Tennessee Football: There is no quarterback controversy in Knoxville

Hendon Hooker,Tennessee football
Hendon Hooker,Tennessee football /

Tennessee football, as of this writing, is 1-1 on the season. The Volunteers won the game Vegas said they’d win and lost the game that it said they’d lose. The loss was maddening and frustrating. No doubt. Lots of “would haves” and “could haves” — very frustrating.

But, apparently, a quarterback controversy seems to be bubbling in the fanbase. It’s a curious thing. It’s also a non-thing. There is no quarterback controversy in Knoxville.

Have you ever been in a relationship, and in that relationship, felt the need to look at your committed one and say “please, calm down” when things weren’t going right for them? How did that work out? Not well. Never does. This article is going to be equivalent to that.

Tennessee fans do not like being told to “take it easy” or “relax” or “be patient.” Especially, if you aren’t a VFL. Especially, after a 15-year march in the wilderness. They don’t want to hear it. They want results. They expect the team to look like them. Hard-nosed, hard-working, loyal, and results-oriented.

I am not a VFL. But, I implore them to “be patient.”

Tennessee went into the Bowling Green game with expectations of execution. They went very fast, very early. They tried things. Some worked, some didn’t, and after a closer than comfortable first half, the Vols did what teams do sometimes: they bullied the other team and enforced their will.

Most of Vol Nation went into the Pitt game with high expectations. Many, maybe most, thought the Vols would win because it was at vaunted Neyland Stadium and because it was “Tennessee” and they were Pitt. If the Vols had played a perfect game, they would have won. They didn’t. It was close even with all of the mistakes.

That last part gets us to the crunch. The quarterback play of Joe Milton and Hendon Hooker has been exciting at times, but also detrimental. The former is a giant with a huge arm and the latter is a more experienced quarterback with legs and pocket presence. They both have played well enough to give hope, at times, and have made mistakes that are crucial and brutal.

So, what is the controversy?

Quarterback controversy with Tennessee football?

Enter stage left the enigma of third-string quarterback Harrison Bailey. Apparently, the desire to see this young man throw a football is growing in Vol Nation. Bailey was highly rated coming out of high school, has a very strong arm, but little experience, and is not mobile. Yet, some, insist he is the answer, nevertheless.

Therein lies the quarterback controversy for the Vols. You have some who think Milton has the tools to get it done. You have some who saw what Hooker did in the second half against Pitt and say give him a shot for four quarters. Then, you have some who think that Bailey has never been given the fair shake and opportunity.

The reality is that there is no quarterback controversy in Knoxville.

First-year head coach Josh Heupel is a good football mind. We don’t know if he is a championship coach at the Power Five level, or in the SEC, but he is a good coach. His staff in Knoxville is a good staff (for the most part). Those dudes know what good football looks like, and Heupel definitely knows what good quarterback play looks like. He’s done it. He’s coached it.

That said, the lay of the land is that you have a new head coach, and his new staff, implementing a new scheme, structure, and culture, with a new quarterback trying to martial his boys in practice, and in real-time, on the field. That’s not easy. That takes time. And if we’re honest, most fail.

There is no quarterback controversy. The coaches, like most after two real live games, are figuring it out. Can Milton hit a 40-yard fade? Can he be the alpha? Can Hooker minimize turnovers, while maximizing his mind, arm, and mobility? Will Bailey turn into a practice warrior and light stealer? They don’t know. You don’t know. We don’t know.

Vols fans want progress and results now. I get it. And the quarterback play, thus far, has been erratic. I get that, too.

Coaches are paid a big deal of money to coach, develop, and evaluate athleticism and talent. You play games with the players you have and you try to get better every day. That’s called football. That’s called life.

This isn’t a controversy. It’s a competition.

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