SEC coaches have high praise for Tennessee football's Nico Iamaleava

Cheez-It Citrus Bowl - Iowa v Tennessee
Cheez-It Citrus Bowl - Iowa v Tennessee / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Tennessee football redshirt freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava is preparing for his highly anticipated debut as Tennessee's starting quarterback. He will have to learn on the fly, with top-25 matchups against North Carolina State and Oklahoma coming early in the year. 

That isn't stopping the hype. Even some SEC coaches believe Nico could be the guy for the Vols. An anonymous SEC football coach praised Nico and the Tennessee coaching staff, citing if he's the real deal, Tennessee could be as good as anyone in the country this year. 

"That staff thinks Nico [Iamaleava] will be the best quarterback they've had in that system," an anonymous SEC coach said. "And when they have a QB they're confident in, they're as good as anyone on that football side. The question is going to be what they put around him this season. They don't have an elite wideout or obvious target. But the Tulane transfer (Chris Brazzell) is pretty decent." 

That was the first of two comments from anonymous SEC coaches. Heupel had to dip into the portal to add talent around Nico, but that doesn't seem to be an issue with the Vols depth at receiver. Tennessee added skill players and offensive linemen to give Nico plenty of help in his first year. 

The second comment focused on Tennessee's defense and its weapons on the other side of the ball. Heupel has vastly improved the defense, and this anonymous SEC coach believes the Vols could be College Football Playoff contenders if everything works out. 

"Defensively, they're not at the level of the national title-caliber programs in this league, but they're better than when Josh (Heupel) took over. The floor is higher here, but they have question marks in the secondary. Put them right outside of the playoff contenders for now, but the quarterback could be really special." 

Tennessee will be a fringe College Football Playoff team heading into the 2024 season. The Vols will be tested early against North Carolina State, and we will see where Nico and the Vols stand before entering SEC play.