Tennessee Quarterback Joe Milton (No. 7). Photo by Rocky Top Insider.
Veteran quarterback Joe Milton III is set to lead the high-flying Tennessee Volunteers offense during his final season of college football coming up this fall.
While Milton did end the previous season as the Orange Bowl champion over Clemson, the rising sixth-year senior is aiming to take Tennessee to new heights back in the driver’s seat of the car.
Standing at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Milton doesn’t lack any of the athleticism to play quarterback at a high level in the Southeastern Conference. The question around Milton’s game, dating back to his time at Michigan and also in his limited starts at Tennessee, has been around his accuracy.
It’s not hard to see that Milton can throw the ball – practically – from one side of the field to the other. But Josh Heupel’s offense is much more elaborate than just deep shots down the field. The running game, combined with short and medium passes following quick decision-making, is often what has set up Tennessee’s deep success in the past.
Milton started the first two games of his Tennessee career in 2021 before an injury led Hendon Hooker to the starting role for the past two seasons. Milton, having just transferred to Tennessee from Michigan, had won the starting job at the beginning of the season but admits in hindsight that he hadn’t formed that deep bond with his receivers yet.
“Accuracy is based on how well you know your receivers, like you said,” Milton said during an interview at SEC Media Days on Thursday. “When I first got here, I didn’t know those guys and I was going through a little bit of struggles.”
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Through the rest of the 2021 season and nearly the entire 2022 season, Milton served as Tennessee’s backup. While Milton wasn’t on the field with the starters, being the backup quarterback gave him the opportunity to form relationships with several different players on the team. Milton said on Thursday that he has special handshakes with multiple guys on the team, players that are not household names by any means.
“But as I got to know those guys by being the backup, I got to understand those guys and what they wanted to do with the offense and the routes,” Milton continued on to say. “They got to understand what type of person I was and what I was looking for when I was on the field. So just being able to have fun with those guys is great.”
Milton believes that the quality relationships with the wide receivers on the team is an advantage heading into the season. And, judging by his answer to the question, it sounds like Milton’s accuracy could see improvement this season because of those formed relationships.
Milton, along with veteran wide receiver Ramel Keyton, took a New York tour this past May with activities such as marquee interviews, the Nasdaq closing bell ceremony, and more. Milton said during SEC Media Days that he and Keyton bonded greatly during that trip, which is an example of something that wasn’t happening prior to his first season as the Tennessee quarterback.
Accuracy, unfortunately, isn’t as simple as just having quality relationships with the players that are set to catch the passes down the field. There’s obviously a great deal of skill, IQ, awareness, talent, and presence that goes into being an accurate quarterback. Regardless, though, the relationship factor is a big one and one that wasn’t entirely present for Milton’s first swing at the Tennessee starting position.
The Tennessee senior quarterback is looking to make the most out of his final season in Knoxville after building solid relationships over the past two years.