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Joe Milton's journey back to starting quarterback at Tennessee

Milton will be the starting quarterback for the Vols after Hendon Hooker suffered a season-ending injury in the loss to South Carolina.
Credit: AP
Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III (7) throws to a receiver during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Martin, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 65-24. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. β€” Tennessee football now turns to quarterback Joe Milton as Hendon Hooker's season ends, after he tore his ACL against South Carolina on Saturday.

Milton transferred to the University of Tennessee prior to last season, after three seasons at Michigan.

Fans may remember after they both came in as transfers, Milton was actually named the starting quarterback over Hooker at the start of last season. He became the punchline to several people's jokes.

Milton wasn't playing well. The punchline became that Milton threw the ball too fast and hard, which caused him to miss throws on shorter routes. He also overthrew receivers on deep routes constantly.

After an ankle injury in week two against Pittsburgh last season β€” he wouldn't start again as Hooker took over.

He didn't get extra points from fans when he ran out of bounds on the final play of the game against Ole Miss last season, coming in for an injured Hendon Hooker at the end of the game.

Fast forward to before this season, the coaches and players raved about how Milton kept working very hard and how he became good friends with Hooker even though that's the man who took his starting job.

He kept working and got better. Fans have seen him in games this season and he has been more accurate.

In his appearances, albeit during garbage time of football games, he has gone 23 or 33 for 573 yards and thrown six touchdown passes.

The quarterback has a solid completion percentage, a lot of yards, many big play completions and a few touchdowns. Milton has made quite the transformation.

He has five completions of 50 yards or more with many of those going for touchdowns.

"Joe has grown a bunch," head coach Josh Heupel said. "You've seen the way he's played when given the opportunity. He's got really good command of what we are doing, we don't change what we do."

His teammates have full trust in him too.

"In practice last week when Hendon was in, Joe was behind me in the huddle," running back Jabari Small said.  "He is preparing like he is QB1 throughout the whole year. He is definitely prepared for this opportunity. It was just timing. He is been going to go get his chance  I hate that it has to be under these circumstances but he is more than ready."

Milton will lead the Vols offense, which is top in the country in scoring and total offense.

Gaston Moore is listed as the backup behind Milton if it comes to that.

Tennessee plays Vanderbilt next on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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