Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney attended three-straight days of the Elite 11 this week in Redondo Beach, Calif. He addresses Dante Moore’s ranking, the Malachi Nelson-Nico Iamaleava debate and offers his thoughts about possible new five-star quarterbacks.
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FLIP THE FIVE-STARS ON THEIR HEAD?
I was standing on the sidelines at Redondo Union High School on Wednesday night watching Dante Moore completely torch the pro-day event at the Elite 11, where he and every other quarterback there went through a battery of throws to test everything possible for a player at his position.
The Detroit Martin Luther King five-star was excellent, every pass was a dime, highlight-reel throw after highlight-reel throw. And I got to thinking.
Do we have the five-star quarterbacks upside down?
Right now, the list is Texas commit Arch Manning, USC commit Malachi Nelson, Tennessee pledge Nico Iamaleava and then Moore.
But Manning does not do any national events and might not for the remainder of his career, so seeing him at a postseason all-star game is unlikely. It’s difficult to really gauge him without an apples-to-apples comparison.
Nelson was fantastic at the Elite 11 but Iamaleava, who missed the event because of a volleyball tournament, could absolutely make the argument for No. 2 quarterback in the class. His size, fluidity and the maturity he’s shown through this offseason have been striking. The Long Beach (Calif.) Poly QB was the best one at the Rivals Camp in L.A. and he was thoroughly impressive at the recent OT7 event in Las Vegas.
And then at No. 4 is Moore. I thought he was the best overall quarterback at the Elite 11 through three days of workouts. He played with Cam Newton’s club at OT7 and looked excellent. Maybe more than any QB in this class, Moore has a special way of dropping the ball right where it needs to be on almost every throw and he does it with a cool demeanor. He’s like a surgeon on the football field.
Which makes me think: If we flipped the four five-stars upside down, would it be the right move?
2. CALIFORNIA DEBATE AT QB
A few years ago, there was a similar debate in California about which quarterback – Bryce Young or DJ Uiagalelei – should be rated higher. We picked Young with Uiagalelei right behind him, and it looks like the right call as Young has already won a Heisman and looks destined to be an early first-round NFL Draft pick following this season.
This recruiting cycle it will be the debate between USC commit Malachi Nelson and Tennessee pledge Nico Iamaleava.
There are definitely two competing camps here and both have a very strong case. Nelson is the smooth operator, the guy who can throw daggers all over the field and other than some hiccups during his junior season he put up excellent numbers. For years, the five-star quarterback has been outstanding in games and on the offseason circuit, and he’s stepping into a perfect spot with Lincoln Riley as his coach.
But over the last year-plus, Iamaleava has been so phenomenal it cannot be ignored. He has the best physical tools of any quarterback in this class and it might not even be close. In the last six months or so, Iamaleava is not just relying on those, though, as he’s gotten better with decision-making, where he’s putting the ball and his leadership abilities.
Nelson was fantastic at Elite 11, while Iamaleava did not attend because of a volleyball tournament. The debate will continue as to which one is the better California QB.
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3. NAMES TO CONSIDER FOR FIVE-STAR QB
There are already four five-star quarterbacks in the 2023 class, so we don’t want to get nuts and just keep adding talented players at that position. But there were two quarterbacks at this past weekend’s Elite 11 that should absolutely be considered.
Christopher Vizzina: He was not flashy. The Clemson commit just came out every day at the Elite 11 and looked like one of the best quarterbacks there. He went through every drill and event with precision and he has shocking accuracy. At the same stage, Vizzina reminds me a lot of Sam Darnold – and he went on be be the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Jackson Arnold: The Oklahoma commit will not blow you away physically, but he had arguably the best arm of any quarterback at the event. He zips and spins it like no other and that is what makes him so special. During the target drills, Arnold did a nice job of placing the ball and then on deep and intermediate throws he put it on receivers very fast. Loved what I saw from him over the three days.
Austin Novosad: Vizzina and Arnold probably have the best argument for five-star consideration, but Novosad was excellent all three days and should at least get a look. No other quarterback had the accuracy of the Baylor commit who’s also now considering Texas A&M and Ohio State as the four-star hit receivers all over the field and even his misses were close.
JJ Kohl: The Iowa State commit might have been my biggest surprise from the entire event. You look at Kohl and think he’s going to be this big, lumbering pocket passer with a long motion but nothing could be further from the truth. The Ankeny, Iowa, standout can move, throw on the run, his release is short and compact and there were moments when he looked like the best QB at the event.