Josh Heupel got a commitment from his highest-ranked prospect since joining Tennessee as head coach when ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Nico Iamaleava announced his commitment to the Vols.
Iamaleava is the number 24 prospect in the 2023 class and the number 4 quarterback. He is a 6-foot-6, 195-pound signal caller from Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California.
“The family atmosphere, the atmosphere, the culture. The fact that (Iamaleava’s) mother during the visit to Tennessee really solidified that she could experience that,” said Iamaleava’s father, Nicholaus. “The visit to Tennessee was really practical, the wives[of the coach]came out and gave us a good insight into the program. We know we can leave him there and they can take care of him.”
Because he was so highly regarded, Iamaleava had offers from almost every major program in the country, and he named his last five schools as Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Tennessee, and Oregon. He is the second ESPN Jr. 300 commit in the 2023 class along with tight end Ethan Davis, and he is the first quarterback in the top 300 ahead of Heupel and offensive coordinator Alex Golesh.
The staff added four-star Tayven Jackson in the 2022 class, but saw Harrison Bailey and Brian Maurer leave. The staff will have 2021 starter Hendon Hooker returning in 2022, as well as backup Joe Milton. Hooker threw 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and 3 interceptions last season and became the starter after transferring from Virginia Tech and starting the season as Milton’s backup.
Hooker’s success, and the success Heupel has seen at previous stops in the past, played a big part in Iamaleava’s decision to pick Tennessee.
“This decision, because of what they’ve done with all the quarterbacks they’ve had before them, just came in seeing the numbers Hooker had unlike the previous years,” Nicholaus Iamaleava said. “They have a rundown of every quarterback starting when he first came in and what they looked like at the end of the season. So the development part that they show, along with all of their quarterbacks, played a big part because we know that he will be developed.”
Iamaleava will give the coaching staff an excellent quarterback option to replace Hooker after this season. His bet makes Tennessee the highest-ranked quarterback the program has been awarded since ESPN began its ranking in 2006.