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Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Joey Halzle Evaluates Quarterback Play from Joe Milton After First Five Game

Tennessee Football
Tennessee QB Joe Milton III. Photo By Jackson McCarter/ Rocky Top Insider.

Despite the ups and downs to the season so far, Tennessee offensive coordinator Joey Halzle is pleased with the job that quarterback Joe Milton III has done through the first five games.

Halzle acknowledged that there are areas to improve upon, certainly, but also noticed specific details and aspects that he has been impressed with from Milton.

Halzle and Milton are similarly undergoing new roles this season compared to where they were during the 2022 season. Halzle was on the staff as the quarterback’s coach and was clearly an important voice but the offensive coordinator responsibilities were with Alex Golesh. Josh Heupel promoted Halzle to offensive coordinator this past offseason following Golesh’s departure to take over as the head coach of UCF.

Milton, on the other hand, was the backup to Hendon Hooker last season and is now in the middle of his first full season as Tennessee’s starting quarterback. Milton did start the first game of the 2021 season but quickly relinquished those duties to Hooker following an early-season injury.

Halzle and Milton have helped lead Tennessee to a 4-1 record through the open date to start the season. The 6-foot-5 senior has completed 63.1 percent of his passes this season with 101-of-160 passing. Milton also has 1,164 yards (233 average per game), nine touchdowns, and three interceptions.

Halzle, though, has been impressed by Milton’s ability to remain cool, calm, and collected throughout the season.

“He’s been a great common force for us as we go through games,” Halzle said about Milton on Tuesday. “He is always right in the middle—doesn’t get too high or too low. He has done a great job as we have had a lot of people out, of being that kind of calming center force that kept us going throughout the whole game.”

While speaking to the media during his Tuesday press conference this week, Halzle gave a broad look at his thoughts on Milton through the first five games.

“He’s done a really good job of managing the game,” Halzle said. “He hasn’t put the ball in a ton of precarious situations. We had a couple of the last week, which is really the first time, but he’s done a really good job of running the offense. Not just trying to go out there and be an athlete with a big arm, but running the offense at a really high level. What we’ve asked him to do, he’s done really well. So, it’s been good to watch him grow from just a talented player into a true quarterback.”

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It’s certainly no secret that Milton has the arm cannon attached to his shoulder after several bits of evidence throughout the offseason. But Milton has also been using his legs to his advantage, too. Milton has 24 rushing attempts for 139 yards this season, which is the most ground he has gained in a season throughout his entire college career.

Tennessee hasn’t been designing an overabundance of run plays for Milton but adds them in combination with his ability to scramble out of the pocket on his own. Still, though, health and safety are on the minds of the coaches.

“When a guy has the ability to do that, you can’t tell him not to,” Halzle said about balancing the use of Milton’s legs. “It just has to be from us on the staff side, how much are you going to truly design for him. You just have to use the balance of when something presents itself, we have to go play and take advantage of it without being foolish about – we’re just going to beat him into a brick wall for four quarters. The way he plays, he’s going to use his legs on his own too.”

Halzle then went on to say that Milton’s long run against UTSA on the opening play of the game wasn’t a designed quarterback run but instead, a play that Milton took advantage of with his legs.

To see Joey Halzle’s full press conference from Tuesday in Knoxville, see below.

No. 19 Tennessee and QB Joe Milton III will host Texas A&M this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in Neyland Stadium.

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