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Citrus Bowl coverage: QB Joe Milton is preparing to start in 2020, talks areas of improvement

Milton feels like he’s ready to take that next step at Michigan.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Illinois Michael Allio-USA TODAY Sports

ORLANDO, FL — Joe Milton is being looked at as the potential starting quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines heading into the 2020 season with Shea Patterson graduating after the bowl game. Milton is presumably set to compete with Dylan McCaffrey for the job, but says that he’s been putting the work in to earn his opportunity well ahead of Patterson heading out the door.

Milton spoke to the media on Monday morning during Citrus Bowl kids day at Fun Spot America in Orlando.

“It’s not just because he’s leaving,” Milton said about his preparation. “Ever since he stepped on campus we’ve all just been working. Now that I know he’s leaving, it’s all work still. Everybody’s goal is to be the starter, but my goal is to keep working and get better. There’s always room for improvement. So I just keep doing that. “

Milton, an Orlando-area native, came to Michigan as a prospect with as much arm talent as any in the country, but also a player that was as raw as any prospect in the country. He spoke about some of the things he has worked on to improve to

“Touch, not throwing the ball too hard at people and putting it over the top so people can go get it instead of just throwing it and watching people run full speed,” he said.

The 2020 quarterback competition is set to be the first time the Wolverines have had a true position battle for No. 1 reps since Wilton Speight and John O’Korn battled it out ahead of the 2016 season, so the spring will be the continuation of the battle between Milton and McCaffrey. At this point, he says it is not sure when the staff might give an indication of who the guy will be.

“I really don’t know (when they’ll let us know who’s starting),” Milton said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to keep working if I’m the starter or I’m not the starter. So if I find out I’m not, it is what it is. I’m going to keep working.”

College football’s current landscape has quarterbacks transferring to get an opportunity to play, as evidenced by three of the four Heisman finalists this season beginning their careers at other schools. Milton says he has never had thoughts of leaving Ann Arbor cross his mind, but did note that watching others play ahead of him is tough to swallow.

“It’s a very difficult challenge, just watching others play,” he said. “It’s not what I’m used to, but at the end of the day you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I’ve learned a lot from Shea and I’m still learning from him. So I’ll take his game and my game and put it together.

“(I’ve looked to) God (to help stay patient). I haven’t looked anywhere else, I’ve remained humble and true to God. Nothing’s been on my mind to go somewhere else. If you stay patient and humble, it’s going to come one day.”

A defining trait of any signal-caller outside of what he does with his arm is the leadership that he brings to the field. Aside from the strides that Milton feels he has made as a passer, he feels that his ability to lead stands out as one of his biggest improvements.

“I’ve been taking that step since my freshman year, watching others and trying to develop,” he said. “I took a lot of leadership classes over the summer and this semester, basically just trying to find out what bad leaders do, so I can improve on the things I need to work on as a leader.”

“When I was younger, I was never outspoken. When I wanted to say something, I never spoke. Now that I am who I am now, taking leadership leadership classes, being in the role I’m in now, I speak when I want to speak. And I speak when it’s the right time to speak. Sometimes at practice when guys are running their mouths or have their heads down, I say, ‘Pick your head up and do your thing.’ When coaches say something, it’s not to you. They’re just trying to help you. So I tell my teammates, ‘Come on, man, you’re good. Don’t worry about it. Just keep doing you.’”

Milton also had to navigate learning responsibilities in a new offense under coordinator Josh Gattis this season and he feels that the system in place is perfect for what he what he wants to do.

“It suits my skill set very well,” he said. “I’m a pass-first guy and we have a little running in our offense, but it’s time to do what we do, man. Offense came along through the mid-season. We all clicked and it’s time to keep going.”

Being from the southern part of the country, Milton could have likely had his pick of schools much closer to home. He had a very simple answer for why he picked the Wolverines, and it also points to how confident he is in his abilities.

“The snow,” Milton said. “I’m used to it now instead of having to wait for the NFL and adjust to it. I’d rather get used to it now than later.”