Tennessee’s plan at quarterback is clear — Joe Milton now, Nico Iamaleava later. Iamaleava, the No. 1 overall player from the class of 2023, is serving as Tennessee’s backup this season behind Milton. The job is clearly his next year, and some have wondered whether or not he would get the redshirt this year, assuming Milton can stay healthy.
Players can appear in up to four games without losing their redshirt status. However, Josh Heupel and the Tennessee staff have no plans to take advantage of that rule. They want him in the game whenever the situation allows them to do so.
“The plan is, whenever the opportunity presents itself, to have him in the football game,” Heupel said of his plans for Iamaleava. “There’s no plans to redshirt him. We want to get him in as much football as possible.”
Getting Iamaleava as much live action as possible makes sense looking ahead to next year, and even preparing for the worst this year. The true freshman saw his first live action last Saturday against Virginia in the fourth quarter. He will likely see much more action this Saturday, with the Volunteers hosting Austin Peay.
“I really do love where he’s at, his focus every day, his continued growth and understanding of what we’re doing,” Heupel said. “He’s dynamic. He’s got the ability to be a playmaker.”
Iamaleava could see a full half of playing time, assuming things go well enough against the Governors in the first half.
This news isn’t all that shocking, honestly. If things go as they should, Iamaleava will have two full years of college football experience by the end of his junior season. He’ll potentially be faced with an NFL decision at that point, so saving a year of eligibility seems pointless here when you could work to get him live action now.
Tennessee hosts Austin Peay, UConn and UTSA on the non-conference slate. Vanderbilt and Missouri are two other potential spots for playing time down the road.