Vols shift focus from camp to Cavs

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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With classes underway and the season opener just days away, the Tennessee football program has officially shifted its focus from preseason camp to prep for its clash against Virginia at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Sept. 2.

Despite having to replace its offensive coordinator and starting quarterback from last season, leadership is in full supply with the likes of Joey Halzle and Joe Milton III stepping into bigger roles this year.

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After serving as UT’s quarterbacks coach for the past two years, Halzle has added the title of offensive coordinator this season following Alex Golesh’s departure to become the head coach at South Florida.

While this will be Halzle’s first year serving as OC, he said the transition has been as smooth as possible due in large part to the continuity and cohesion of the offensive staff under head coach Josh Heupel.

“As far as the game planning, I said it when I first took this role, we’ve all done that all together,” Halzle said. “That’s never just been one person’s show who says this is how we’re doing it. It’s extremely communal. The staff has been awesome around me. It’s been a great transition. It hasn’t been like drinking through a fire hose.”

While the move has gone well, Halzle did say there have been some adjustments and more responsibilities that come along with the job.

“There are more (responsibilities), as far as going into meeting time,” Halzle said. “I have to have everything prepped on the front end. I can’t just show up and take my notes, can’t just stare at my quarterback as we’re watching tape and seeing how that’s going. You got to see how everybody’s doing and make sure the whole thing hangs together perfectly.

“As far as an adjustment, also you got to talk a whole lot more. You got to talk the whole meeting … That’s the main part of it, the front end everything is on you to make sure it’s prepared so everybody else can have a smooth transition through their day.”

Something else that has helped make Halzle’s job easier is the leadership of Milton, the Vols’ redshirt senior quarterback who has taken the reigns as the undisputed leader of this year’s team.

“Playing that position is a huge part of having everyone bought into you as a person as opposed to just you as a player,” Halzle said of Milton’s growth as a leader. “As he’s gotten more comfortable here, more comfortable in his role, it’s really as his understanding of his offense has grown and grown where he’s not worried about that part of it. He’s been able to put some energy and put a lot of his energy towards bringing the next group of guys along and making sure he’s got that type of real relationship with his fellow team.”

While Milton acknowledges his importance as a team leader, he hasn’t let that affect who he is every day on and off the field.

“I am still a server. I may be the leader on the team, but I am still going to serve every day,” Milton said. “I still have to get the guys to understand the game plan and understand how I see it. I feel comfortable with the game plan, feel comfortable with the play book and feel comfortable playing right now in this offense.”