A bad night got worse for Tennessee late on Saturday against Florida. Quarterback Hendon Hooker, who has been starting in place of the injured Joe Milton, exited the game in the fourth quarter after taking a sack.
Milton, who wasn’t at 100 percent according to head coach Josh Heupel, was able to finish the game in place of Hooker. However, now both guys are dealing with injuries just as the SEC schedule is set to ramp up.
Tennessee has a trip to Missouri up next, and the quarterback situation couldn’t be any muddier. On Monday, Heupel wouldn’t commit to much of anything, as he’s done for the last couple of weeks.
Heupel on whether Joe Milton III definitely will definitely start for the #Vols on Saturday if Hendon Hooker isn’t available: “I’m not going to speak to situations that aren’t real at this point.”— GoVols247 (@GoVols247) September 27, 2021
Heupel did seem optimistic on Milton’s status as the week begins.
Josh Heupel says Joe Milton III continues to get healthier.— Dan Harralson (@danharralson) September 27, 2021
Heupel adds that Hooker is not currently in concussion protocol.— Eric Cain (@_Cainer) September 27, 2021
And it also didn’t sound like Harrison Bailey was in any plans, despite both top quarterbacks suffering injuries.
Heupel was just asked directly about the if the QBs being banged up meant this was a big week for Harrison Bailey.— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) September 27, 2021
He said he expects Milton to continue to progress with his health and didn’t mention Bailey.
Milton started the year at quarterback and flashed all kinds of big play potential, but his crippling lack of deep accuracy held the Tennessee offense back. Hendon Hooker is a more conservative option with an admittedly more limited set of skills, but the offense did operate more efficiently with him running the show.
Hooker is up to 613 yards passing, seven touchdowns and one interception on the year. He’s also added 136 yards rushing. Milton has thrown for 243 yards and one score, completing just 46 percent of his attempts on the year.
On the unofficial depth chart given out to the media on Monday, Milton remained listed as the starter. If Heupel does go back to Milton, it will be interesting to see if the Michigan transfer can dial back that deep ball a bit and start hitting some of those wide open shots down the field.
Don’t expect a final answer until Saturday, with kickoff set for noon ET on SEC Network.