Who Is Nico Iamaleava? Tennessee’s QB of the Future Gets First Start in Citrus Bowl

    Nico Iamaleava will make his first start in the Citrus Bowl. Find out everything you need to know about the new Tennessee starting QB.

    Tennessee QB Nico Iamaleava will make his first start in college football in the Citrus Bowl when the Volunteers take on Iowa on New Year’s Day. In just his freshman season, there is excitement for the young QB and what he could mean for the program.

    Iamaleava is ready to take over as the starter for the Volunteers as they face one of the nation’s top defenses, Iowa, in the Citrus Bowl. Who is the young star QB being asked to step up?

    Who Is Nico Iamaleava?

    Iamaleava will see his first purposeful snaps of his young college career in the Citrus Bowl, stirring up hype for his potential in Knoxville.

    A consensus five-star recruit and the second-ranked recruit in the nation by 247Sports in the 2023 recruiting class, Iamaleava is expected to be the next starting Tennessee quarterback.

    Born of Polynesian descent, Iamaleava attended Warren High School in California and won Polynesian Football Player of the Year in his senior season. Throwing for 1,726 yards and 25 touchdowns in his final year, he was recruited as one of the top recruits in his class and enrolled early at Tennessee in 2022.

    MORE: 2023 Freshman All-American Team

    Iamaleava saw action in six games in his freshman season, but all of his snaps came in garbage time — in relief of starting QB Joe Milton. He threw for 163 yards and one touchdown in 2023.

    While there are big expectations for Iamaleava on Rocky Top, they aren’t putting too much pressure on him to thrive immediately. “We don’t expect Nico to go out and play perfect,” HC Josh Heupel said. “We expect him to reset and allow our playmakers to go make plays.”

    When asked by the media how excited he is to make his first start, Iamaleava said, “It should be good, man, my first start going against the top-five defense. I’m ready for the challenge, and I’m ready to go out there and compete with my brothers.”

    Why Is Iamaleava Starting the Citrus Bowl?

    Iamaleava has played backup to Milton in 2023 but will debut in the Citrus Bowl.

    Milton, who had a career year in 2023, has opted out of the Citrus Bowl and has declared for the NFL Draft. He is one of several players who opted out of the Citrus Bowl.

    MORE: CFB Bowl Game Opt-Out Tracker

    He declared for the NFL Draft on Dec. 27 after leading the Vols to an 8-4 season, throwing for over 2,800 yards and passing for 20 touchdowns.

    Milton will be on the sidelines supporting his teammates. Unsurprisingly, Iamaleava has learned a lot from the veteran QB.

    “This whole season, Joe took me under his wing, and I’ve learned so much from Joe,” Iamaleava said. “So I’m just still having him here with this bowl prep, and having him out here in Orlando with us has been, it’s been fun.”

    Heupel also expects Milton to help out his understudy during the game.

    “Be another voice to help Nico as he comes off the sidelines,” Heupel said on Milton’s impact. “Being able to help him get ready for the next set and also create positive energy. Besides being the quarterback on the field, throwing the football, making decisions, every other part of his roles that he has had during the year, he can still have on the sideline.”

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football’s transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

    College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

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