KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It doesn't matter if you're a five-star recruit or not, getting used to Tennessee football's fast-paced offensive tempo is tough to figure out. Highly-touted Vol freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava is no exception.
"When you're actually in the offense, it's a whole different ballgame," Iamaleava said. "Getting that tempo down is way different than watching from the stands."
Iamaleava, the No. 3 recruit in the 2023 class according to 247Sports, is getting a head-start at spring practice as an early enrollee. New Tennessee offensive coordinator Joey Halzle has liked what he's seen from the new addition to the QB room.
"He's mature beyond his years. He doesn't act like a freshman," Halzle said. "We put as much on the quarterback as anyone in the country, if not more, so it's a lot. He's handling it well, he stays positive, he competes at a really high level."
This upcoming season, the Vols have the benefit of patience with the presumptive future star. Tennessee will very likely begin the new season with seasoned veteran quarterback Joe Milton as its starter. Iamaleava said that Milton has been a great mentor to him so far.
"He was like a big brother to me when I first came here," Iamaleava said. "He's getting everybody to buy into what he's trying to build and what the team is trying to build."
Iamaleava doesn't have any specific expectations regarding his role on the team when the season begins, but he is hoping to be prepared for whenever his number is called.
"Anything can happen this season," Iamaleava said. "Like how Joe [Milton] was to Hendon [Hooker] last season, just being prepared."
Iamaleava has worn No. 12 for the Vols during spring practices compared to No. 8 which he was spotted wearing on the sidelines of the Vols' Orange Bowl game to close out the season. He said his new number was assigned to him at the start of spring ball, and freshmen have to earn their desired number ahead of the fall.