ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Less than seven months after Joe Milton verbally committed to play football at Michigan in May 2017, he enrolled in school and joined the football program as a freshman in January.
He jumped right into winter conditioning and into learning what it takes not just to compete at the college level but how to thrive as a college student.
“There’s a huge learning curve, with coaching and quarterbacks,” Kyle Hayes, Milton’s football coach at Olympia High School in Orlando, Fla., told Land of 10 in December. “From a knowledge standpoint, how would you go in, in August, fighting for a position at quarterback at a major university like that?
“If we can get you into school early, now we have eight months of learning versus eight weeks. That will be a big advantage. It puts you a step ahead.”
Milton is one of four quarterbacks in the fold at Michigan as it opens spring practices Friday. He joins Shea Patterson, Brandon Peters and Dylan McCaffrey. Not many expect Milton to contend for Michigan’s starting job this year, simply because he is so new to the program. Maybe next season. Or even two years down the line. Milton is on a long-term development plan with the Wolverines.
Here’s what Milton needs to do to prepare for the starting job:
Milton will likely redshirt in 2018. Barring the loss of the three quarterbacks in front of him, Milton will use his first year with the Wolverines to adapt to the program and to meet expectations the coaching staff sets for him.
Michigan’s philosophy under fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh is to emphasize growth in a quarterback’s first year on campus. But Harbaugh likes the enthusiasm he sees from Milton, Patterson, Peters and McCaffrey during winter conditioning workouts.
“You can’t wait to see [Joe Milton] out in 11-on-11 drills and 7-on-7 drills,” Harbaugh told The Michigan Insider. “I’ll put it to you this way, we’ve already had a couple early morning workouts where you say, gimme a quarterback to jump up here in front of the line. We have four guys elbowing each other. They’re all trying to stand in the spot where that No. 1 quarterback is.”
Wolverines passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton has noticed something else about Milton. Milton has a sheer passion for the sport and wants to improve himself away from football.
“Football is his life and he’s consumed by being the best student-athlete he can be at Michigan,” Hamilton told The Michigan Insider. “Getting all his work done in the classroom, academically, and every unaccounted for moment when he’s not studying, he’s focused on football. I get more phone calls from Joe Milton and we have more football-focused conversations than anyone on the team.
“I have to tell him, ‘Continue to probe your teammates. Guys you’ve been around. But the time is coming for you to get out and have a chance to compete.’ ”
At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Hamilton called Milton the “physical prototype” and ideal for the position, with a strong arm. Hamilton knows something about working with successful quarterbacks. Among his former pupils are current and former NFL products Andrew Luck, Chad Pennington, Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler.
“Now, it’s just a matter of Joe getting acclimated to the college game,” Hamilton said.