Suddenly, Tayven Jackson is in a weird spot. One of the jewels of Tennessee’s 2022 class, Jackson signed on with Josh Heupel with a decently clear path ahead to the starting job in a year or two. Now that longterm picture is definitely a little murkier, with the addition of five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava to the class of 2023.
However, Iamaleava’s arrival is still a year away, and Jackson is a top quarterback prospect in his own right. The Indiana native arrives on campus as Tennessee’s QB3, set to take a redshirt season behind Hendon Hooker and Joe Milton.
For Jackson, this spring is all about getting settled and diving into the playbook. He’s hoping that’s enough to get him a leg up in a potential battle next season.
“Tayven Jackson just had a really, really good day,” Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh said on Saturday. “Tayven is really, really fun to watch. He’s a really good athlete. He’s got a really quick release. He’s really grasped the offense, through three days, well. It’ll be interesting to see as things pile up as you go into (practices) four, five, six, pads on today, what he actually looks like. It’ll be interesting, when we scrimmage next week and coaches are off the field, what he looks like, but really a superb athlete.”
Jackson was a four-star prospect, ranking as a top 300 player in the class of 2022. He’s regarded as being a bit raw as a passer, but oozing the physical skills necessary to become a top passer at the power-five level.
“Has a really good understanding,” Golesh said. “Has a really quick trigger. Everything we had kind of hoped he would be, he certainly has been that, so far. Now we’ve got to continue to put more on him, and he’s got to continue to grow. We talked with him, just consistently stringing days together. Can he be better tomorrow than he was today? And I know that sounds a little bit cliche, but wipe it clean and play the next play, wipe it clean and play next the play. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by a whole lot.”
Josh Heupel’s resume for quarterbacks is pretty stout, and it was only strengthened last year by the emergence of Hendon Hooker. His spread system and tempo opens up plenty of opportunities for quarterbacks of all types, and the race to follow in Hooker’s footsteps is already brewing. Joe Milton will have one year remaining if he wants it next year, while Jackson will obviously have four left. And of course, Iamaleava will then become the elephant in the room.
For now though, Jackson is just looking to learn the system and stack good practices on top of one another. He’s one of the more intriguing stories of this spring, and it’s going to be interesting to see how quickly he can come along during some upcoming scrimmages.