Tennessee will get its second big test of the season on Saturday when it heads to Florida for an SEC East rivalry game, and it remains unclear who will start at quarterback for the Volunteers following coach Josh Heupel’s press conference on Monday. Heupel declined to say who will be the starting quarterback against the Gators after Joe Milton suffered an injury on Sept. 11 against Pittsburgh; Hendon Hooker started for the Vols on Saturday against Tennessee Tech with Harrison Bailey rotating in.
“I never speak in hypotheticals,” Heupel said Monday regarding whether Milton would start if healthy, via GoVols247.
“(Milton) got a little bit of work last week. We’ll find out where he is in particular Tuesday, Wednesday here and see where we’re at at that point as far as whether he’ll be able to play or not.”
Milton, a transfer from Michigan, has struggled with accuracy this season particularly on downfield throws. He has completed 18 of 35 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown in two games, and the Vols fell just short against Pitt after mounting a comeback when Hooker relieved Milton. Hooker, who transferred in from Virginia Tech, has completed 33 of 47 passes for 392 yards and five touchdowns against one interception, although much of that work came against overmatched FCS foe Tennessee Tech in Week 3.
Playing against the Gators’ defense will represent a significant step up for Tennessee after two of its first three games came against Tennessee Tech and Bowling Green, although Pitt does have a solid defensive unit under coach Pat Narduzzi. Florida has settled in as a consensus 20-point favorite over the Vols according to multiple sports books; the Gators (2-1) fell 31-29 to No. 1 Alabama in Week 3, holding the Crimson Tide to 331 yards of total offense while taking the game down to the wire in Gainesville.
Heupel will get his first shot at the rival Gators as he returns to the Sunshine State — he arrived at UT after coaching UCF from 2018 to 2020.
“Obviously, everybody in the building is excited for the opportunity to start conference play,” Heupel said. “Obviously, the competition is gonna rise this week. Looking forward to the challenge — going down there, on the road, first road game for us as a program here. Obviously the week of preparation for us is gonna be really important, paying attention to the details.
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“When you get on the road, communication is gonna be critical in all three phases of the game. It’s something that, offensively, is gonna be critical in particular. But looking forward to the challenge.”
This report will be updated.