A quarterback competition is brewing on Rocky Top, but a clear favorite has emerged for Tennessee football.
Joe Milton III impressed many with his performance in the Orange Bowl, leading the Vols to a 31-14 win. His performance was no surprise to tight end Jacob Warren, who had a first-hand view of Milton’s preparation.
“It’s easy for guys to get distracted or at practice just be excited about the weather,” Warren told Off The Hook Sports. “It was warm instead of cold so people were just being loose, but, there’s a level of that. But it’s also a level of him, understanding the assignment, understanding that we’re going to get a lot of different things from the defense, and he’s going to be the one that’s going to have to lead us through all of it.”
Milton threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns on 19-28 passing against the Tigers. He also rushed for 28 yards.
Taking over for Hendon Hooker on the field was one thing, but it is Hooker’s leadership abilities that may have been the hardest role to fill. Milton projects a confidence in the locker room that is contagious for the rest of the Tennessee football players.
“He’s just super confident in his abilities and his preparation and that forces other people to feel the same amount of confidence,” Warren said. “Joe knows he’ll be fine. So if Joe knows he’ll be fine, then why should we worry about him? We shouldn’t worry about it as long as he’s comfortable and he’s ready to roll.”
Milton will have his work cut out for him going into next season. On top of incoming five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava, the Tennessee football quarterback room still holds Tayven Jackson. Barring any transfers, Milton will likely be competing with Jackson and Iamaleava for the starting role in the 2023 season.
Despite Heupel claiming that the quarterback spot is wide-open going into the 2023 season, it is safe to assume that his Orange Bowl performance boosted Milton’s place in the rankings.
“I was excited for Joe; I think that it’s been pretty obvious that I feel extremely confident in Joe,” Warren said. “He did a great job, obviously won the MVP, and congratulations to him. He’s more than deserving and I’m just happy for him to be able to step up and do that.”