Tennessee got a commitment on Monday from its highest-ranked prospect since Josh Heupel took over as head coach.
Five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava, who is the fourth-ranked player at his position in the 2023 class, announced his commitment to the program on Monday. He visited Tennessee on March 4 and garnered a 247Sports Crystal Ball prediction not long after.
Iamaleava is the No. 7 overall prospect in the class of 2023, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. ESPN has the 6-foot-6 signal-caller listed as the No. 24 prospect in the class.
“They had everything I was looking for,” Iamaleava told 247Sports’ Greg Biggins. “I met some incredible people, not just with the football program but everyone we met was so welcoming to us and made me feel like home.”
He listed his final five schools as Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Tennessee and Oregon before committing to the Vols. Tennessee jumped from No. 18 to No. 10 in the 247Sports recruiting rankings, including a jump to No. 3 in the SEC. Iamaleava joins top-100 tight end Ethan Davis as the big-name prospects in what is a five-man class as it stands.
His commitment gives Tennessee its highest-ranked quarterback since ESPN started ranking high school players in 2006. He would also be the top quarterback to sign with the Vols since 2002.
“I really like the city of Knoxville, that southern hospitality is just different out there and having my mom out there with me and seeing how much she loved it meant a lot,” he told 247Sports. “The fan support is incredible and I just love how passionate football is out there.”
Tennessee had one of the best offenses in college football last season, ranked ninth nationally in yards per game (474.9). Quarterback Hendon Hooker completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 2,945 yards and 31 touchdowns—he threw just three interceptions.
Hooker will be returning for a final collegiate season in 2022, along with backup Joe Milton. Offshore sportsbook BetOnline has Hooker listed at 40/1 to win the Heisman Trophy this season, while Tennessee is 75/1 to win the College Football Playoff.
Iamaleava will be expected to contend for the starting job in 2023.