Josh Heupel said on Monday he has not made a decision yet on the Tennessee football quarterback race. However, Peyton Manning said on Tuesday that Heupel told him who the starting quarterback would be. Something doesn’t add up.
The comments from Heupel came at a preseason camp Monday press conference. His exact quote was, “No decision has been made” and that they would see where they are at the end of the week in regards to the competition between Harrison Bailey, Virginia Tech Hokies graduate transfer Hendon Hooker and Michigan Wolverines transfer Joe Milton.
Manning’s comments, meanwhile, came at the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony where he was the featured speaker. When asked by Bob Kesling, he said that Heupel told him about the race but that he wasn’t going to publicize it.
Looking at these comments, there are four possibilities. Either Heupel made a decision between his press conference Monday and Manning’s comments Tuesday, Manning was joking but didn’t make that clear, Manning is lying or Heupel is lying. The first possibilities is extremely unlikely. It’s most likely that Heupel is lying.
Let’s be honest, Heupel appears to have know for a while who Tennessee football’s starter will be. There’s a reason Brian Maurer transferred in the middle of preseason camp. Did Maurer truly fall that significantly behind the other quarterbacks, or did he just see the writing on the wall?
Coaches keeping their preferred starting quarterback close to the vest isn’t uncommon. However, in Heupel’s case, it doesn’t make as much sense. His team is opening the season against a horrendous Bowling Green Falcons team. If he needs to hide the starter to beat BGSU, then the Vols are in serious trouble.
All three quarterbacks have advantages. Hooker is the most experienced running a spread and the only true dual-threat. Bailey is an elite drop-back passer and was the best performer in the spring. Milton, though, is the one guy Heupel signed himself and was once recruited by Heupel when he was offensive coordinator of the Missouri Tigers.
Given how Heupel talked up Milton in the summer, he is probably the best bet right now if a decision truly has been made for Tennessee football’s signal-caller. However, if it has, Heupel had no reason to hide it on Monday.