KNOXVILLE — Josh Dobbs took more than a few footballs to his spring throwing sessions.
When Tennessee's incoming freshman quarterback went to the turf field at Alpharetta High School to work on his craft, the partial playbook sent to him by the Volunteers' coaches and his cell phone weren't far away.
Thus neither were Tennessee's coaches, specifically offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian.
"I've been able to talk to them as much as needed," Dobbs told the Times Free Press last week. "Of course they're always a phone call away, and they're always willing to help. When I was out throwing at the field one day, I had a question about a progression, I picked up the phone and called Coach Jake and we talked a little bit.
"He answered my questions and made it a little bit more clear, so they're always there and they're always being extremely helpful when [I'm] getting down the playbook."
Between finishing an impressive high school career academically and helping Alpharetta's baseball team reach the state playoffs in Georgia's largest classification, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Dobbs has been preparing himself for the start of his college career.
Much of that work has been with his personal coach Quincy Avery, a former receiver at Morehouse College in Atlanta who's now a quarterback instructor following a stint as an offensive staffer at UCLA under coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
Dobbs said he and Avery would simulate the routes in his playbook to allow him to visualize the reads and progressions in the Vols' offense. It's how you'd expect a player with a 4.0-plus grade point average and aspirations to earn an aeronautical engineering degree to go about learning an offense. In an interview in February, Dobbs said he learned his high school's offense in a day.
Though a college offense is a different animal, Dobbs, a visual learner who said he'll write things down to expedite the learning process, feels he's made progress with the new scheme.
"I have a pretty good grasp of it," he said. "Of course it's more difficult than a high school offense, which is definitely expected going up a level of football, especially playing SEC football. But I've been getting a pretty good grasp of the information that I've gotten so far from Coach Jake.
"I know when I get on campus, there will be more to learn, and it'll be great to continue adding on the playbook and starting to become more comfortable with it as I get a chance to work with the receivers and personnel that I'll be running it with in college, so I'm looking forward to it."
First-year Vols head coach Butch Jones spoke throughout spring practice about his desire for his quarterbacks to have what he dubbed a "command presence" of the offense and be the "alpha male" to the other 10 players on the field, but Dobbs understands that's just part of the responsibility of his position.
"It doesn't really make me nervous and it's not really intimidating, just because as a quarterback that's your position, that's who you're expected to be," he said. "You're expected to be the leader of the offense whether you're a quarterback in middle school, high school, or of course in college.
"I've also had experience with that when I changed high schools [from Wesleyan to Alpharetta] coming in my junior year and having to take control of seniors that are already established in the offense and juniors that had been playing. It's something that I'm used to, and I'm actually looking forward to it. I think it'll be great to get a chance just to make bonds with all the Tennessee players there and the new ones coming in and our brotherhood. I'm really looking forward to it this summer."
Many Tennessee fans are intrigued by what Dobbs can bring, but for now he's focused more on himself than the Vols' open competition with junior Justin Worley, redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman and fellow incoming freshman Riley Ferguson.
"My goal is just to go in there and compete, get the offense down, work hard, continue to grow and get better every day to help out the team in the best way I can," Dobbs said. "I know I'm going to go in there and compete from day one and show them what I can do at the quarterback position. It's the same message [from the coaches].
"Of course nothing can be given to you at the college level. You have to come in and prove it and earn the position, and that's what they've shared and that's what I expected to begin with. It's just going to be come in and compete from day one."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...