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Vanderbilt Discusses Tennessee Football QB Joe Milton, Adding More Pressure to Defense at SEC Media Days

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football quarterback started in only one SEC game in 2022 after Hendon Hooker went down with a knee injury.

In a rainy game in Nashville, Milton threw for 147 yards on 11-of-21 passing in the rain.

“I feel like Joe Milton is a very good player,” Vanderbilt defensive back Jaylen Mahoney said on Tuesday at SEC Media Days. “But I’m more focused on what Vanderbilt could do. We can see the things that he can do, but we’re really focused on the things that we can do to stop that.”

Instead, the run game took over for the Vols. Tennessee scored six touchdowns on the ground, with Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small both picking up a couple of touchdowns on the ground.

When Vanderbilt and Tennessee meet again in the season finale in Neyland Stadium, the Commodores will look to change the result of that game.

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“Really just everybody doing their job, sticking to our game plan, playing our roles,” Mahoney said when asked how to stop Tennessee’s offense. “Not really changing for any other team.”

The defense for the Commodores has been trending more aggressively as the years go on.

During Clark Lea’s first year at Vanderbilt, and while he was calling defenses at Notre Dame, his blitz rate hovered around 18-20%. Last season at Vanderbilt, that rate jumped up to 28%.

“I think our balance is making sure we time those pressures up to put our kids, our players in the best position to be successful,” Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea said. “What we want to do is shorten a down with a four-man rush. We want to create pressure on the quarterback and disrupt the ball with our front four.”

With questions on the offensive line for the Vols, extra blitzing from Vanderbilt could cause issues. However, by the end of the season, the hope is that Josh Heupel and his staff will have the offensive line issues will be fixed by the end of the season, if any persist.

On top of that, the Commodores couldn’t find the end zone in 2022. The game ended 56-0 with Tennessee running away in the victory.

Nevertheless, the extra rusher could help slow down the Vols’s streaking receivers… or that is what Lea hopes will happen.

The more we can do (add pressure), the more we can add coverage,” Lea said. “And like I said earlier, the game is won and lost on the perimeter. The more we can add help over there with another person in coverage, that is a benefit. But to do that, you have to have an effective four-man rush. So we’ve seen great progress in our defensive front. I thought we made progress last season. I thought it was the most improved unit in the winter and spring for us. That continued progress allows us to be a little more coverage based.”

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