- Advertisement -

Volunteer Countdown No. 1: How many wins is Tennessee Football QB Nico Iamaleava WORTH?

- Advertisement -

Tennessee Football enters the season as one of the most highly-anticipated teams in the country. Who will be the key pieces for the Vols in 2024? The following is a countdown series of the most important Vols on Tennessee’s roster as they head into summer workouts.

There are important players, and then there are expected superstars. Tennessee Football didn’t pay $2 million a year to Nico Iamaleava (allegedly) and go to war with the NCAA on his behalf for him to be anything less than one of the greatest players in school history. With one start under his belt, it’s time for him to seize the day.

At 6’6″ 210 pounds, Iamaleava is a guy who might have been created in a lab to run Josh Heupel’s offense. He could be a dual-threat quarterback but is a pocket passer first. That doesn’t mean he’ll hesitate to run, though. Add in his beautiful deep ball and his perfect touch, and he has all the tools to live up this NIL payments.


Iamaleava showed just what he could be in the Citrus Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes. It was his first start, and he led the Vols to a 35-0 victory. Iowa played its vintage 4-2-5 defense under Kirk Ferentz and forced Iamaleava to work the field, and in his first start, he did just that, finishing 12-of-19 for 151 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 27 more yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers.

Of course, pedestrian numbers like that isn’t why Heupel recruited him, but Iowa forced him to work the field, so he showed an element to his game as a freshman that you usually don’t see from players until their senior years. Lack of weight is arguably the only reason he didn’t start last year over Joe Milton III, and he has put on a lot since then. Another round of conditioning should have him ready.

- Advertisement -

What If?

Obviously, Iamaleava going down would wreck the whole season and everything Heupel banked on. However, if that does happen, Tennessee Football did add four-star Jake Merklinger on the recruiting trail. He’ll likely be the guy to take over. Gaston Moore is still in the system too, but it really comes down to Iamaleava and Merklinger.


There is no reason to believe that Iamaleava won’t become an immediate transcendent superstar for the Vols. He should rewrite all the history and record books over the next two years at UT and should be a Heisman Trophy contender both seasons. Anything less is a disappointment, which is why he’s the most important UT player.

Worth Noting

Iamaleava was the first freshmen, true or redshirt, to win a bowl game for Tennessee Football since Peyton Manning back in 1994. Manning led the Vols to a 45-23 Gator Bowl victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies that year to close out an 8-4 season and then went on to become the greatest quarterback in UT history. Could that be a sign? Possibly.

As for the rest of the top 10 most important players for Tennessee Football entering summer workouts, here is the countdown:

10 Javontez Spraggins

9 John Campbell Jr.

8 Omari Thomas

7. Bru McCoy

6. Rickey Gibson III

5. Squirrel White

4. Keenan Pili

3. James Pearce Jr.

2. Cooper Mays

- Advertisement -

Latest YouTube Video

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *