KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee's freshman quarterback spoke to the media for the first time on Tuesday, but it was far from the first time Joshua Dobbs has been vocal inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex.
Dobbs, who will start his second game for the Volunteers Saturday, spoke up on the field and in the meeting rooms last week after being named starter for UT's visit to Missouri. He notably entered the offensive line meeting room last week and has continued to speak up in the huddle and on the practice field. His message to his teammates has been clear.
"I need to make sure that everyone is focused and that everyone knows that our goals are intact," Dobbs said. "Our goal is to make it to a bowl game and we have three games to do that. We go out, compete hard and do the best we can every time we step out onto the field."
"Everything is about preparation and taking pride in your preparation," coach Butch Jones said about the leadership Dobbs has displayed. "Josh doesn't have to win the football game for us, we need him to manage the game."
He managed the game against the Tigers to the tune of 26 completions for 240 yards, a season-high for the Tennessee passing game. But two interceptions and a fumble took some attention away from the positive numbers. Dobbs didn't mind the criticism that accompanied the mistakes.
"Being the quarterback, people look to you when things go wrong," he said. "You just get used to it. Being a quarterback requires being a leader."
Dobbs said he was extremely excited for the opportunity to lead the Volunteers onto Shields-Watkins Field for the first time against another group of Tigers, these from Auburn, another top-10 team. All three of Dobbs' appearances this season have been against top-10 opponents.
"When you put so much time and effort into it, you don't have time to sit around and think about that," Jones said on the slate that Dobbs has faced. "You have to focus on the task at hand and the tremendous opponent we have coming in. All your effort, all your energy has to be towards that. Block out all the clutter and distractions.
"He has had to go play in two tough environments so I think that has prepared him for this opportunity against another great defense."
A student of all aspects of the game, Dobbs understands what it means to lead a team as the starting quarterback at UT, just the eighth freshman to do so. But he's not worried about what others have done before him. He's focused on the challenge that stands a little less than four days away.
"It means a lot," he said. "Tennessee is a University with a rich quarterback tradition. My goal is to go out and compete hard every day and be the best quarterback I can be."
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)