CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- IF YOU knew Aaron Dobson's cell number, you don't anymore. He pulled the proverbial plug, giving you that nagging voice telling you, "You have reached a number that has been changed or is no longer in service, blah, blah, blah."Really, he had to.I am reminded of a former Marshall player, tight end Lee Smith, promising he was going to be impossible to reach after the night he was selected in the 2011 draft by the Patriots. Let me tell you, he kept his promise.This is the craziest, most important time in life of Dobson, the wide receiver from Dunbar. After he was selected 59th overall by the New England Patriots, he was all but whisked off to Foxborough to get started.His first action came in three days of minicamps. He returned home until May 13, when he reported for those OTAs - Organized Team Activities or Offseason Training Activities or whatever words you can fit into those letters.Those OTAs are not all about route-running. He went through some activities sponsored by the NFL Players Association, including a networking function of sorts with officials from Upper Deck and other sports-related companies. Rookies undergo an orientation in late June in Canton, Ohio."He's been pretty busy," said Dobson's father, Bobby. "He's enjoying it, the different level and tempo. He's getting used to a new terminology, digging into the playbook, trying to learn as much as he can as quick as he can."Something Aaron Dobson learned to do quickly, Dad said, is getting used to catching passes from Tom Brady. Let's put it this way: Dobson won't have to make many backhanded catches."He said it's incredible," Bobby Dobson said. "You don't realize it, because the ball is there perfectly every time."I would expect the younger Dobson's signing this week. On Friday, the Patriots signed their earlier second-round pick, linebacker Jamie Collins of Southern Mississippi, the 52nd overall pick. Four of the Pats' seven draft picks have been signed.In terms of warm bodies, Dobson enters a mosh pit at wide receiver - 11 players in all. But this unit is in full rebuilding mode, with former St. Louis Ram Danny Amendola and maybe Julian Edelman the only names you probably know.Better than that, only Edelman (69) and Matthew Slater (1) have caught passes from Brady. Edelman suffered a foot injury, limiting his season to nine games.One other "X"-type receiver, Josh Boyce of Texas Christian, was selected in the fourth round. Others vying for roster spots will included Michael Jenkins, a 10th-year veteran who has caught 354 passes for the Falcons and Vikings, and Lavelle Hawkins, at sixth-year man who caught 47 passes for the Titans in 2011. Also added was Donald Jones, who caught 82 passes in three years for the Bills.Herd fans may remember Kamar Aiken from his Central Florida days, but he has played three games in two years. If you know Kembrell Thompkins, you must be a Cincinnati fan.
The most curious part of the Conference USA meetings is having women's basketball adopt a Wednesday-Saturday scheduling format - in other words, what the men's teams had, and what most of them liked for some reason. Good luck with that, ladies.As the new C-USA lineup goes with a more sensible Thursday-Saturday format, I hear two ways this could benefit the new C-USA: More potential for TV and better officiating, believe it not. Apparently, more of the better officials have more big-game assignments on Wednesday than on Thursday. nnLeft over from the state track meet: You've got to give it up for Frankfort's Shane Ickes.In the boys Class AA 3,200- and 1,600-meter runs, he took the "rabbit" role to a whole new level, taking outrageous leads in both events. I guess if this were NASCAR, he'd get points for leading a lap, right?His leads didn't last long, and they disappeared in spectacular fashion. In the 1,600, he sailed backward to ninth place; in the 3,200, he finished seventh.
"I think if you go out hard, you have your mind set on, 'I'm going to win it,'" Ickes explained. "And if someone passes you, you can say to yourself, 'I can win it, still. It's a chance.'"I asked him what his best time in the 1,600 was and he replied: "Four minutes flat." Ummmm, maybe not - that would clip off 17.54 seconds from the 20-year-old AA record of Athens' Mikey Cox.Ickes finished in 4:41.99, but he earned his 15 seconds of fame here. A graduation present of sorts. nnGolfing note: As you may know, good ol' Mother Nature took down some 200 trees on the three courses at The Greenbrier Resort last summer, with that derecho inflicting its damage days before the third Greenbrier Classic. Fifty-two trees were toppled on the Old White TPC.But at Muirfield Village Golf Club, site of the Memorial Tournament and the 2013 President's Cup matches, a number of trees have been taken out voluntarily, a pruning of sorts.Taking a tour of the course last week, I noticed a few patches of land and wondered if the course was growing unusual obstacles of high rough. No, I was told, those are where trees were pulled out.If you've been there for that top-notch tournament, you would be surprised to know a number of trees are gone from the right of the iconic 18th fairway.At issue, it seems, is re-establishing some sightlines for spectators and those at the luxury homes that border the 39-year-old course. Those trees probably don't come into play for the PGA Tour pros, but losing them seems to help the happy hackers of the world.Until they find one of those creeks or those gaping bunkers. nnFinally, here is an appeal for a little help at University of Charleston Stadium/Laidley Field.The track surface is showing its age. The stands have long since showed their age in several rows. A few lesser-used rows have moss growing underneath them, for crying out loud.And out-of-town media covering track meets just love the never-accessible wireless internet connection. While an Ethernet line is available, this gives another example of this city's occasional inhospitality.We're moving toward an overhaul of the Civic Center, and that's the right course. But we neglect Laidley Field at our own peril.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.