Nico Iamaleava put on a show Friday night in the Polynesian Bowl. As the game’s offensive MVP, every reason to be excited about the Tennessee football 2023 commitment at quarterback was on dispay.
What about intangibles? Well, Iamaleava had to bounce back from a rough start, throwing an interception on his first drive. He also led Team Mauka back from a 17-13 deficit in the fourth quarter to win 22-17, according to reports.
Iamaleava completed 13-of-20 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 65 yards. That is arguably the best performance by a quarterback in Polynesian Bowl history. His first highlight pass was a touchdown pass over the middle.
Although USC Trojans commit Zachariah Branch appeared to do most of the work on this one, Iamaleava still had to find him over the middle and make the right decision. He deserves credit for that.
Later, Iamaleava made the type of play that is designed for Josh Heupel’s system. He threw a beautiful deep ball down the sideline for a huge gain when the game was tied.
Heupel’s system is designed for receivers to get open down the sideline. Iamaleava showed there he’s got the arm, and the accuracy, to be able to deliver in that system.
Finally, there’s the mobility factor. Iamaleava appears to be more of a pocket passer than Hendon Hooker or Joe Milton III, but he can still run, evidenced by this 58-yard scramble.
Big plays like these are exactly what quarterbacks are expected to make in Heupel’s system. Quarterbacks’ numbers get inflated because of that, and Iamaleava seems perfectly fit for it.
In addition to being named Polynesian Bowl MVP, Iamaleava was named the Polynesian High School Player of the Year the next day. The hype behind him is only growing.
There’s a reason Tayven Jackson transferred after Iamaleava joined Tennessee football and worked with the scout team in December. That reason was on display Friday.