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Three Reasons Nico Iamaleava Will Start Tennessee’s 2023 football season

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Tennessee’s most ballyhooed prospect – perhaps ever – has officially turned into its most anticipated young player. Nico Iamaleava is on campus and officially a Vol. For proof, he’s been seen blasting out some pushups next to the Power T in the football facility. Check out social media for proof.

This would be a great time to pontificate about the reasons why a freshman isn’t likely to be ready to play in his first season. There are plenty of challenges, including gaining weight. There are plenty of players before Iamaleava with sky-high recruiting rankings that didn’t pass muster. However, there are plenty of reasons that Iamaleava can beat the percentages and go from a really, really good high school player to a really, really good college quarterback.

I polled Tennessee fans recently on social media and was surprised to find that only a small percentage think that Iamaleava will hit the ground running and start the 2023 season. Most seem to think that 2024 will be Iamaleava’s time to really shine. That’s fair. However, there are a couple of reasons that make one think that Iamaleava’s star could begin to shine sooner, much sooner.

Here are three:


Iamaleava has been committed to Tennessee since March. He’s had plenty of opportunity to study Tennessee’s playbook. From all the people that I’ve talked to that are close to Iamaleava, he has that “dog” in him so there’s a good chance he’s done more studying than most. That “dog” will also help him overcome frustrating days, which are sure to occur.

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The Perfect Fit

Iamaleava is an ideal fit for Tennessee coach Josh Heupel’s offense. Iamaleava reads defenses quickly, has a quick release and a stellar arm. According to scouts I’ve spoken to, Iamaleava actually has more upside in those regards than former Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker – and he almost won the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football.

So you’re saying there’s a chance

No offense to Joe Milton III but it’s apparent there are accuracy issues at hand. Those might get fixed. They might not. If they don’t, then the door is wide open for someone to step in. Freshman Tayven Jackson could also figure into the mix, but that would be a pretty significant surprise.

Now, no one is calling for Iamaleava to be named the starter anytime soon, or coming our of spring practice as many would like. However, it’s possible. These are different times. Elite quarterbacks are more prepared. Iamaleava also has a stable situation in Knoxville. Heupel isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and it’s his offense.

Tennessee has had high-profile prospects struggle early in their career, but there was often times an underlying reason. Jonathan Crompton is a prime example. He played for four different offensive coordinators. Who could possibly succeed in that scenario?

So, unless something changes, throw caution to the wind. There’s every reason to take the rational, conservative mindset and toss it. Expectations are high for Iamaleava. However, as of right now, they seem about right.

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