Friday evening’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 sport 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 workforce that completed with a 5-7 document, and didn’t qualify for a bowl sport.
Squaring off with a high ten workforce in Clemson, who gained the ACC Championship, within the Orange Bowl supplied a a lot stiffer check.
One which Milton largely handed on Friday evening.
The quarterback accomplished 19 of 28 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns on Friday evening, 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, after 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 among the questions dealing with him for each Friday evening, and past.
Maybe one of the best ways to border the dialogue comes courtesy of our associates at Rocky Prime Speak, who posed the questions that Milton wanted to reply towards 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 regarded uncomfortable — the man that obtained benched? Or is he the man that we noticed this 12 months in mop-up responsibility? Milton was improbable when he had the alternatives in 2022, though it did come towards way more inferior expertise. However nonetheless, he gave the impression to be extra correct with the soccer and regarded rather more in command of the offense. We didn’t actually see a lot towards Vanderbilt, contemplating that they performed a lot of that sport within the rain. Friday evening shall be a special story.
Take into account these answered in Milton’s favor, as he regarded 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 sport towards Pittsburgh. Milton ultimately was changed by Hooker on account of harm, and Hooker took management of the offense for each 2021, and the primary a part of 2022.
However Milton definitely hit the deep shot performs on Friday evening. After the Tigers reached the tip 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, could be thes different two touchdowns he threw within the sport. 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 aspect, and watch as Milton makes use of his eyes to affect the security 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 due to some manipulation from the quarterback. MIlton is on the lookout for Squirrel White on the publish route from the left aspect of the formation, however the security in the course of the sphere 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 security 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 would give head coach Josh Heupel confidence in Milton to begin the 2023 marketing campaign.
In fact, beginning the season out as QB1 — and staying there — is the taller process. In any case, Milton started the 2021 season as Tennessee’s starter, earlier than giving method to Hooker. But when Friday evening was any indication, Milton has the expertise, and expertise, to not simply begin out as QB1.
However to remain there.