Joe Milton took over the reins of Tennessee’s offense from Hendon Hooker on Saturday. Milton finished 11-21 with 147 yards and a touchdown.
Certainly not the stat line we’ve become used to from Josh Heupel’s quarterbacks, but it was enough to get a 56-0 win over Vanderbilt.
Partially playing into the lack of offense through the air was the torrential downpour that came down in Nashville all night.
“It was the whole game,” center Cooper Mays said of the rain. “It was like a steady, consistent rainfall, the whole game. There was not a time where it slowed up or anything. It was a consistent downpour. It was bad.”
Milton was benched a season ago because of his accuracy issues as a signal caller. He only has one speed – fast.
Milton could throw a football on a rope for a good 70 yards, as he showed on Saturday. The only problem is that he tends to use his cannon of an arm to overthrow wide receivers, as he also showed on Saturday.
Mays believes that Milton’s issues on Saturday likely stem from the weather conditions.
“I’m sure it’s not an issue,” Mays told Off The Hook Sports. “If anybody was there last night, they understand how crazy it would be to throw in that in those conditions, like the wind was howling and it was raining sideways. I wouldn’t have even expected him to throw it past 40 yards, even with the routes that we were running it was raining that crazy. So for him to even get the ball out there anywhere remotely close to the receiver was honestly impressive.”
Milton still has another year of eligibility and thanks to his years in Heupel’s offense, he will be a clear favorite to be the starter next season.
Saturday’s performance may not have calmed Vol nation’s worries about Milton’s accuracy issues, but Mays has full trust in the quarterback.
“I’m super confident,” Mays said. “I’ve been very vocal about that. Anytime anybody’s ever asked me, I’m a big Joe fan. We all are, and I think everybody’s got a lot of faith in Joe and just knowing what he can do. And I think he showed a lot of it this year already.”
Losing Hooker to injury means Tennessee also lost one of its biggest leaders. Milton may not put up Hooker-like numbers, but he may be more of a natural leader.
Hooker was more reserved, while Milton stepped into the role of a vocal leader with ease.
“Joe has never been shy about that,” Mays said” “He’s a Florida guy, so they’re a little bit different. So he’s always been okay with the spotlight and the shine and all that. So I think he’s kind of learned from him then about how to just dial it back and take it all in. And then I think Hendon’s kind of learned a little bit from him how to kind of be vocal and jovial and everything, whatever you want to call it out front.”