Each season the talented quarterback has been in Knoxville has been unique. He first joined Heupel’s squad out of the NCAA Transfer Portal following three seasons with the Michigan Wolverines. After winning the starting gig for the 2021 season, Milton found himself backing up Hendon Hooker by the end of the year.
Then, Milton went into 2022 knowing it was Hooker’s team, but opted to stay and grow inside Heupel’s offense. When Hooker went down with an injury later during his tremendous season, Milton took over and led the Volunteers to a victory over the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl.
Now, Milton is ready for his second chance to lead Tennessee, and he’s better suited now than he originally was to be their quarterback. Speaking with the media, Heupel explained his takeaways regarding the quarterback’s development this spring.
“He continued to refine his skills,” Heupel explained, asked what he’s seen from Milton thus far. “Understanding of who we are, what we’re trying to do offensively, defensively. What we’re seeing on the other side, from their structure. Doing a great job with his eye discipline. Then you combine that with his fundamental development inside of the pocket. I love what I’ve seen from him.
“Should lead to him becoming a more accurate passer, being a great decision maker and taking care of the football.”
Meanwhile, Milton’s tried to keep the same mindset through all the trials and tribulations he’s faced, as he explained earlier last week.
“Nothing’s pretty much changed,” added Milton. “I kind of go every day as I was last year. Just preparing, and you know, getting ready. You never know when your time is called, just like last year I didn’t know my time was called, I just kept repping it. Kept getting better, and just pushing Hendon [Hooker].
“I get more reps, I get to talk to Nico [Iamaleava] and the rest of the quarterback room, Gaston [Moore] and Navy [Shuler]. I get more reps. Just the mental aspect of it, just because I have to explain it to every one else. They also prep you to be more prepared for when those situations come.”
Regardless, the weight of great expectations will be placed firmly upon his shoulders moving forward. Milton’s performance against the Tigers, when he threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, lended credibility to the fact that he’s talented enough to pick up where Hooker left off. However, it’s a different story doing it over an entire season.
Joe Milton has the confidence of his head coach in Josh Heupel, and Tennessee looks to be in good hands with both leading the charge in 2023.
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