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Joe Milton opts out of Citrus Bowl, Nico Iamaleava set to make first career start

We’ll get a glimpse of the future on Monday.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Nico Iamaleava era is upon us. The former five-star prospect will get his first career start on New Year’s Day against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Citrus Bowl. Tennessee’s starter for the 2023 season, Joe Milton, has decided to opt out of the game.

VolQuest had the news this morning.

Milton’s 2023 season ends with 2,813 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Milton will now prep for the 2024 NFL Draft. He’ll take part in the Senior Bowl, hoping to show NFL scouts that he can operate in more of a pro style offense. For now though, Milton is helping Iamaleava prep for Iowa.

Iamaleava was the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2023, per On3. The 6-6 true freshman has seen action in four games to this point, preserving his redshirt status. The bowl game does not count against that.

Nico threw for 86 yards against UConn back in November, then 66 more against Vanderbilt in mop-up duty. Now for the very first time, he’ll go through game prep as the starting quarterback. His test won’t an easy one, however, facing the Iowa defense. The Hawkeyes always bring it on that side of the ball, and Kirk Ferentz has once again this season. Iowa ranks fifth in the nation in total defense, giving Iamaleava a real challenge to deal with.

Tennessee will also be without starting running back Jaylen Wright, along with Jabari Small as well. That’s going to leave Dylan Sampson and Cam Seldon in the backfield for the Volunteers, giving us a true glimpse at the future.

The Volunteers are still 6.5 point favorites after the Milton news broke, per DraftKings Sportsbook.