BUFORD, Ga. — For Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs, this is it.
The rising senior from Alpharetta, Georgia, was a spot starter for his first two seasons in Knoxville and took over the role on a full-time basis last offseason.
The result was another step forward.
Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards and 15 touchdowns, rushed for 671 yards and 11 touchdowns, caught a 58-yard touchdown pass and led his team to a 9-4 record. Had it not been for the Volunteer defense giving up a 68-yard touchdown on 4th-and-14 to Florida's Antonio Callaway with one minute, 26 seconds to play in the game between the two SEC East rivals, Dobbs and the Vols would have played in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama in 2015.
For Dobbs, the goal for spring in his final year on Rocky Top is to lead the team to a place it hasn't been since 2007.
"My job is to be the 'CEO' on the field," Dobbs told Bleacher Report on Sunday while serving as a guest counselor during the Atlanta regional qualifying event for The Opening. "I hold myself to a high standard in how I play with my execution."
In addition to Dobbs, the Vols return four starters along the offensive line and running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. The experience on that side of the ball has allowed offensive coordinator Mike DeBord to install new aspects to the offense just three practices into spring, while also making sure the entire roster is comfortable with the little things.
"We are adding wrinkles to the offense," DeBord said, according to quotes released by Tennessee. "So, we've already started that process. We will continue to do that in the spring. We've got to become a better football team offensively."
For Dobbs, that means pressing the issue and continuing the development the Vols showed during their current six-game winning streak.
"It's a continuous improvement, but I hold myself and the whole offense to that high standard."
For Dobbs, that means more consistency in the downfield passing game.
He averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt in 2015—10th in the conference and behind Florida signal-caller Treon Harris, South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth and Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert.
Not exactly the explosive downfield attack head coach Butch Jones and the Vols need to take pressure off of the running game.
Injuries and inexperience plagued the Vols' wide receivers last year, which prevented the passing game from getting going. Jason Croom missed the season; veteran Pig Howard was suspended, came back and then was dismissed in October; Marquez North was banged up and never really lived up to the hype; Preston Williams was a talented true freshman who fought through injuries; and fellow true freshman Jauan Jennings looked great at times but was still learning after moving over from quarterback in August.
Because of that, developing the familiarity and continuity with his wide receivers is paramount for Dobbs this spring.
"It's huge," Dobbs said. "Preston Williams, Jauan Jennings—Jauan obviously switching positions and Preston missing part of camp—it's huge for them. They've really come out and attacked the field, and looked good to open the spring."
If that development happens, this offense will be tough to stop.
The Vols return 99.8 percent of their rushing attack from a year ago, losing only Howard (13 rushing yards) and fellow receiver Von Pearson (negative-5 rushing yards), according to CFBStats.com. Included in that figure are Hurd's 1,288 yards and Kamara's 698 yards.
They also are threats as receivers out of the backfield. Hurd, who's more of a bruiser at 6'4", 240 pounds, had 22 catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns a year ago, with Kamara (5'10", 215 lbs) hauling in 34 passes for 291 yards and three scores.
The multi-dimensional rushing attack, when combined with a suddenly experienced offensive line, has Dobbs excited about the 2016 season.
"The sky is the limit," Dobbs said. "[Hurd and Kamara] are very dynamic. They do different things. With the combination of both of them, they do everything well. It's nice to have them in the backfield, that's for sure."
Dobbs has all of the pieces around him to lead his team back to the Georgia Dome, and that experience has allowed the senior to help fine-tune the offense early in spring practice.
If all goes according to his plan, the sky won't be the limit just for the running backs, but for the 2016 Tennessee Volunteers.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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