Michigan quarterback Joe Milton is entering his third collegiate season, and oh how things have changed. The days of scout team reps are over, and as Jim Harbaugh put it, Milton’s running with the 1s.
Although Milton has attempted just 11 passes in his Michigan career, his arm strength has been talked about extensively the past two seasons. Multiple coaches and players have said he can throw the ball over 80 yards and has one of the strongest arms they’ve ever seen.
“People talk about his arm strength, but he’s developed touch. A passer’s touch. He’s throwing the appropriate throws,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I’m most excited just to watch him compete.”
Arm strength is important, but arm strength alone doesn’t make a quarterback a good passer. Different times and depths call for different approaches to throwing the football, and the best quarterbacks can throw with both touch and torque. Throwing a 100 mph fastball isn’t necessary all the time when you have a good change-up and have the ability to mix up velocities.
“Joe’s got an extremely strong arm, but he really took to heart to throw passes with touch. Necessary passes with appropriate (velocity). I think he made a lot of growth in that way. Putting appropriate elevation on the ball,” Harbaugh said on Monday.
Milton’s work on touch passes has been something long in the works. Last September Harbaugh commended Milton’s improvement on touch passes, something quarterbacks cocah Ben McDaniels helped him with via drills in practice.
“Coach McDaniels has these drills, we stay in the pocket and they have these big bags, and we have to find a hole to throw through,” Milton said last season. “We have this big quarterback net and we have to throw the ball high enough for it to just drop over the net into one of three holes like it’s going into a receiver’s hands. Yeah, it’s like throwing it into a basket. You have to learn that sometimes the throws can’t be hard because they have someone covering them. You have to know how to soften it up and throw it early.”
Milton’s always been an accurate passer, per offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, but now he throws a catchable ball. “His accuracy has been exceptional and that was one of the things we have talked about as far as taking RPMs off, knowing how to give a catchable ball,” Gattis told reporters in September. “Accuracy as far as ball placement was never an issue. Sometimes the issue had been in the past was whether or not those receivers could catch it that fast. He’s done a really good job in improving in that, but still maintaining his power in his arm.”
As far as Harbaugh’s confidence level in Milton heading into the season, he believes Milton’s ready to play a game. “I’ve known Joe Milton a long time. He’s very talented. Let’s put the talented guy out there and see how it goes,” Harbaugh said. “I think you might be surprised in a pleasant way.”
Time to let it rip. With power and touch.