Long gone are the days when quarterbacks would show up on campus with little experience outside of their high school games. The summer features countless 7-on-7 camps. The Elite 11 offers the nation’s top quarterbacks an opportunity to compete against their peers. Quarterback prospects are working with top coaches since middle school. It has been a rapid development and has led to quarterbacks dominating the recruiting ranks due to polish and exposure.
It has led to many quarterbacks being preordained for stardom. The 2018 recruiting class featured Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, both of whom were destined for the first round from the time they were 16. 2020 gave us Bryce Young, the reigning Heisman winner and likely first-round pick in 2023. Of course, there have been misses, as well as unheralded passers such as Mac Jones, Trey Lance and Zach Wilson emerging from lower in the rankings to become high picks.
Recruiting rankings will always be imperfect just like anything else on this spinning blue marble, but they have become an excellent tool for evaluating the stars of tomorrow. As it is at every level, quarterback will always be under the microscope, meaning there are thousands of evaluations of top quarterbacks before they hit campus. The 2023 recruiting class is no different, and the verdict is in: this group has a chance to be special. Below are my favorites from the group.
Personal Rank: 1
It is difficult to overstate how much of an impact Lincoln Riley’s move west has had on the college football landscape. A year ago, USC was set to embark on another lost season with Clay Helton at the helm. With respect to Helton – who by all accounts is a kind person – he was not the man to lead one of college football’s most storied programs. Enter Riley, who has immediately created buzz in Los Angeles as the Trojans look to compete in the Pac 12 before leaving for the Big 10.
One of his early coups was flipping Malachi Nelson from his former school of Oklahoma. Nelson may be this cycle’s most natural thrower, flicking the football effortlessly outside the hashes. He utilizes velocity and touch to throw one of the more catchable footballs you will see, giving his receivers the opportunity to create after the catch. He can move inside and outside of the pocket, though his first choice is always surveying the field to find the open man. A polished passer with athletic upside, Nelson is fairly easily my favorite quarterback in the class. He should become USC’s starter in 2024 after Caleb Williams has moved on.
Personal Rank: 2
While known as one of the game’s better defensive minds, Dan Lanning understands you will need high-end talent under center to compete with the best the nation has to offer. Dante Moore was identified as the prospect who could get Lanning where he wanted to go, and Lanning went into Michigan and got him. It was a huge victory on the recruiting trail for the first-year coach.
Despite his youth, Moore gives off a professional vibe as a polished and unflappable quarterback who rises to any occasion. You can immediately tell he has put work into his mechanics, as they are squeaky clean and allow him to deliver the football both timely and accurately. It is hard to gauge intangibles from a distance, but Moore appears to be a player others gravitate to and one who understands what it takes to be elite at the position. He is not the flashiest player on this list, yet he may end up being its best. He should have an opportunity to play early at Oregon.
Personal Rank: 3
While he does not top my list (which history will show is infallible no doubt), Arch Manning is a uniquely important recruit for Steve Sarkisian in Austin. Being part of football’s royal family will help you achieve such things. Recruits are flocking to play with Manning, one of the most ballyhooed prospects in recent history.
Debate rages over whether Manning is rated so highly due to his last name, but there is no doubt Arch can play. Much like his uncles, Manning has the classic quarterback build at 6’4” with a frame that should carry 220+ pounds by the time his career at Texas wraps. He uses his frame to push the ball downfield, testing defenses vertically as he effortlessly uncorks the deep ball. He is a better athlete than either Peyton or Eli and should be able to pick up yards with his legs even if it is never a big part of his game. Manning is a high-end prospect who would top my list in many years.
Personal Rank: 4
One of two highly ranked quarterback prospects heading to Alabama in 2023, Lonergan is someone I feel is too low in the Composite. He is a burly pocket passer who plays fearless and hangs in the pocket to deliver darts all over the gridiron. He is at his best when things get messy, often sliding out of chaos to make a positive play.
Much like many in the 2023 class, running is not his first option but he can move despite a solid frame. He is a multi-sport star – an excellent asset for any athlete – and I feel his best is still ahead of him. It goes without saying the Crimson Tide develop prospects as well as any school in the nation and Lonergan should really thrive within the Alabama system.
Personal Rank: 5
A key recruiting win to kick off the Mario Cristobal era, Rashada is a long and sinewy passer who slingshots the ball to any corner of the field. He epitomizes smooth, possessing a flawless throwing motion and the frame to push the ball vertically. His release is quick, and he is aided by excellent anticipation, often completing passes that appeared to have no chance of success out of his hand.
It will be fascinating to watch his development at Miami. While Cristobal had great success at Oregon, he was best-known for building along the lines. The Ducks never had a prolific passer or a high-octane offense. I am trusting in Rashada’s tools to elevate this system, especially given the talent Miami can attract with a new head coach in town.
Nicholaus Iamaleava is a Composite 5-star whom I am a bit lower on. He has incredible tools, yet I worry about the frame and consistency. His upside, however, is phenomenal.
Eli Holstein is also heading to Alabama and could certainly move past Lonergan before long. Lonergan may be more advanced now, but Holstein could offer more long-term upside, especially given the added size he acquired over the past year.
Christopher Vizzina is heading to Clemson and could be an excellent dual-threat at the collegiate level. I just do not care for his passing abilities as much as others on this list.
Avery Johnson does not get nearly as much hype as a Kansas native headed to Kansas State, but his development could prove rapid as he fills out his 6”2, 175-pound frame. He is still a Top 150 prospect nationally so it is not as though he is getting overlooked, but I could see him ascending to the top of these rankings during his time in Manhattan.
Rickie Collins is a tremendous athlete who is starting to put it together as a passer. He is a key part of LSU’s build under Brian Kelly and may be featured in Kelly’s next viral dancing video.
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