ANN ARBOR, Mich. – All signs point to Joe Milton taking over as Michigan’s starting quarterback this season, and some in the college football universe are already trying to write his story before it begins.
There’s a bright spotlight that comes with being QB1 at the University of Michigan, but Urban Meyer has already compared Milton to Cam Newton before he’s thrown a single meaningful college pass. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is telling tales of Milton’s “special talent” and “wow throws.”
Pump the brakes. Are we really going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again?
The Michigan Football Offseason Hype Train is standing room only, and it has a whole month to pick up speed. By the time Michigan takes the field against Minnesota, Milton will be the next Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes.
In an ideal world, Milton would start with a clean slate, but it’s way too late for that. Like Isaac Newton said: When Michigan football hype is in motion, it stays in motion unless acted upon by a Buckeye, Badger or Nittany Lion. It was something like that.
To be clear: There’s plenty of reason to be excited about Milton’s potential. He was a top 10 pro-style quarterback recruit out of high school with scholarship offers from Georgia, LSU and more than 20 other schools.
His arm strength isn’t up for debate. The dime he threw to Giles Jackson last season for a touchdown against Rutgers is just one example, but there will surely be others. Milton can also do some damage on the ground. He scored a rushing touchdown at Ohio State as a true freshman and another against Rutgers last season.
But there are hundreds of players with strong arms who can run in major college football. The question remains: Is Milton finally the difference maker Michigan needs at quarterback?
On top of the uncertainty that comes with any new starter, 2020 has even more variables baked in because we haven’t had a chance to see him at practice.
According to his coaches and teammates, Milton has been exceptional. They say he can throw the ball 70 yards and is getting comfortable in the offense. That might be true, but Michigan coaches and players have been known to do a lot of offseason talking without fully backing it up on the field.
Last year, the Wolverines had everybody convinced Mike Sainristil was going to be a breakout weapon on offense. Then he caught one pass in the first seven games and finished the season with 145 yards. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with those numbers for a true freshman who was just converted to receiver -- except the offseason hype set unrealistic expectations.
Michigan fans are desperate for a star quarterback. It’s understandable. Jim Harbaugh hasn’t been able to find his guy for five years while Ohio State pumps out superstar after superstar. It’s like watching your sibling win the Powerball every year while you try to make your money back with scratch-offs.
Maybe Milton will be the answer. He’s talented and, by all accounts, a smart, hard-working player. If he’s the quarterback who pushes Michigan football over the hump, celebrate him as Maize and Blue confetti rains from the rafters in Indianapolis. It doesn’t have to start now.
But we all know that ship has sailed. Fans have already changed their Twitter handles to “Milton SZN” and “In Joe We Trust.” Every throw, every decision will be overanalyzed one way or another. By Oct. 25, he’ll either be the Heisman frontrunner or people will be calling for Cade McNamara.
It’s hard to blame fans for being excited, especially after it looked like Michigan might not have a season at all. But when Milton takes the field for the first time in 2020, give his story a chance to play out on its own.
Let’s take a step back and let Joe Milton be Joe Milton.