Tennessee opens camp on Wednesday, meaning quarterback Joe Milton can finally operate in an official team setting with the Volunteers. The Michigan transfer joined the team after spring concluded and now finds himself in another quarterback battle in fall camp.
Milton won the last battle he was in at Michigan, but his stay as the starter didn’t last long. He was benched midseason, which led to his decision to enter the transfer portal shortly after. Josh Heupel, who is plenty familiar with Milton, swooped in to give the former Wolverine a new home.
Starting this week, he’ll battle it out with Harrison Bailey, Brian Maurer and Hendon Hooker for the starting job in Knoxville.
“He has a bunch of film, so you get to see at least what he has done at the Division I level,” Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh said on Tuesday. “There’s some deficiencies in there that we’ve worked like crazy to correct, that Joe has worked like crazy to correct. But I remember him out of high school. I remember watching that high school film. I know coach Heupel, they recruited him at UCF. So, there are a bunch of us that have seen him, a bunch of us that have studied him.”
Milton is a former four-star recruit. At Michigan last season, Milton completed 80 of 141 pass attempts, throwing for 1,077 yards. He threw four touchdowns and four interceptions on the year, appearing in six games. Milton also added 109 yards rushing.
He gives Tennessee another mobile option at quarterback, offering a different style than perceived leader Harrison Bailey does.
“Really strong arm guy, big body type,” Golesh said. “And I mean big, big body, he is big. He is as big of a quarterback as I’ve ever been around. Really strong arm, has the ability to run. They did not ask him to do that a ton, but can win running the football with him as well. But he has an extremely strong arm.”
Milton officially joined the team on June 1st, and has since been working in throwing sessions with his receivers. He’s been able to participate in team workouts, but Wednesday will be his first official practice with the team. Will he be able to settle into the offense and catch up with the rest of the signal callers after missing all of the spring period? That’s what we’re about to find out.
“Since he’s been here, you look at the film, you realize he’s a really highly intelligent, fun guy to be around,” Golesh continued. “He loves football. All those things that we preach in recruiting, all of those things that we internally constantly talk about—guys that are mentally tough, guys that are intelligent, guys that share a love for the game of football—those are the guys who we want in our program and he fits that.”
So what does this staff what to see out of Milton? Heupel has routinely mentioned the word trust with his quarterbacks, so taking care of the football and making the right decisions in practice will go a long way towards winning this job. Also, according to Golesh, the staff needs to go through a little adversity with Milton to see how he reacts.
“We have not gone through any adversity with Joe,” Golesh said. “Joe had gone through adversity at Michigan. Obviously ups and downs in his career and season there a year ago. We have not gone through any of that with Joe, we have not gone through any of that, in a lot of ways with a lot of guys. That will be the true tale of what Joe is.”
We’ve got a long way to go in camp, and Milton has yet to take a single practice rep, but this staff seems pretty high on him. The 6-5, 243 pound passer will clearly have every opportunity to win this job, despite entering the battle late.
“I’m excited to see it,” Golesh said. “He’s excited to show us, he’s excited to show himself, his family, that he can take the next step.”