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Joey Halzle: Nico Iamaleava Wouldn’t Have Fixed Tennessee’s Issues At Florida

Tennessee Florida
Florida hosts Tennessee and Joe Milton on Saturday night in Gainesville. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

Tennessee football’s 29-16 SEC opening loss at Florida was an ugly one. The Vols’ offense sputtered particularly in the first half when they failed to cross midfield on four straight drives. But Tennessee offensive coordinator Joey Halzle doesn’t place the blame at quarterback Joe Milton’s feet.

“Joe was really good with his decision making and his calmness on the sidelines,” Halzle said. “He kept the calm within the storm out there. Talking to him on the headset, after every single drive he was like, ‘cool. Move on. What do we have coming next?’ So the guy is really even keeled. His decision making is really good. Was accurate with the football. The guy played a good game. Was happy with that.”

Both Halzle and head coach Josh Heupel placed Tennessee’s offensive struggles on a small handful of things. Struggles in short yardage and red zone situations were two of them but the pre snap penalties and operational issues were chief amongst them.

When a reporter asked Halzle if backup quarterback Nico Iamaleava would have addressed any of those deficiencies, the first-year offensive coordinator was adamant in his denial.

“No,” Halze said.

Why not?

“Because it’s operation (issues) and Joe is operating at a really high level,” Halzle said.

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Milton completed 20-of-34 passes for 287 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the loss. His second quarter interception, which gave Florida the ball inside the Vols’ red zone, along with a third quarter third down when Heupel took a timeout because Milton was unaware of the play clock were the veteran quarterback’s only glaring mistakes in the loss.

The third-year Tennessee quarterback and sixth-year senior wasn’t perfect besides that but had no other clear mistakes. Halzle emphasized that need to improve after defending his starting quarterback.

“Obviously we can always be better,” Halzle said. “We can be pushing for our communication for how we all get on the same page in an environment like that when it’s harder to hear and it’s not the friendly confines. That’s where we are pushing to grow but his overall game management was very good.”

Milton has a chance to bounce back this week when the Vols face UTSA before their SEC home opener against South Carolina.

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3 Responses

  1. I appreciate what the OC Halzle says. I agree changing the QB won’t change things overnight. From my point of view, the play calling is different than it was last year. So is the OC! Perhaps that is why what we might expect is different. I think the OC needs to learn from the past success in the play calling, and trust the QB that is in the game. It just seemed like there was an effort to run more than throw, and unfortunately the play calling became predictable. Last year the defense on the other side didn’t know what we were going to do. I think the key is to throw them off with plays and not speed. Anyway, that’s my view. Go Vols!

  2. Milton is not a good fit for this offense. It is so obvious to anyone who watch him in the games he has started in. He takes too long reading the defenses and he mostly reads it wrong.
    If you insist for some reason he has to start then one or two things will happen. One he will continue to lose games due to poor quarterback play or two you will have to redo the offensive scheme and simplify it for Milton.
    Get back to better play calling.
    Running backs and tight ends with better blocking schemes. Power ball and misdirection.
    Short passes and off tackle runs with the quarterback runs as well.
    And down the field throws.

  3. Milton looks like he has zero confidence in his play at the snap. His numbers only look good because of the style of offense the Vols run. He is a average QB at best.

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