There’s no shame for Tennessee after the Vols proved they’re nowhere close to Georgia in overall roster talent. That was to be expected. However, there’s one particular area in which the Bulldogs’ talent edge over the Vols was a bit odd.
Georgia, as it has all season, had much better quarterback play than the Vols on Saturday as the Bulldogs cruised to a win in Neyland Stadium. Certainly, eighth-year Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has had plenty of time to build a better roster, chock full of elite linemen, linebackers and skill-position players. However, shouldn’t Heupel, a supposed offensive guru, be able to produce better quarterback play than the Vols got on Saturday – and have been getting painstakingly used to.
Tennessee starting quarterback Joe Milton III completed 17 of 30 passes for 147 yards and. Milton isn’t the first quarterback to struggle against Georgia’s recent run of dominant defenses, but is Milton’s performance really the best Heupel could manage out of the position towards the tail end of his third season at the Vols’ head coach? Now, to be clear, I’m not blaming Milton alone; this was a team effort.
Maybe Smart has shown Heupel how things are supposed to work when it comes to managing quarterbacks. Smart rode former walk-on Stetson Bennett until his college eligibility was over. Then, it was Carson Beck’s turn. That worked out. Beck completed — of — passes for — for the Bulldogs and — touchdowns against Tennessee. Looking for an early Heisman candidate for 2024? He’s playing quarterback for Georgia.
Heupel is surely hoping that freshman Nico Iamaleava will be Beck-like or better, that he’ll elevate the Vols’ offense after Milton moves onto the NFL. That may very well happen. Still, seeing one offensive coach with a struggling quarterback face off against a defensive coach with a standout quarterback didn’t exactly inspire confidence that Heupel will handle the Vols’ quarterback situation for the rest of this season and beyond – and that seems a bit odd.