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Several Vols can impact the Citrus Bowl. But will Nico Iamaleava even play?

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Tennessee has one game remaining to close out the 2023 season. The Citrus Bowl will put a bow on Josh Heupel’s third season as Tennessee’s coach.

But the conversation around the game will focus on the preview for 2024.

Not all of Tennessee’s players who compete against Iowa on Jan. 1 will return next season. Most of them will, though, especially with the decision of so many seniors to play one more season. There’s also the attention on less experienced players who will have a chance to play a bigger role next year.

Which Tennessee players have a lot to prove against Iowa as the Vols prepare for 2024?

Let’s take a look.

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CB Rickey Gibson

Tennessee will say goodbye to around 10 defensive backs from this past season. At cornerback, the Vols have already seen Doneiko Slaughter (Arkansas) transfer and Kamal Hadden leave due to injury and the end of his eligibility.

That will offer Gibson a chance to play a lot against Iowa. Gibson will likely start the game, giving him a chance to show Tennessee’s coaches what he can do next season.

Gibson will have competition this spring from fellow 2023 class member Jordan Matthews. Oregon State transfer Jermod McCoy and incoming freshman Kaleb Beasley will also challenge
for starting positions.

But Gibson will get the first opportunity to show what he can do in that role against Iowa.
This would be a good time to take advantage.

RB Cameron Seldon

Jaylen Wright’s decision to enter the NFL Draft and opt out of the bowl game creates a big opportunity for Seldon. No one questions Seldon’s talent. The 6-foot-2, 222-pound back has the size and speed necessary to succeed in the SEC.

Seldon has just needed an opportunity.

With Wright leaving and Jabari Small expected to do the same, that leaves Seldon to take on a
bigger role to help Dylan Sampson. Sampson will take the lead role, but he can’t carry it by himself. Seldon has playmaking ability as a runner and receiver.

This would be a great time to give Seldon a chance to show what he can do to finish his
freshman season.

LB Jeremiah Telander

Telander played often as a freshman and impressed with his effort and tackling ability.

With senior Aaron Beasley on the way out and fellow freshman Arion Carter done for the
season due to injury, Telander should use this game to make a case for more snaps next year.
Keenan Pili will return from injury, and Elijah Herring will be a year old, but Telander will have an
opportunity to either start or see an increased snap load in 2024.

Telander wasn’t the highest-rated signee in the 2023 class, but he’s been one of the most
impactful members of the class so far.

Let’s see if he continues that against Iowa.

DL Daevin Hobbs

Hobbs played a role in Tennessee’s defensive line rotation as a freshman. Can he help lead the way in 2024? Tennessee will have veterans returning next year, but none of them have more talent than

And his ability to crack the rotation as a true freshman speaks to the upside Hobbs possesses.
Let’s see how much Hobbs plays against Iowa – and how many plays he can help make while
he’s out there. Hobbs plays a position that doesn’t get as much attention as it should.
But Heupel and defensive line coach Rodney Garner know how important he is for Tennessee’s

The Citrus Bowl will create an opportunity for Hobbs to remind everyone.

QB Nico Iamaleava

Wait… is Nico even going to play? That’s a question right now. But there’s no doubt he should.

Even if Joe Milton III starts the bowl game, which is the expectation as of this writing, Iamaleava
should play in the game. Everyone is ready to see Nico play meaningful snaps. That includes the fans, media, players, and coaches. If Milton opts out of the Citrus Bowl, there’s no doubt what role Iamaleava would play in the game.

He’d start and help lead the hype train into 2024. But if Milton starts the game, Heupel and offensive coordinator Joey Halzle should develop a plan to involve Iamaleava.

Quick disclaimer: Be careful about reading too much into a quarterback’s performance in a bowl
game. Last season’s Orange Bowl can serve as an example. But Iamaleava should play against Iowa.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, is ready to see what he can do.

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