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Tennessee football: Nico Iamaleava already making himself known to players, coaches

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The No. 2 prospect in the 2023 class has hit the field for Tennessee football, and he has made a lot of first impressions. 

Quarterback Nico Iamaleava enrolled early and began participating in bowl practices last Friday. It hasn’t taken long for the signal caller to make his name known on the field and in the locker room.

“He’s athletic, and I say that meaning that he understands his body,” head coach Josh Heupel told the media in his early signing period press conference Wednesday. “He can self-correct and get himself in the position as he’s learned what it should feel like in the pocket in a few short days. He can already start to correct himself, he understands when something happens, why it’s happening. That’s only going to continue to heighten.”

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Tennessee football lists Iamaleava at 6-foot-6 and 200-pounds. Tight end Jacob Warren, possibly someone Iamaleava will be throwing the ball to come spring practice, sees the talent the young signal caller possesses. 

“Man, just super talented and kind of lives up to that hype that we’ve all heard,” Warren told Off The Hook Sports.  “Just his arm and his accuracy. And I think we’ll take a little bit of time to get his timing down with our receivers and with tight ends and the backs and everything.”

Iamaleava comes into Tennessee with a laundry list of accolades from Long Beach, Calif. He marks the Vols’ fourth highest-ranked recruit of all time. He finished his senior year with 1,986 yards and 25 touchdowns on 119-199 passing. 

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If you met Iamaleava, you would never know he was the No. 2 prospect in the 2023 class. 

“Just seems like he’s really eager to learn and he came in here with a really humble attitude,” offensive lineman Cooper Mays told Off The Hook Sports. “He’s talked to me. We’ve talked a couple of times out there on the practice field and he’s asking questions and stuff. The first thing that struck me was he just seemed like a really nice kid, a really great kid, eager to learn, humble, and everything.”

Iamaleava will likely be competing for the starting job in his first season. With Hendon Hooker on the way out, the quarterback spot for next season seems to be up for grabs.

Joe Milton III has taken over the spot for the Orange Bowl. Likely, no matter the result of the Orange Bowl, Heupel will play the best quarterback in 2023. 

Whoever the starting quarterback is in 2023 will be tabbed as a leader for the team. Iamaleava is already making connections in the locker room, and he’s learning his place in the program. 

“Just him being here has not taken anything away from this program, which is all you can really ask,” Warren said. “He’s truly just coming in to try to acclimate himself and become comfortable with all the guys. And I can appreciate when people are nice to our kickers and our specialists because I’m really good friends with all of our kickers and our specialists. So, to me, it’s normal to be nice to them, but that’s not how it is in a lot of programs.”

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