s the guy.
The junior team captain who morphed from third string quarterback to incomparable leader in one season at Tennessee entered a familiar Haslam Field in unfamiliar territory.
The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Georgia native has grown from a face in the back to the face of the program, and he’s now who the team turns to as “program CEO” heading into the 2015 season.
“Obviously growing on the spring, spring was really the first time I’ve been named the starter, so I’m just growing on that. It was a great day for us,” Dobbs said. “The guys were really excited to get back on the field. We did a great job. We had a lot of energy. We competed today, so that’s what we want every day. We’ve got to keep that consistent throughout fall camp.”
Dobbs was one of the main projectors of the lively aura that permeated the air Tuesday. He bounced around the field shouting encouragement and patting his teammates on the helmet. He sprinted to every new station as soon as the buzzer sounded. He threw the ball to his receivers with precision and touch.
The unmistakable Vol star wasn’t out to prove anything new to his team. After leading Tennessee to a 4-1 record as a starter at the end of last year, Dobbs has already done that. He said he’s simply trying to continue things like they left them at the conclusion of spring practice.
“I don’t really think I wanted to show anything. (My teammates) know my mindset coming in. My goal was just to come in with a lot of energy and just pick up where we left off,” Dobbs said. “We didn’t want to use this day one as an excuse to have a slow day, so I just wanted to come in high energy, start fast and then be able to build on that throughout fall camp.”
Kyler Kerbyson has definitely seen a difference. The senior offensive lineman tasked with protecting Dobbs witnessed a more composed leader who understands his place atop the Vols’ locker room totem pole.
“He’s a great leader. It’s great to see him being the starting quarterback and named that guy.” Kerbyson said. “You can see it in him. He’s a lot more confident, which is great for us, because we want a confident quarterback. Having all that is making us a lot better.”
Dobbs believes this first day was smoother than in years past due to the consistency of the coaching staff and maturation of the team, and he isn’t shying away from the lofty expectations being thrust upon Tennessee as it prepares to contend for an SEC Eastern Division title.
But the team’s talented, energetic and savvy CEO knows the time for talking is almost up. He may be in new territory heading into this fall camp, but the expectations he and Butch Jones have for the Vols have stayed the same.
“We came here to play football, not talk and all this stuff,” Dobbs said. “We want to be on the field and we want to be on the field playing football. It was great to get back on the field playing the game we love and preparing for the season.”
Joshua Dobbs describes Day 1
Click the InsideTennessee logo below to be taken to Tuesday's practice notes in premium message board VolChat:
Butch Jones speaks with reporters