KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tuesday at SEC Media Days Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel and company got to talk about the upcoming season, and of course the highly-touted offense he’s bringing over from his past coaching gigs.
It seems that it’s come down to three players for the starting quarterback job, sophomore Harrison Bailey, redshirt senior Hendon Hooker (Virginia Tech transfer), and redshirt junior Joe Milton III (Michigan transfer).
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Here’s a closer look at the trio vying for the starting QB job
Standing at 6’5″, 220 pounds, sophomore pro-style quarterback Bailey brings in some experience from his freshman season. He played in six games and started the final three during the 2020 season and boasted an excellent high school resume as a four-star prospect.
His freshman year he completed 48 passes on 68 attempts for 578 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. While Bailey doesn’t have the same experience playing at the collegiate level as Milton or Hooker, he brings the relationships he’s created with the team over his tenure at Tennessee along with experience playing in the toughest conference in all of college football, the SEC.
Hooker comes into Rocky Top standing at 6’4″, 218 pounds as a redshirt senior graduate transfer from Virginia Tech where he played for four seasons. Hooker brings the most experience to the table out of three as well as the best mobile option at quarterback for the Vols.
He played in 25 games at VA Tech, with 15 starts and an 8-7 record. He completed 197 passes on 312 attempts for 2,894 yards and 22 touchdowns; on the ground, he rushed for 1,033 yards on 247 carries and 15 touchdowns. The question stands, will Heupel’s offense in SEC-play thrive with a dual-threat option like Hooker at the helm? During his time at Missouri as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, he had pro-style Drew Lock who led the SEC in passing as a sophomore and threw an SEC record 44 touchdowns as a junior.
Joe Milton III
Redshirt junior pro-style quarterback Milton comes down south from Michigan standing at 6’5″, 244 pounds (the biggest of the trio). He’ll be the guy in the middle as he brings the second-most experience compared to Hooker and Bailey while being less mobile than Hooker, and more mobile than Bailey.
Milton appeared in 14 games at Michigan, starting in five of those games with a 2-3 record. He completed 86 passes on 152 attempts for 1,194 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions. On the ground, Milton rushed for 156 yards on 50 attempts and three touchdowns. Milton comes in with a lot to prove after a less-than-stellar stint at Michigan, although his starts all came in during a very short season for the Wolverines due to COVID-19 as he played in all six games.
Heupel has plenty of talent at quarterback to choose from, as the competition for the starting job will carry into fall camp which will begin on August 4.
“I think the quarterback position, it’s really important that every other member of your team, offensively and defensively, see that that guy has earned the opportunity to be your quarterback,” Heupel said. “When there’s a bad play and there will be at some point, they’ve got to know that’s the right guy for them that’s leading that football team, and that only comes through time.”