HOOVER, Ala. -- Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs was given two jobs during the summer, both above and beyond his duties of zipping passes at intended Volunteers receivers.
First was an internship at aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. Dobbs, an aerospace engineering major, has been fascinated with airplanes and the specifics around how a heavy aircraft can get off the ground since he was very young. His duties during the summer involved testing engines for the military’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft.
As important as engine design for an advanced fighter aircraft sounds, it was Dobbs’ second gig that most people care about.
“We challenged him this spring to be what we call a CEO quarterback, an individual who owns the team, who owns the offense, that can solve problems on his own, that can provide the leadership and stability that you expect from that position,” head coach Butch Jones said Tuesday at SEC Media Days.
While his teammates jokingly call him Astro; his coach calls him his CEO. For the Volunteers to reach expectations in 2015 and have a shot at an SEC East title, Dobbs must perform like an all-important CEO.
Dobbs threw nine touchdown passes last season and ran for eight more. But it was his performance in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Iowa that has everyone talking about big things for Tennessee. Dobbs connected on 76.2 percent of his passes and helped the Vols to their first bowl win since the 2007 season.
Now Dobbs must find a way to lead his team to an SEC East title.
“The expectations will never be as high as they are internally,” Jones said. “And we have very high expectations for this football team.”
Dobbs took over last season for an inured Justin Worley and started five games to finish the season. Tennessee went 4-1 and a Dobbs-ran offense improved to average 37 point per game. During their first eight games, the Vols averaged just shy of 24.
The late-season surge pushed Tennessee to its first winning season since 2009. But Dobbs isn’t satisfied. While his offseason workout program hasn’t changed much, Dobbs said he has participated in a number of extra activities that should pay dividends this fall.
Dobbs learned from former Volunteers star Peyton Manning at the Manning Passing Academy and was arguably one of the best quarterbacks at the 2015 Elite 11 Finals at Nike World Headquarters in early July.
It’s up to the rising junior to take what he has learned during the offseason, combine that with the experience gained since taking over as a starter in 2014 and lead the Volunteers in 2015.
“He’s proven himself,” Jones said. “We understand what we’re getting with Josh. We always talk about consistency of performance and we always know what we’re getting with Josh.”
Don’t be surprised, however, if Dobbs hands the coaching staff (and fans) more than it expected.
Dobbs has landed as a dark horse Heisman candidate and has shown the intelligence needed to mix experience with practice and data to manage lofty expectations. On the flight from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Hoover, Jones joked that Dobbs wanted to fly the plane. He might not be ready to take flight just yet, at least not in the air. On the football field, that might be a different story.