With Hendon Hooker off of Rocky Top, Joe Milton has been left as the starter for the Volunteers next season. Even so, plenty of the spotlight at Tennessee is on their shiny new toy in the form of 2023 five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava. Considering what they’ve seen so far this spring, new offensive coordinator Joey Halzle is loving everything about that addition too.
Halzle broke down Iamaleava’s growth this spring during his press conference last week. He said the young QB’s maturity has been a big aid to him as he learns the ropes in Knoxville. However, he also says Iamaleava is going through the obvious learning curve that comes with leading their offense as well as playing football at the next level in general.
“He’s been really good. He’s mature beyond his years, doesn’t act like a freshman,” Halzle said. “But, with that said, the first time you take the field? No matter how prepared you are going from high school to college, it’s fast. It’s fast, there’s a lot more on you. We put as much on the quarterback as anybody in the country, if not more. So it’s a lot.”
“He’s handling it well with a great attitude. He stays positive, he competes at a really high level. And he just lets his athleticism take over too which is fun to watch,” said Halzle. “He’s been great but it is hard. People forget how hard it is to come in and play as a true freshman at any level of college football. It’s just a different animal.”
Expectations around Iamaleava have been sky-high around Tennessee since his commitment just over a year ago. He brings a ton of talent to the table as a top-three quarterback and Top-10 player in the 2023 Class according to On3’s Industry Rankings. That hype has then only grown since his arrival as he practiced with the Volunteers ahead of the Orange Bowl last season.
Still, with all this said, Iamaleava has a lot to still learn and Halzle knows it. While he’s an incredibly exciting prospect, he has plenty of steps to take before he makes any impact at Tennessee. As of now, it’s on him to show off that maturity and pick things up as quickly as he can with this time he has as Milton’s understudy. From there, he can develop and become the player who the Vols are dreaming he can be down the line.