Tennessee Football. Photo by Ric Butler/RTI.
Only one Tennessee Volunteer was selected for ESPN’s Top 100 players in college football rankings on Tuesday morning. Not only that, Tennessee’s one player lands in the back quarter of the rankings, too.
Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III is the Vols’ lone representative on the list at No. 76 in the rankings.
“Milton served as Hendon Hooker’s backup the past two seasons and stepped in after Hooker was injured late last season. Milton, who has one of the strongest arms in college football, tied a career-high with three touchdown passes and was named MVP in the Vols’ 31-14 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson to close the 2022 season,” ESPN wrote for the Tennessee quarterback. “The 6-5, 245-pound redshirt senior started his career at Michigan before transferring to Tennessee. He threw 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions a year ago.”
The voting, which supposedly featured more than 10,000 votes from ESPN employees, was a series of one-on-one votes.
“For example, ‘Who should be ranked higher for the 2023 season: Blake Corum or Caleb Williams?’ Think of it as an Oklahoma drill of statistical reasoning.”
It would have been a complete shock to not see Milton on this list. While the veteran quarterback hasn’t played too much in the last two seasons, Milton led Tennessee to an Orange Bowl victory over Clemson in front of 8.6 million television viewers. While it is a little surprising to see Milton this low on the list, it would have been wild if his name was kept away.
Milton comes in as the No. 16-ranked quarterback in the nation according to ESPN’s Top 100 players list.
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While Tennessee not having a second player on the list isn’t necessarily egregious, it is somewhat surprising.
Wide receiver Bru McCoy had a big-time first year on Rocky Top despite being behind Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman (when not-injured) in terms of targets. The 6-foot-3 redshirt senior likely comes in as Tennessee’s second-best player behind Milton.
Running back Jaylen Wright, DB Wesley Walker, LB Aaron Beasley, and C Cooper Mays are four more players that Tennessee could’ve had land on the Top 100 list from ESPN.
Wright returns to Tennessee as the do-it-all back for Josh Heupel’s offense. Wright’s production was extremely necessary to Heupel’s offense in 2022 and could have gotten him listed as one of the top 100 players heading into 2023.
Staying on the offense side of the ball, center Cooper Mays returns to Tennessee after ending the 2022 season as the Vols’ second-highest-rated starting offensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus – only trailing Top 10 pick and future NFL star Darnell Wright. While it may not have been likely, per se, Mays still might have been able to sneak onto the rankings.
Safety Wesley Walker is a baffling snub. Let’s say that again. Wesley Walker’s snub is baffling. Not everyone might have that opinion, okay, but it is fair nonetheless. Walker returns to Tennessee in 2023 as Pro Football Focus’s highest-graded returning safety in the SEC. Walker is set to be a dynamite piece for the Vols’ defense this season and could have certainly found a spot on the list.
Lastly is linebacker Aaron Beasley. While he did play behind Jeremy Banks and Juwan Mitchell last year, Beasley was a major energy provider for the Vols’ defense and took advantage of his opportunity in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Beasley was all over the place that game. While it might not have been enough to vault him up and onto the Top 100 list, Beasley is still projected to be one of Tennessee’s top players this season.
Joe Milton, Tennessee’s quarterback and lone representative on ESPN’s Top 100 list, lands at No. 76 in the rankings.