The Nico Iamaleava era has officially begun. Tennessee’s five-star quarterback arrived on campus this month for bowl practices, and he signed with the Volunteers early on Wednesday. Now that he’s finally official, Josh Heupel can finally talk about him.
The No. 4 player in the class of 2023, Iamaleava enters the picture behind senior quarterback Joe Milton, who will more than likely replace Hendon Hooker under center for Tennessee next year. Former four-star prospect Tayven Jackson remains in the picture, looking to bounce back from a collarbone injury that cost him much of his freshman season.
Just in case you were wondering — I certainly was — here’s the official pronunciation of Iamaleava.
Setting the record straight:— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) December 21, 2022
ee-ah-MAH-LAY-ah-va @nico_iamaleava8 pic.twitter.com/UbmaY14TiL
For Iamaleava, it’s all about finding his footing and adjusting to college life ahead of spring practices in a couple of months.
“I’ve gotten a chance to see him in person and on tape too,” Heupel said on Wednesday. “He’s athletic and I say that meaning that he understands his body. He can self-correct and get himself into 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.”
The 6-5, 195 pound prospect out of California threw for over 2,200 yards and 33 touchdowns against just one interception as a junior in 2021. The physical tools are all there for Iamaleava, known for his frame, arm strength and escapability. He’s widely regarded as a great teammate and leader, exactly what you want in a quarterback prospect.
Now, it’s going to be about learning Heupel’s unique offensive system. Iamaleava is going to have to get comfortable with tempo so he’s ready when his number is called, maybe even as soon as this fall.
“He understands when something happens, why it’s happening,” Heupel said. “That’s only going to continue to heighten. Obviously the raw skills are there; the arm talent and he’s an extremely athletic and explosive inside the pocket. He can make plays with his feet. In a short amount of time we’ve been able to see some of those things already.”
Without a doubt, Iamaleava will be the story of spring ball. We’ll get a chance to see him operate in the Orange and White game in late April, and it’ll be interesting to see how wide the gap is between he and Milton.