Friday night time’s Orange Bowl introduced an enormous alternative for Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton.
An opportunity to stake his declare as QB1 for the Volunteers heading into subsequent season.
With Hendon Hooker sidelined with a knee harm in Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina again in November, Milton stepped into the beginning lineup for the Volunteers to shut out the season. He led Tennessee to a victory over Vanderbilt within the season finale, however that recreation was performed within the rain, and Milton was not tasked with doing a lot for the Volunteers offense. He accomplished simply 11 of 21 passes for 147 yards and a landing in a 56-0 rout of a Commodores staff that completed with a 5-7 document, and didn’t qualify for a bowl recreation.
Squaring off with a prime ten staff in Clemson, who received the ACC Championship, within the Orange Bowl supplied a a lot stiffer take a look at.
One which Milton largely handed on Friday night time.
The quarterback accomplished 19 of 28 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns on Friday night time, because the Volunteers topped the Tigers by a closing rating of 31-14. The win propelled Tennessee to their first 11-win season since 2001, once they completed the season 11-2, and ranked fourth within the nation.
However past Milton’s numbers, was how he performed the place, and answered a few of the questions going through him for each Friday night time, and past.
Maybe the easiest way to border the dialogue comes courtesy of our pals at Rocky High Discuss, who posed the questions that Milton wanted to reply in opposition to the Tigers:
Is he the man that we noticed to begin 2021? The man that couldn’t hit a deep shot for something — the man that appeared uncomfortable — the man that obtained benched? Or is he the man that we noticed this 12 months in mop-up obligation? Milton was improbable when he had the alternatives in 2022, though it did come in opposition to much more inferior expertise. However nonetheless, he seemed to be extra correct with the soccer and appeared rather more accountable for the offense. We didn’t actually see a lot in opposition to Vanderbilt, contemplating that they performed a lot of that recreation within the rain. Friday night time will probably be a special story.
Take into account these answered in Milton’s favor, as he appeared extra just like the participant Volunteers followers noticed this season, versus the quarterback who couldn’t join on some deep throws final 12 months, notably in a recreation in opposition to Pittsburgh. Milton ultimately was changed by Hooker as a result of harm, and Hooker took management of the offense for each 2021, and the primary a part of 2022.
However Milton actually hit the deep shot performs on Friday night time. After the Tigers reached the top zone to chop Tennessee’s result in 21-14, the Volunteers got here proper again, with Milton connecting with Ramel Keyton on this 46-yard landing to push Tennessee’s lead again to 14:
However extra importantly for Milton, and the Tennessee offense in 2023, may be thes different two touchdowns he threw within the recreation. First was this landing to open the scoring. The Tigers drop eight into protection, taking part in 4 deep within the secondary with 4 defenders beneath. The Volunteers run a publish/dig mixture on the left facet, and watch as Milton makes use of his eyes to affect the protection to interrupt on the dig route. That’s when the QB throws an absolute strike on the publish route for the sport’s first landing:
Then there was this landing on the finish of the third quarter, which once more comes because of some manipulation from the quarterback. MIlton is searching for Squirrel White on the publish route from the left facet of the formation, however the security in the course of the sector is betting on Milton throwing that route. He breaks on the route, and MIlton makes use of a pump faux to affect him. As soon as the protection breaks, MIlton resets and hits the publish route behind him, away from the leverage of the cornerback in protection:
That is elite-level quarterback play, and a throw that might give head coach Josh Heupel confidence in Milton to begin the 2023 marketing campaign.
After all, beginning the season out as QB1 — and staying there — is the taller activity. In any case, Milton started the 2021 season as Tennessee’s starter, earlier than giving approach to Hooker. But when Friday night time was any indication, Milton has the expertise, and expertise, to not simply begin out as QB1.
However to remain there.