Advertise with usContact UsRTI Team

Tennessee Football Lands Right Outside the Top 15 in Way-Too-Early Rankings

Tennessee Football Nico Iamaleava
KNOXVILLE, TN – November 04, 2023 – Quarterback Nico Iamaleava #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers after the game between the UConn Huskies and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics.

While the on-field news wire may have slowed down a bit since the conclusion of signing day, things are inevitably going to pick back up for Tennessee Football as spring camp draws near. The off-the-field news is an entirely different component of this machine.

There’s a lot of hype around the Vols’ team in Knoxville, particularly due to the intrigue around two standout players from Tennessee’s Citrus Bowl win over Iowa. But while Tennessee does have interesting and productive talent all over the field, fans and media alike have pointed their buzz toward quarterback Nico Iamaleava and EDGE rusher James Pearce Jr.

Iamaleava made his starting Tennessee football debut in the Citrus Bowl and racked up four total touchdowns, three on the ground and one through the air. The former five-star prospect had an impressive showing as he confidently moved the ball down the field, operated a high-tempo offense, and used his legs productively and efficiently.

The other star-making performance from the Citrus Bowl was from EDGE rusher James Pearce Jr., who finished the game with a 52-yard pick-six, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. Pearce was a terror in the backfield and forced Iowa into making a quarterback change because of how badly their starter played against Tennessee’s pressure, led by Pearce.

The Vols also made some important offensive moves from the transfer portal this winter with the additions of OT Lance Heard from LSU and WR Chris Brazzell from Tulane to strengthen some weak spots on the offense. That’s in addition to the news that WR Bru McCoy and C Cooper Mays would be returning to Knoxville for their final seasons.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach released his way-too-early Top 25 rankings on Tuesday with the Vols landing just outside of the Top 15 in the rankings.

Led by Iamaleava and Pearce, Tennessee Football comes in at No. 16 in Schlabach’s way-too-early rankings.

“[Nico] Iamaleava will have plenty of playmakers available on offense, including Squirrel White, Bru McCoy and Chris Brazzell II, who was Tulane’s leading pass-catcher in 2023,” Schlabach wrote. “The offensive line should be solid with center Cooper Mays and tackle John Campbell Jr. coming back. The Vols added LSU’s Zalance Heard, one of the top offensive tackles available in the portal. Shoring up the secondary will be a priority in the spring after six defensive backs entered the transfer portal.”

Despite the solid Top 16 ranking, the Vols have some room to cover when it comes to the Southeastern Conference teams. Tennessee lands as the eighth highest-ranked team from the SEC in the rankings with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma into the mix. Schlabach is also high on Ole Miss after a wicked transfer portal run and Missouri after an impressive 2023 season.

SEC Teams in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Rankings

1. Georgia Bulldogs
4. Texas Longhorns
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. Missouri Tigers
9. Alabama Crimson Tide
12. LSU Tigers
14. Oklahoma Sooners
16. Tennessee Volunteers
23. Kentucky Wildcats
25. Texas A&M Aggies

More from RTI: Where Tennessee Football’s 2025 Recruiting Class Ranks After Weekend Commitment

The Jim Harbaugh-less Michigan Wolverines, the 2023-2024 reigning National Champions, land at No. 13 in the rankings. Other notable landing spots include Ohio State at No. 2, Florida State at No. 15, and Clemson at No. 19. Tennessee’s Citrus Bowl opponent, Iowa, is in the “Just Missed” category alongside USC, SMU, Wisconsin, and others.

To view ESPN’s Mark Schlabach’s full way-too-early Top 25 rankings, click here.

Similar Articles


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tweet Us