IAMALEAVA’S LEADERSHIP, O-LINE DEVELOPMENT SERVE AS FOCAL POINTS FOR SPRING CAMP

(Courtesy / UT Athletics)

IAMALEAVA’S LEADERSHIP, O-LINE DEVELOPMENT SERVE AS FOCAL POINTS FOR SPRING CAMP

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — “I know what I came here to do, and it’s my job to go get that done.”
 
Those were the closing remarks for Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava as the signal caller met with local media members on Monday inside the Anderson Training Center. One week into his second spring training camp on Rocky Top and 12 weeks after his first career start in the Vols’ 35-0 win over Iowa in the Citrus Bowl, Iamaleava has approached this offseason with intentionality – aiming to develop his skillset and become a more vocal leader for the Vols on the gridiron.
 
“I have been trying to work on being more vocal for the guys, speaking up when I need to,” Iamaleava said. “I think just being myself out there, hanging out with the guys and making sure we are getting our business done. I’ve grown more in the vocal aspect of it, just being louder for the guys is what I’ve really been trying to work on.”
 
Topics of discussion for Monday’s media session with the Long Beach, California, native included bulking up his 6-6 frame to 215 pounds, developing chemistry with the new Tennessee receivers and comparing his former backup role to entering the 2024 season as the starting signal caller.
 
“Last year, I approached every day like I was the starter,” Iamaleava explained. “I think (Joe Milton III) did a great job of just helping me visualize what that looks like, and I have carried it over to this year.”
 
Protecting QB1 will be paramount for the Tennessee offensive line that was also well represented in Monday’s post-practice press conferences. Assistant coach Glen Elarbee took the podium, followed by a pair of seasoned, redshirt-senior offensive linemen in John Campbell Jr. and Dayne Davis.
 
Sophomore tackle Lance Heard also spoke to Knoxville media for the first time and has made his presence felt early in his first offseason with the Vols. The Monroe, Louisiana, native stands a towering 6-6, weighs 335 pounds and has already drawn comparisons to former Vol and 2022 first-round draft pick Darnell Wright.
 
“The guy (Lance Heard) has unbelievable length and natural ability,” Elarbee said. “Protecting the passer is going to be a big improvement, and he’s just a big human. The ability to go move 4i’s in the run game, I felt like (Darnell Wright), that’s where he changed our run game a lot … I feel like Lance is going to have that ability too.”
 
“He’s really just going through his first offseason. So, some of the intricacies of just learning the game inside and out, he knows it, but experience and reps just build that bank of what’s going on and how to adjust to certain situations. I think that’s just part of his growth and development.”
 
Davis enters his sixth year with the Vols and has served the offensive line room with the versatility of a Swiss Army knife under Elarbee’s tutelage. The Bluff City, Tennessee, native has seen more reps at guard this spring, and credits his team-first mindset and knowledge of the Josh Heupel system as two traits that help him serve the line at many different positions.
 
“My last three years here under Coach Heupel and Coach Elarbee, it’s just been as a guy who knows the offense so well that you can flip to any position when you need a person here or there,” Davis said. “Left guard, left tackle, center last year for five or six games, just being that guy where, if we need a spot on the o-line, can step up and be that player … Just really helping where I can, being a teammate to everybody and just being there for the o-line.”
 
Tennessee will hold a closed scrimmage Wednesday morning at Neyland Stadium before hosting several former Volunteer standouts and NFL personnel for Pro Day inside the Anderson Training Center. Spring practice will continue Monday, April 1, after the Easter holiday break.

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