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Scouting Report Leaves Nico Iamaleava Outside of Five-Star Rankings

On March 21, Tennessee received a commitment from Nico Iamaleava, one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation. Since then, Iamaleava has been a key piece of the class, using his influence and status to help bring in other top talents from around the country.

In addition to his consistent recruiting efforts, though, Iamaleava is still putting in work on the field with his senior season at Long Beach Poly approaching.

Iamaleava has been on the brink of a consensus five-star recruit for a while now, with 247 Sports, On3 Sports, and Rivals all listing the quarterback as a five-star prospect. The reason that he is not a consensus five-star is due to ESPN’s rankings, which have him as a four-star prospect.

While comparing the different recruiting services over the last month, it has felt like ESPN’s rankings are the outlier. 247, On3, and Rivals have Iamaleava as the No. 3, No. 5, and No. 9 overall prospect in the nation respectively, with ESPN slotting in the California native at the No. 13 overall spot.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Tom Luginbill gave an explanation as to why Iamaleava’s ranking is where it is. ESPN listed Iamaleava as a pocket passer that is on the “cusp of being a five-star.”

“Believe it or not, Iamaleava threw for 33 touchdowns in 2021 to just one interception,” Luginbill wrote. “He’s a gifted passer that hasn’t even come close to scratching the surface of what he could become — just wait until he adds bulk and strength to his frame. He can be raw with his loose, whip-like delivery and has room to hone and refine his skill set through coaching and offseason work, which will enhance his accuracy. He needs to get into the mid to high 60% range as a senior.”

ESPN’s college comparison for Iamaleava is none other than Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.

Tennessee Football: Where Hendon Hooker Ranks Among All College Football Quarterbacks

While the concerns about Iamaleava’s raw nature or arm strength are valid for the time being, Iamaleava has all the traits of a five-star prospect despite not being listed as one from ESPN. While watching Nico Iamaleava in person at the Pylon 7-on-7 tournament in early April, it was hard not to be impressed by his accuracy when throwing the football. Iamaleava wasn’t just accurate on the short outs and hitch routes, though. He wasn’t afraid to toss the ball deep downfield and routinely put the ball in a great position. In addition, Iamaleava stands at 6-foot-7, which gives him a natural advantage when it comes to his release height, release speed, and ball placement.

“Great height and lanky build,” ESPN’s scouting report states about four-star QB Nico Iamaleava. “Rare length. Will fill out and get bigger and stronger. Raw player with talent. Shows flashes of James Blackman at Florida State. Loose, long release. Can polish up and tighten his delivery. Lacks great arm power. Touch passer, however, can muster up some zip when he needs it, and his arm talent should grow as he gets into the weight room.”

Iamaleava still has another full football season to play at the high school ranks as well, which will help sculpt his specific skillset even more before coming to Tennessee. From now until he arrives on campus as a full-time athlete, Iamaleava will have plenty of time to continue to build strength as he will need it for SEC play.

Despite the ranking from ESPN, Iamaleava is collectively listed as the No. 4 overall player in the class of 2023, the No. 3 quarterback, and the No. 2 player from the state of California by On3’s consensus rankings.

In mid-May, Iamaleava traveled from his home state of California all the way over to Nashville to participate in an Elite 11 regional workout. While he was there, the Tennessee commit dazzled scouts and audiences with his electric play, even receiving a compliment from former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer.

“Fiercely competitive,” Dilfer said about Iamaleava during an interview on the Buck Reising Show in May. “Still in the earn it phase. He’s not entitled. We’ve run into this over 12 years, a lot of guys are celebrated so much they get these stars and they get these big offers and now with NIL they get a bunch of money — a lot of them succumb to entitlement and think they have arrived. The ones we’re really looking for are the ones in the earn it phase. Nico is still in the earn it phase. He still knows he has a lot of things to improve upon. He knows it’s a big job being a quarterback in the SEC. He knows he’s going to a program that’s just pouring gasoline on their development. Heup(el) and UT’s done such a good job of kind of taking themselves out of the dust bowl and putting them as a nationally recognized program again. He (Nico) knows the gravity of the job.”

Dilfer also said that Iamaleava is more than just “flash and sizzle” as well.

Whether he is listed as a four-star or a five-star though, it really doesn’t matter – Nico Iamaleava is poised to arrive at Tennessee as one of the Vols’ biggest recruits in program history.

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One Response

  1. Who listens ESPN on anything concerning Tennessee sports? We all know they ve hated UT since Peyton.

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