Old habits can be hard to break. Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton has faced that challenge throughout this offseason.
Milton and Tennessee’s coaches said that the senior quarterback needed some tweaking on his mechanics after he finished up the 2022 season with a stellar performance in the Orange Bowl against Clemson. Before that, Milton had been plagued by errant throws from time to time throughout his career. Ball placement, due to his mechanics, was one of the reasons that he wasn’t as on point as he’d like to be. So the offseason work began quickly.
“He’s the type of athlete that can feel his body, so he understood what we were trying to accomplish quickly,” offensive coordinator Joey Halzle said of the offseason adjustments. “It was just making it the habit of how he throws, because individually you start building it, then you take it to routes on air, then seven-on-seven.
“Maybe it doesn’t look quite the same, and then you go back to indy (individual periods) and you push it. Over this offseason, it got incrementally better. It wasn’t like one day off, one day on. It was a growth throughout the whole thing where it was like, ‘That’s how you throw now. It’s not like, ‘Hey, I have to try and do that,’ but rather just the way he throws now.”
Milton isn’t the first Tennessee quarterback to have his accuracy questioned. Former UT quarterback Hendon Hooker’s precision was questioned before last season. He quickly laid those concerns to rest by completing 69.6-percent of his passes. If Milton is anywhere close to that this season, the Vols should be considered a strong threat to win an SEC and national championship. However, there are still times that Milton’s mechanics can revert back to their old, flawed form.
“You don’t really see it very often,” Halzle said. “Every once in a while, naturally playing football, you’re going to get yourself in a bad body position. It is what it is. There’s going to be a free rusher or someone busting on a route where his body is in a weird spot.
“We work on drills to get ourselves out of bad situations. Human nature takes over every once in a while and you miss with a mechanical function. For the most part, we are able to replicate really well and keep the same motion.”
Said Milton, “It took some time. You work at it every day. Some things just don’t happen overnight. The day that you forget about it is the day that it will mess up, so I try to work on it every day.”
With just a few days until the season begins on Sept. 2 against Virginia, Milton doesn’t have much longer to work on his craft. Eliminating those few bad habits that crop up from time to time is seemingly the last hurdle to him being the quarterback that the Vols need to compete at an elite level.