We are less than two weeks away from the season opener for Tennessee, as Bowling Green awaits on September 2nd. So, with the opening game being so close, it’s only logical that the starting quarterback question continues to rise. Unfortunately, as the Vols wrap up fall camp and begin their game-week preparations, Heupel is not ready to answer the question.
During Monday’s press conference, Heupel made it clear that the QB battle is still ongoing. Now, whether folks believe that is up to them, but the Vols head coach continues to push competition. We have seen programs across the country announce their starter over the past two weeks, but that doesn’t mean Josh Heupel has to. He’s definitely not worried about building any excitement around the starter and feels that with ten days left before the opener, that person still has to earn the team’s trust.
“Once we’ve had a guy that has earned it and proven it in some respects, not just to the staff, but to their teammates, then you’re able to announce a guy. I think our football team has great trust in all three of those guys, the way they’ve competed and have continued to grow and gotten better. When we’re ready to name a guy, we will.”
As his team enters “game week ” mode, it will be interesting to see what Heupel can learn from practice this week. The Vols will practice on Wednesday and Thursday before returning to the field on Saturday, which will act like a typical Monday before a game week. When asked about Joe Milton, Heupel mentioned his progression throughout camp.
“Joe’s really progressed during the course of our training camp. You look at the first half and then the second half, much more comfortable in what we’re asking him to do, and has great ownership.”
This staff wants to keep things somewhat fluid so the competition level doesn’t drop off. But, on the flip side, it’s beneficial for the players surrounding the QB to know which guy they are going to battle within ten days, even if it’s just the opener. There’s a very good chance we see multiple QB’s during the Vols opener, with Bailey and Hooker continuing to battle it out on the field.
“The quarterback group, as a collective group, has spent a ton of time and energy really becoming refined in what we’re doing. I thought where the guys that were here in spring ball, how they showed up in training camp fundamentally and technique (wise), completely different. Joe has really progressed during the course of our training camp. You look at the first half and then the second half, (he’s) much more comfortable in what we’re asking him to do and has great ownership.”
So, here we are, waiting to see who will take the first snap under center (or Shotgun) against Bowling Green. But it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that, at the least, these guys are battling until the end. And they have a head coach who’s willing to see what each guy brings to the table until game week.
The simple fact is, Tennessee has had multiple quarterback problems over the past six years. So, the question can be asked…
What’s one more week going to hurt?