Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren has heard the questions plenty of times. He’s well aware the Vols’ fanbase is antsy when it comes to quarterback Joe Milton’s pending decision to participate in the Citrus Bowl or forgo the event to prepare for the NFL.
“More than I can count on two hands for sure,” Warren said during The Vol Report when asked about how many times he’s been asked about Milton’s status. “I don’t know, dude. It’s one of those questions that I seriously just don’t know the answer to.
“I think the only person that should know should be Joe and the people that are closest to him that he’s been having these conversations with…So I’m happy for him if he plays or if he doesn’t. I know that he’s going to do extremely good things and I know he’s done great things here. Just totally supportive of him and his decision.”
If Milton doesn’t play, there would be a vacancy for Nico Iamaleava to step into the starting role for the Vols’ matchup against Iowa, which has one of the top defenses in the nation. Once Milton makes his decision, Iamaleava will surely be one of the first to know. As for now, the freshman is in a bit of a holding pattern.
“I think you have that conversation of whether Joe comes back or not,” Warren said of the transfer of power. “You have to have the conversation of what does that look like for Nico, right? And what does it look like for our team?”
So will Warren be catching passes from a grizzled veteran or one of the highest-rated signees in Tennessee football history? He’s open to either.
“Obviously, would love to play with the kid and would love to get the opportunity to have a game with him,” Warren said, “but at the same time, I want my quarterback (Milton) to be there too, right? There’s this double-edged sword and I know Nico will be ready for it. I know he’d be prepared for it and everybody would rally around him and be happy for him…We’re in a great situation and we’re ready to go attack it.”
Warren, who is roommates with Iamaleava during road games, has said Iamaleava has put on about 20 pound of muscle since he enrolled at UT a year ago. However, his physique isn’t the only thing that has impressed Warren.
“He’s always had this very like calm, like West Coast, like mellow, vibe about him,” Warren said. “
Then, there’s that physical ability.
“His scramble ability is kind of insane, just the way he’s able to move around the pocket and extend plays,” Warren said of Iamaleava. “And there’s obviously been times in games when we’ve seen that live, but something that has really impressed me is that, man, he’ll run around and practice and make throws on the run…they’re throws that not many people can make. So I think that’s part of his game that I’ve definitely seen kind of come along. I’m sure it’s been there the whole time, but there’s just something that I’ve definitely noticed over the past year that he’s been here.”
Will that athleticism be on display in the Citrus Bowl? That depend on Milton, who doesn’t have long to make his decision – or at least make it public. The Vols start bowl practice on Friday.