Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney has thoughts on the SEC in the team recruiting rankings, five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson’s situation and the future quarterback debate at Texas between Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning.
A LOOK AT THE SEC IN TEAM RANKINGS
It’s no surprise that SEC programs are doing well at the top of the team recruiting rankings. They do claim “it just means more”. However, it looks rather top-heavy at this point in the 2023 Rivals rankings.
Five of the top 10 teams in the 2023 class rankings are from that conference. Alabama leads the way – taking over the top spot after five-star DE Keon Keeley’s decommitment from Notre Dame – along with LSU, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee high on the list.
In terms of total points in the recruiting class, the second-highest team in the ACC would be ranked sixth in the SEC.
No team in the Pac-12 has 2,000 total points yet with USC leading the way in that conference while six SEC teams have reached that mark.
There are signs of significant domination. But it’s not total. After the top six in the SEC, it starts to look similar across the Power Five conferences.
The Pac-12 is the outlier – and a little bit of a mess. No team has 20 commits. No team has 2,000 total points. Six teams (half the conference) have fewer than 1,000 points.
So the SEC as a whole is strong at the top. That’s no surprise. But it’s not a runaway by any stretch and until the last week or so, two Midwest programs – Notre Dame and Ohio State – topped the rankings.
Apparently, it means a lot in other places, too.
MALACHI NELSON’S SITUATION
After talking to about a dozen people regarding Malachi Nelson’s recruitment and where things could be headed there seems to be two narratives emerging.
The first is that Nelson, a five-star quarterback who’s been committed to USC since late November and is very close with coach Lincoln Riley, wants to play at USC and that he’s trying to navigate through the noise. They say he still is considering Texas A&M and maybe one other SEC program. He’s still figuring out big NIL deals now that he’s signed with Klutch Sports. But in the end, Nelson will stick with USC and the opportunities for him in Los Angeles could be endless.
The other camp disagrees with that and some feel that a flip to the Aggies could happen “soon.” The story goes that Nelson took his visit to College Station this summer, that playing in the SEC is preferable to playing in the Pac-12 (and later the Big Ten) and that NIL packages would be far more considerable there.
Part of the argument is that Klutch – even though based in Los Angeles with USC down the road and Nelson committed there – wants to make as big of a splash as possible and that would be more likely in the SEC.
I don’t know which side to believe or if the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Nelson was not talking after his season-opening win this past Friday in which he completed 14 of 15 passes for 345 yards and five touchdowns – in the first half. But a USC bandana under his helmet might be all the talking needed.
This is also a major test for Riley. Far too many elite quarterbacks and players across the board – Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud are from Southern California – leave the area these days for current national powers. Keeping Nelson is a must for the new USC coach as others try to poach people away.
EWERS AND MANNING IN TEXAS
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian might have the best “problem” in college football.
The Longhorns had former No. 1 Quinn Ewers transfer in from Ohio State and he has now won the starting job at Texas this season. They also have a commitment from current No. 1 Arch Manning, who picked Texas over Georgia with Sarkisian’s success calling plays and running offenses as a big reason why.
The ideal situation is that Ewers is phenomenal, Manning comes in and learns under him and then takes over once the former five-star heads off to the NFL. If that happens, then there will be no issues in Austin.
But there are other scenarios very possible. What if Ewers struggles? Will there be a significant power base that wants to see Manning on the field from Day 1 especially considering his family pedigree and hype around his abilities? What if Texas struggles through another 5-7 season or something similar?
There are all kinds of scenarios to consider and managing Ewers and Manning on the same roster is a phenomenal position to be in but also brings with it risks. Based on talent alone at the same stage, Ewers is more dynamic and has a better arm. Manning is more risk averse and has had to do more with less on the high school level.
These quarterbacks could have Texas back in the national picture. It’s been a long time and Longhorns fans are aching for it. But there are some landmines along the way that need to be dodged for the stars at night, so big and bright, to shine at Texas.