The highest-rated commitment to Tennessee football in the Vols’ 2023 recruiting class will be on the national stage on Friday.
Quarterback Nico Iamaleava – a five-star early enrollee – will be competing in the Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii. The bowl is set to air on NFL Network and 9 p.m. ET.
It’s safe to say he’s already made an impression in Polynesian Bowl practice.
The Polynesian Bowl is an annual event held for the top high school seniors in Laie, Hawaii at Aloha Stadium. Many of the participants, like Iamaleava, come from Polynesian roots.
Iamaleava’s trip to Hawaii comes after he was able to participate in Tennessee football Orange Bowl practices by enrolling early. He was also able to go to Miami for a week with the Vols. Iamaleava was the scout quarterback for UT, going against the starting defense ahead of the Orange Bowl.
“It’s been my goal since Day 1 to go out there and compete with whoever is the guy but I also look forward to learning from guys like Joe (Milton), Navy (Shuler), Gaston (Moore), and the whole QB room,” Iamaleava told CBS Sports at the Polynesian Bowl. “I think we have a great QB room. My first three weeks there, it just felt good to be a part of it. Nobody has any ego, and everybody gets along well. Whether it is competing for the job, or backing up Joe, or backing up whoever it is, I look forward to learning. It’ll be freshman year, so I know there will be a lot more adjustments to college life. I look forward to wherever that spot is”
With Tayven Jackson transferring to Indiana, this frees up more snaps for Iamaleava in spring practice. Head coach Josh Heupel has insisted it will be an open quarterback battle going into the fall.
While Joe Milton impressed many in the Orange Bowl, Iamaleava has also been impressive in his short time as a Vol.
“He can self-correct and get himself in the position as he’s learned what it should feel like in the pocket in a few short days,” Heupel said on Early Signing Day. “He can already start to correct himself, he understands when something happens, why it’s happening. That’s only going to continue to heighten. Obviously, the raw skills are there. Arm talent and extremely athletic and explosive inside of the pocket. Can make plays with his feet. In a short amount of time, we’ve been able to see those things already.”
Iamaleava moved up to No. 1 in On3’s recruiting rankings for the class of 2023. Arch Manning had previously held the No. 1 spot.
Following the Polynesian Bowl, Iamaleava will return to Knoxville and prepare for Tennessee football spring practice, where we can expect a heated quarterback battle.