Where does the quarterback situation stand in Knoxville? That’s a good question — one that Josh Heupel wasn’t interested in answering on Monday. It’s understandable though, considering how different the offense looked under each passer on Saturday.
Joe Milton got his second start for Tennessee against Pittsburgh, once again showing big flashes but failing to deliver overall. Milton fired away down field to wide open receivers, missing each and every one of them and really handicapping the Tennessee attack. Tensions were rising in the stadium as Pittsburgh capitalized on the Volunteers’ missed opportunities.
Just as it seemed like decision time for Heupel, Milton took a shot and exited to the locker room with an injury. Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker entered the game in his place, starting slow, but eventually helping Tennessee climb back into the game.
Hooker played efficiently enough for the starting quarterback job to be at least a conversation once again, at least in most people’s eyes. At his Monday press conference, Heupel didn’t commit to much of anything.
“We’ll find out where he’s at during the course of the week,” Heupel said of Milton, who did remain atop the unofficial depth chart. “There’s multiple factors at play on who the guy is that’s going to be taking snaps.”
Josh Heupel meeting with the media, discussing the quarterbacks: Joe knows there guys running open in the secondary and they are plays we have to make. He's shown the ability to do so in practice.— Ben McKee (@benmckee14) September 13, 2021
Heupel said Joe's status from a health standpoint is unknown.
It would seem like the head coach would have a pretty good idea of where his starting quarterback is health-wise at this point — he likely does — but he’s not giving anything away today.
There’s little doubt that the offense was more efficient running with Hooker. There’s also little doubt that it has more upside with Milton. However, how long can Tennessee afford to wait on Milton to figure things out? Is it even something that he can figure out? His struggles so far matchup perfectly with what we were told by Michigan writers during the offseason.
Tennessee has Tennessee Tech on Saturday to try and iron some things out. And then things really get heavy with a trip to The Swamp on September 25th to face Florida. Could we see multiple quarterbacks on Saturday? We probably should, and that includes Harrison Bailey.
For now though, we don’t have an update. And we likely won’t have one for the rest of the week.