Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) throws a pass to fellow quarterback Devin Smith (17) during Tennessee's opening spring football practice at Haslam Field on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)
Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau
March 24, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs understands how much the Volunteers are relying on him.

Dobbs must build on the momentum he established late last season and emerge as one of the Southeastern Conference's top quarterbacks for the Vols to compete for an Eastern Division title.

''We want a CEO quarterback,'' Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. ''And what does that mean? We want him to own the football team. We want him to take accountability for everything with our football team and with our offense.''

Dobbs, an aerospace engineering major and a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll, certainly realizes what that means. All eyes were on him Tuesday as Tennessee opened spring practice.

''It just means the team knows you're the guy, knows you're the starting quarterback,'' Dobbs said. ''They know what to look for from you, and you demand that out of them. You hold your teammates accountable.

''Everything I preach, I have to obviously do it on and off the field, and I hold them accountable to that as well. I'm just holding them accountable and pushing them to be the best players they can be and just staying on them consistently to get the best out of them.''

Tennessee also needs Dobbs to be at his best.

At least for now, the Vols don't have much of a backup plan.

Dobbs is the only scholarship quarterback returning from last season's team. Nathan Peterman's transfer to Pittsburgh leaves three freshmen competing for the right to back up Dobbs, who will be a junior this fall.

Quinten Dormady and Jauan Jennings both enrolled in January and are participating in spring practice. Sheriron Jones will join them this summer.

Dobbs' importance became obvious during the offseason when Jones was searching for an offensive coordinator. Jones allowed his quarterback to sit in on the interview for Mike DeBord, who eventually got the job.

Jones said he never before had allowed a player that opportunity, but he believed Dobbs ''had earned the right.''

''I wanted his feedback,'' Jones said. ''As we all know, Josh is very cerebral, and so I wanted his input on some of the things. I also wanted to see kind of the chemistry, the mesh that those two individuals - Coach DeBord and Josh Dobbs - would have. You could see in an instant there was a chemistry there.''

Dobbs said DeBord already has taught him mechanical adjustments such as staying compact and making quicker movements in the pocket. Dobbs said his relationship with DeBord benefited from witnessing that interview.

''It was great to sit down and speak with your future coach potentially and great to get in his mind and understand how he looks at football and how he looks at different things, different concepts, different schemes,'' Dobbs said.

Tennessee went 4-1 in the games Dobbs started last season after going 3-5 beforehand. Tennessee planned to redshirt Dobbs, but he was pressed into duty in October after Justin Worley tore the labrum in his right shoulder.

Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 469 yards and eight touchdowns while helping Tennessee end a string of four straight losing seasons.

Now he wants to lead the Vols to bigger things.

''This spring we definitely can take a lot of steps forward as an offense and as a team as a whole,'' Dobbs said. ''My goal is to push this team as hard as I can through the 15 practices we have.''

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