Joe Milton, Vols Offense Is Very Much a Work in Progress

A win is a win, but Joe Milton and this Vols offense has a lot to clean up before SEC play starts.

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I don’t want to rain on your parade this morning, Vols fans. It had to feel cathartic to see the Tennessee Volunteers go out there and dominate, 38-6, in the first game of the Josh Heupel era, especially after the way the last 12 months have gone for your program. But, I think there are some major issues that quarterback Joe Milton and this Vols offense are going to have to clean up before they start getting into the meat of their SEC schedule. Doing it against the Bowling Green Falcons is one thing. Doing it against the Georgias and the Alabamas of the world is another.

I’m a bad news first kinda guy, so let’s start there. A couple of things I noticed early on with Milton – one, he had a tendency to stay looking for the big play. On a couple of occasions, he had guys open but elected to throw a bomb. I’d say he needs to rein that in a bit…start looking for open receivers instead of the big play. Learn to take 10-15 and live to fight another down instead of for the 40-yard shot. The other thing…man, he seemed to be pretty easily agitated once the rush got to him. The offensive line played well, but when Bowling Green was able to generate pressure, Milton looked uncomfortable. It looked to me like he wanted to stand flat-footed, statuesque, and just push the ball all the way to the damn Smoky Mountains. There were overthrows on sure touchdowns, too – but, I don’t think I’m as concerned about that as everyone else – I would hope that’s something he can clean up as he gets into the rhythm of the season. First game jitters, maybe? I don’t know – Michigan fans seem to be saying otherwise…

The offense as a whole looked pretty good in bowing up and running the ball. But, the way the game played out, I don’t think we really got a good look at what the passing game is capable of. Now, maybe Heupel went out there with a watered-down basic version of this offense, and that’s probably a good idea. You want to use a game like this one to get the fundamentals of it down, and you also probably don’t want to put too much of it on tape in the first game knowing you might have to keep a few tricks up your sleeves on down the road. I think that’s a great point. But, from what we did see, you can definitely see the vision behind the offense, and man, if this program can get it down and give Heupel the time to do so, you’re looking at the potential for some real fireworks week in and week out. They just didn’t execute it all that well. Part of that was Milton’s mistakes. Part of it was Bowling Green bowing up in the 2nd quarter and making the game interesting at the half. But, the bottom line is that this offense needed the reps in a meaningful game situation, and I don’t know how much they really got.

Alright, so that’s where my criticisms end for this game. Let’s talk about some positives. I liked the way Milton used his mobility to make plays, but he didn’t lean on it as a crutch – he was willing to get in there and push for that touchdown, and that was impressive. His strong arm was clearly on display last night. I mean, DAMN – you want to talk about a rocket, Milton has a shotgun inside a cannon inside a rocket for an arm. It’s amazing how he was able to stand so flat-footed and still and then just heave that sumbitch halfway to Chattanooga. CLEARLY, we got a glimpse of why Heupel picked him to be the signal caller in this offense. If he can start connecting on some of those bombs, this offense is going to kick into another gear. I love Big Cat’s take on this:

All in all, I didn’t want to see them have to punish Bowling Green physically the way they did. You knew going into the game that the talent was there to just push them over. What you wanted to see was this offense get it down pat….the timing and the execution. We saw flashes of that, and the Vols were able to move fast. But, because they cooled off and Bowling Green pulled the game within eight points, they kind of had to run the ball and get away from the passing game just to put some points on the board and give themselves a little breathing room. They just didn’t look as crisp on offense as many of us thought they needed to. So, it leaves a few question marks heading into next week’s game against Pitt, which will be a significant step up in competition.

So, let’s end this on a positive note, because I really don’t want to rub your face in it after a 38-6 win, Vols fans. I talked about the offensive line a little bit earlier, and I think their play was excellent, and should be capable of handling premier competition. We wondered about this team’s running backs going into the season, but it damn sure looks like you’ve got a capable backfield in Knoxville, too. Jabari Small came out and posted 116 yards and a touchdown. Tiyon Evans also had 116 yards and a touchdown, averaging 7.3 yards per carry in the process. Finally, hot DAMN did the defense play fast and aggressive. That was encouraging. The Vols and Panthers kick off at 11AM CST next Saturday (9/11). ESPN’s matchup predictor currently gives Pitt a 53.1% chance of winning that game.

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network, and a Dogs Playing Poker on velvet connoisseur. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD, #BeBetter, and ‘Minds right, asses tight.’ “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, Yankee Candle, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley

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