Analyzing the present condition of each position on Tennessee’s roster as they approach the 2024 season.

With winter strength-and-conditioning workouts underway and spring practices on the horizon, the Vols, coming off an 11-win season in 2022 and a 9-4 follow-up in 2023, aim to prepare for another championship-contending run in their fourth season under head coach Josh Heupel. As they focus on the upcoming fall, it’s an opportune moment to evaluate the state of Tennessee’s roster, scrutinizing each position in their annual Offseason Outlook series.

The series kicks off with a detailed examination of the quarterbacks.


Joe Milton III (Eligibility): After a mixed performance as Tennessee’s starting quarterback in 2023, Milton, a strong-armed sixth-year senior, concludes his tenure with the Vols. Despite moments of brilliance, his inconsistency affected the team’s scoring average, leading to a 15-point dip from the previous year.


Nico Iamaleava (R-Fr.): A five-star recruit and the No. 2 player in the 2023 class, Iamaleava showcased his potential in a dominant Citrus Bowl performance, offering excitement for the future.

Jake Merklinger (Fr.): A four-star quarterback and the No. 13 in the 2024 class, Merklinger adds depth to the quarterback room. Walk-ons Gaston Moore, Navy Shuler, and Ryan Damron also contribute.

Tennessee maintains two scholarship quarterbacks for the second consecutive season, with Iamaleava and Merklinger displaying talent. Despite their potential, the experience level is notably lower compared to previous seasons, challenging offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle.


The success of Tennessee’s 2024 season largely hinges on Iamaleava’s performance. While acknowledging that multiple factors contributed to the offense’s struggles in 2023, an elite quarterback, as demonstrated by Hendon Hooker in 2022, can elevate the team’s standing. Iamaleava’s exceptional natural abilities, from athleticism to arm talent, were evident in the Citrus Bowl. With another offseason to refine his skills, he is expected to take on a leadership role and fulfill the expectation of an elite quarterback.


What can be expected from Iamaleava in his first full season as the starter? While his promising performance in the Citrus Bowl generated excitement, the upcoming season presents new challenges, including handling tougher opponents, playing on the road, and leading the team through various scenarios. As a potential generational talent, Iamaleava’s impact will significantly influence Tennessee’s ceiling in the upcoming season and beyond.

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