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Tennessee football: What YouTube commenters are saying about Nico Iamaleava vs. Joe Milton III

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There have been some recent, head-scratching opinions bantered about the Tennessee football quarterback situation. Varied? Uh, yeah.

Admittedly, I started the conversation based on how I view UT freshman Nico Iamaleava and his short-term future. I don’t envision him just sitting the bench this season. He’s too good.

The departure of Tayven Jackson, who committed to Indiana, is a sure sign that Tennessee’s coaches think Iamaleava has shown up ready to play after enrolling before the spring semester, as mentioned here. And, frankly, the jury is still out on senior Joe Milton III despite his outstanding play in the Orange Bowl.

Here are some responses to a recent discussion on the Off The Hook Sports YouTube channel

Dude it’s not happening

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I appreciate the brevity, but I question whether or not you’ve seen Iamaleava throw. Take out pure arm strength and Iamaleava is a better natural thrower than Milton. Iamaleava has a much quicker delivery, better fundamentals and better touch. Meanwhile, he has more than enough arm strength.

Got to start him if you are paying him an 8m NIL deal

I don’t think the actual cash will be a factor. However, if Iamaleava and Milton are even after spring practice, that might be a consideration. Let’s hope not. Still, there are other extenuating circumstances. For instance, the faster Iamaleava gets in a game, the faster he becomes the elite quarterback that his recruiting ranking would indicate. If it’s close, go with Iamaleava.

Huepel is a smart coach and a smart coach does not throw a true freshman in to get eaten alive if he doesn’t absolutely have to. Period. It’s a stupid move reserved for desperation when no other option is available. C’mon now you’re smarter than that. Huepel is going to protect the future of the program at all costs. And the worst possible thing you can do is put this kid in to get punished by defenses because he’s not ready mentally or physically especially when he’s brand new to the game in the first place so he’s raw…and used to playing volleyball. 

First, Iamaleava has to gain weight to be more durable and less susceptible to injury to play in the SEC. Assuming he does that, just like everything else he’s said he’s done, the quick-draw Californian quarterback could be 210 to 215 pounds. He’s also bigger than you think. From what I’m told, he’s a solid 6-foot-5 with a frame that can easily gain weight. 

As for him getting punished, the Vols first four games include Virginia, Austin Peay and UT-San Antonio. Are you suggesting he can’t get experience against those teams and survive and onslaught from that gauntlet? Please. The schedule sets up to get Iamaleava real game experience, especially with no other quarterback to muddle things up.

As for volleyball, Iamaleava did everything he could to keep up his commitment to volleyball. That shows his competitive side. Based on that, he’s not going to be happy sitting on the bench nor should you view playing volleyball as some sort of indication that Iamaleava is soft.

You p*** off Joe Milton in his last eligible season and he might hit the door.

There certainly is a balancing act there. Tennessee football certainly doesn’t want to lose Milton. However, no one has to announce that Iamaleava is out-performing Milton in spring practice even if that’s the case. If it makes Milton feel better, name him the starter in March, then evaluate as things go on. Successful coaches are pretty good at keeping hope alive. That’s why Milton returned for the 2022 season.

We can’t freeze people in time. Joe had a better year percentage wise than a lot of starting quarterbacks, throwing 64%, 10 TD s and 0 interceptions . He made some NFL throws. DONT FORGOT HENDON WAS VT (Virginia Tech) BACKUP. Look what Heupel did to him in 2 years. Joe is already waaaaaay better than he was before and will be even better by September. Everybody improves every year under Heupel

First things first. Milton shouldn’t be judged off of one play, one series or one game, i.e. frozen in time. That’s why I’m not judging him solely by the errant throws earlier in his career or his near-perfect performance in the Orange Bowl.

Hendon Hooker was indeed a backup. Yet, he secured the starting job after the Vols could have gone back to Milton when he was healthy. That shows that Heupel will make aggressive moves, like playing a freshman. Yes, Milton has improved under Heupel, but what makes one think that Iamaleava, who is already really good, won’t improve during this offseason?

There are all kinds of possible scenarios that could unfold with Tennessee football at the quarterback position. However, imagining Iamaleava not playing meaningful, significant snaps this season seem like the least likely. 

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