KNOXVILLE — Josh Dobbs is Tennessee football.
The senior quarterback and team captain is the foundational piece of coach Butch Jones’ Rocky Top rebuild. He’s considered one of best signal callers in the SEC and he is positioned to become UT’s all-time leader in touchdowns this fall.
So in advance of a pivotal 2016 season, Dobbs has become much more vocal than years past.
“I continue to take on more leadership,” he said. “I just want to hold the offense to a high standard. If I see something that I need to address and fix it, then I’ll do that. And I won’t hesitate to do that.”
After Tennessee blew fourth-quarter leads in four games last season, Dobbs learned the value of “finishing games strong,” so early in training camp he’s made sure his teammates aren’t wasting a single rep in practice.
“If I see something good and want to inform everybody, ‘We’re doing this good. Keep it up.’ I’ll address it, as well,” Dobbs said.
“You want to point out the good and the bad in order to continue to motivate guys that continue to want to work hard and continuing to want to improve.”
While Dobbs’ overall leadership has never been questioned, Vols second-year offensive coordinator Mike DeBord has already noticed a tangible difference in the way Dobbs speaks to teammates in his senior season.
Unlike last year, Dobbs is addressing entire units (receivers, offensive line) and the offense as a whole now.
“I just see him really taking control,” DeBord said. “I think before, he was hesitant to bring the team up.”
Dobbs refuses to squander his final season, so in addition to focusing on improving his leadership, he added some noticeable muscle mass this summer and tinkered with his mechanics and footwork.
“It’s just about being durable through the season,” Dobb said, noting he hasn’t lost any flexibility or explosiveness with the added muscle.
“(Being) able to withstand the stress on your body through the season.”
Through one week of fall practice, DeBord has liked what he’s seen from Dobbs’ footwork, especially on throws out of the pocket.
Accuracy has always been a question mark for Dobbs, who completed just 59.6 percent of his passes last season. While the signal caller took care of the football — his five interceptions were the fewest at Tennessee since Peyton Manning’s four in 1995 — Dobbs was consistently ineffective in the fourth quarter (40 attempts, zero touchdowns, 1 interception).
“I want to complete every ball I throw,” Dobbs said. “You look at statistics and everything, a great competition percentage in the SEC is 65 percent and an extraordinary one is 70 percent. That’s what we’re aiming for.
“Every ball you throw, you throw with a purpose. At the end of the day, you want to take care of the football and get the ball in our playmakers’ hands. That’s what we’re seeking this camp and pushing for this season.”
— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) August 4, 2016
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com