Tennessee football quarterback Nico Iamaleava gets a bold look at the 2024 campaign

As Tennessee football prepares for a new season, there will be a new starting quarterback at the helm. Replacing Joe Milton III is sophomore Nico Iamaleava, an elite player from the class of 2023. Iamaleava was Milton’s backup last season and will take over in the wake of Milton’s move to the NFL. Many are excited to see the Vols’ new leader in action, and that includes Josh Pate, host of The Late Kick podcast.

“I think Nico Iamaleava is going to be a star in this sport, and I don’t think you have to wait a few years,” Pate told CBS Sports College Football. “I think he will be this year. That guy will eventually become a household name in college football.”

A 6-foot-1, 210-pound signal caller, Iamaleava has physical attributes that scream two words: star potential. Being a tall quarterback has many advantages, the biggest of which is the ability to see the field over the heads of teammates and defenders alike.

And aside from his height, Iamaleava is a two-way threat; the quarterback can either pass or run the ball. As a freshman, Iamaleava only played five games, but he managed to throw for two touchdowns and 314 yards. In the rushing department, the 19-year-old added three touchdowns in 20 carries. You can imagine what he could be capable of with a full season of games.

Iamaleava really showed a glimpse of his abilities in January, during the Citrus Bowl Game vs. Iowa ending its season at Tennessee. The quarterback finished with three rushing touchdowns, while adding 151 passing yards and a touchdown pass in the fourth to culminate the blowout. The Vols destroyed the Hawkeyes 35-0, and Iamaleava’s play was essentially a warning of what awaits the SEC in 2024.

Tennessee football appears poised for a strong campaign

As for Tennessee football, they are coming off a 9-4 overall record (4-4 in the conference) and a third-place finish in the SEC East. Coach Josh Heupel is entering his fourth season with the Vols and fans are hoping he will finally lead the team to a CFP appearance. Heupel has had winning seasons the past three years, but Tennessee has yet to be selected as a top-four team since the CFP format was announced a decade ago.

Nevertheless, recent seasons have shown that the drought may soon end. In 2022, the Vols had their best record in years, going 11-2 and capping their campaign with an Orange Bowl win over Clemson.

Looking at the current roster, Tennessee will arguably become a stronger team next season. In addition to their prized quarterback, the Vols will still field some familiar faces, such as defensive lineman James Pearce Jr., wideout Squirrel White and running back Dylan Sampson. Additionally, the team landed high-quality transfer portal additions such as Holden Staes and cornerback Jermod McCoy.

Overall, you could make a case for Tennessee as a dark horse in the SEC this year.

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