If Tennessee fans all around the country were asked what the most exciting talking point has been this offseason, the vast majority would say the quarterback competition. One of the main reasons Tennessee has such an exciting quarterback competition to begin with is because of Michigan transfer QB Joe Milton. Before Milton came to Rocky Top, Tennessee was looking at Harrison Bailey, Hendon Hooker and Brian Maurer as the main candidates to take the starting job for 2021, but Milton's decision to join Tennessee in April has generated a lot of uncertainty as to who will be the starter under center for the Vols.
Joe Milton brings a pro-style game to Tennessee, along with a 6'5" frame and enough arm strength to send the pigskin a mile. All those things combined with the fact that he doubled the amount of drama in the quarterback competition make him one of the most noteworthy transfers of Tennessee's 2021 offseason.
So, who is Joe Milton?
Joe Milton, or Joe Milton III, is a Pahokee, Florida, native who attended Olympia High School. Joe Milton began his collegiate career as a Michigan Wolverine in 2018. In his freshman season, he had a very limited role, playing in only four games. His sophomore year was more of the same as well, completing only three passes for 59 yards and a score while also rushing for 16 yards on five carries in four games.
It was not until 2020 where Milton saw the field on a regular basis, but COVID-19 did not treat Michigan well, as the Wolverines were only able to play six games. In those six games, Milton made five starts under center, completing 80 passes on 141 attempts for 1,077 yards for four scores, along with four picks in the process. So, Milton comes to Rocky Top with hardly any wear and tear, looking to have his best collegiate season yet.
Milton's final stat line as a Wolverine passer is 86 completions on 152 attempts for 1,194 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions, along with his 50 carries for 156 yards and three scores as a rusher. According to mgoblue.com.
How does Milton fit in with Tennessee?
Even if Milton does not win the starting job for the Vols, he will get playing time. His upside is just too great to not get him on the field at some point this season. The 243-pound junior has commanding size and can move around enough to keep defenses honest. His big arm fits well with Tennessee receivers such as field stretchers Jimmy Calloway and Velus Jones Jr., just like it did in Ann Arbor where Hilton heavily favored big man Cornelius Johnson and Ronnie Bell who can stretch the field.
Something to note about Milton is that he did not look the tight end's way often at Michigan. Granted, no one has seen Milton play more than five games in a year, but Josh Heupel's offense will feature a lot of tight end play, so it's something to keep an eye on if Milton lands the starting gig.
What kind of impact will Milton have?
At the 2021 SEC Media Day, Josh Heupel addressed Joe Milton and the quarterback competition, and stated that whoever becomes the starter will have "earned it," and that based on play throughout the season, "guys will earn more reps, guys will earn less reps." Going off of that, it is safe to say that Vol Nation will get to see multiple guys, such as Bailey, Milton and Maurer, if not more, under center at some point this season.
This question is primarily based on if Milton becomes the starter for the Vols in 2021. If he is the starter for the entire season, then his impact will obviously be massive, but even if he plays limited roles here and there in 2021, Joe Milton will still make his presence known in Knoxville.
In case you missed it, here is what Josh Heupel had to say regarding Tennessee's quarterback competition at the 2021 SEC Media Day:
Heupel: "There's competition at every spot. There is no job that is secure at this. You have got to go earn it every single day, and that's the rule in college football no matter what. You have to earn the right to get a rep, you have to earn the right to prove that you can be on that football field and that we can trust you. I think with the quarterback position, it is really important that every other member of your team, offensively and defensively, see that that guy has earned the opportunity to be your quarterback. And when there's a bad play, and there will be at some point, they got to know that that's the right guy for them to lead the football team. That only comes through time, and so, as we move on, guys are going to earn more reps and guys are going to earn less reps. Once they've done that, we're going to move at a [quick] rate, and obviously we are going to have a starter before we get to kick-off, and we all look forward to that competition."
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