After a devastating 29-16 loss at Florida, the Tennessee post-game spotlight has been focused on quarterback Joe Milton III. Milton never found his footing after throwing a first-half interception, finishing the game 20-of-34 with two touchdowns and his first interception in 216 passes as a Vol.
Though some fans are calling for Tennessee coach Josh Heupel to replace Milton with highly touted freshman Nico Iamaleava, it seems his team is standing by their man. On The Vol Report, TE Jacob Warren maintained that the Vols still have the utmost confidence in their starting QB.
“I think that the guy made some crazy throws last night and made some good plays on his feet,” Warren said of Milton. “He gets the offense into a position to be successful whenever things aren’t necessarily going right and takes command of his group and of these guys.”
When your leader has such a flat performance, as Milton did Saturday night, how do you not point the finger at him? Warren doesn’t believe his QB should take all the hits.
“I understand who not to blame, but I know that it doesn’t just fall on that guy and I think that he takes a lot of negative energy and negative talking,” Warren said.
If all the negative narrative shouldn’t fall squarely on Milton’s shoulders, where else should it land? It’s a tough question to answer.
Said Warren, “I think that there’s times whenever you need to make your quarterback right or you need to help your quarterback out in a situation.”
So, did the rest of the offense fail to support Milton or was he just plain bad?
“I’m sure there were plenty of moments when Joe wishes that he was more accurate with the ball,” Warren said. “Everybody realizes that they could be better, and I think that it’s just a matter of both ends trying to figure it out.”
Speaking specifically about the receivers, Warren said, “You’re taught to play along, to extend your arms, to attack the ball. Understanding that when the ball might be a little bit behind, let me go ahead and prepare myself to be able to adjust and make this catch.”
“There’s a lot of times last night where (Milton’s) getting the ball off, getting hit or getting pressure moving on the run and that ball’s coming out and he’s trusting the receiver to be able to make a play,“ said Warren, “It’s just a matter of everybody being ready to do that.”
Replacing Milton with Iamaleava at this early juncture of the season is nothing more than chatter, according to Warren.
“The room is full of talent, and everybody’s got an opinion about who should be the starter.” Warren admitted, ”I think we have confidence in (Milton) right now and we have confidence in the backups as well.”
Of the QB controversy, Warren said, “At the end of the day, we’re going go out there and play… and whoever’s behind us, we trust him, but right now I think that’s (just) talk.”
There’s going to be a lot of scrutiny on Milton and his abilities in the coming days, but if the Vol fans are going to have trust in him, he will need to demonstrate his resilience on Saturday at home against the University of Texas-San Antonio.