Tennessee Vols quarterback Nico Iamaleava, the 2023 five-star phenom who signed with UT last month, was recently ranked by On3 as the No. 1 recruit in college football.

On3 moved Nico ahead of fellow five-star quarterback Arch Manning (who signed with Texas last month) in their final 2023 recruiting rankings update.

ESPN, however, doesn’t share the same view of Iamaleava.

In their final recruiting rankings update, Iamaleava is rated as the No. 5 quarterback and the No. 23 overall recruit. ESPN has USC quarterback Malachi Nelson at No. 1 overall. They have Manning at No. 5.


Obviously, ESPN’s recruiting rankings don’t mean a lot. And I’m aware that very few college football fans look to ESPN for recruiting information (the big recruiting sites like On3, Rivals, and 247Sports do a much better job of covering recruiting than ESPN).

But this is still a stunning show of disrespect from ESPN.

You could probably put the top five recruits in any order and it wouldn’t matter. They’re all elite players once you get in that range and the order of how they’re ranked is nothing more than personal preference.

But dropping Nico all the way down to No. 23 overall and leaving Nelson, Manning, and Dante Moore in the top five is a slap in the face to Iamaleava and Tennessee.

This is just another example of ESPN giving certain programs the benefit of doubt. It’s something that Tennessee dealt with throughout most of the 2022 season (they should’ve finished ranked ahead of Alabama in the final top 25 poll).

Ultimately, it’s just more motivation for Iamaleava and the Vols to perform at a high level. But it’s still unfortunate that Tennessee doesn’t receive the same treatment as other programs from ESPN.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

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