I got a chance to see Joe Milton in person for the first time when he was on campus for a visit for Michigan's spring game in April of 2017. The dude was such an impressive looking prospect that it became quite clear that he should be target No. 1 on U-M's quarterback board. Current UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was also in the house for that visit, and was arguably Michigan's top target heading into the weekend, but after seeing the two standing next to each other, Milton just looked like the guy.
About a week after Michigan's spring game, DTR committed to the Bruins and a couple weeks after that, Milton pledged to the Wolverines. Several months later, I got a chance to see Milton in action in person for the first time. I was covering recruiting for TheWolverine.com and Michigan was on a bye week so I decided to head down to Florida to check out the big quarterback along with fellow future Wolverines Sammy Faustin at Naples High School and recent transfer Charles Thomas who was playing linebacker at IMG Academy. I saw several other Michigan targets on the trip as well, but that's another story for another day.
During warm ups at Olympia High School, Milton looked like a college-ready player already. He was big, built, athletic and of course, already had that huge arm. He was bigger than most of his offensive linemen, faster than his skill players and was really asked to do a TON for his Olympia team. He threw the ball downfield a lot, which really played a big role in Milton's low completion percentage throughout his prep career. Big time college quarterbacks should be elite in just about every way in high school, but 50-yard deep balls just aren't high-percentage throws. Still, Milton and his Titans defeated Freedom High on that night, 42-9.
I remember watching Milton and thinking, "This dude is special." He had so much arm talent and was nearly impossible to tackle for mortal high school players. He was so big, strong and athletic that I truly felt like Michigan had landed a national championship level quarterback, and the coaching staff at U-M felt the same way. I'm not sure any of us are saying that now since we haven't seen him play, but the tools, skills and talents are all there.
His accuracy was an issue on that night and has been ever since. After that 33-point win and through five games, he was still completing just 47% of his passes. At Michigan, he's only thrown 11 passes, but two of them have been to the other team. When he takes the field on Saturday, he'll have to be as accurate as he's ever been. Minnesota is tough and their offense is going to put up points. Michigan can not afford for Milton to be inaccurate with the ball.
I remember being excited to watch Milton play on that October night in 2017 and I'm just as excited to watch him play on the fast-approaching October night against the Golden Gophers. I'm really anxious to see how Josh Gattis uses him. How many deep throws will there be? How often will Milton be used as a runner? What kinds of packages will we see in terms of putting skill players around Milton? All of those questions will be answered in a little over 48 hours as the Joe Milton era begins.