Covering recruiting for a living means trying to get answers, figure things out from where prospects are going to play their college ball and how to rank them most accurately with a laser focus on expected college performance and NFL Draft positioning.
So many in the industry aim to have these answers. But sometimes after covering events, ego and absolute certainty take a backseat to even more questions that pop up.
Following an absolutely loaded OT7 event in Las Vegas over the past few days, Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney has some new questions to ask – and figure out – after seeing so many elite recruits all at the same event.
Is Nico Iamaleava the best quarterback in the 2023 class?
There are four quarterbacks in the top-nine nationally which means we really like this quarterback class and the current order of five-stars is Arch Manning, Malachi Nelson, Nico Iamaleava and then Dante Moore.
We have discussed Manning incessantly so we don’t need to go there especially since he wasn’t at the OT7 event but Iamaleava was fantastic throughout the weekend and outplayed Nelson during their matchup on Friday night.
The Long Beach (Calif.) Poly quarterback who is committed to Tennessee not only had flash throws but patiently and methodically moved his team down the field against South Florida Express and didn’t let the moment get control of him.
Iamaleava has matured on the field over the last year. Not everything has to be highlight-reel, the deep throw that sometimes hits his receiver or sails out of bounds. He’s smarter, savvier, more patient and that has added another element to his game. Plus, Iamaleava is a freak athlete who has also been a volleyball star and his arm talent is unquestioned.
As we move through this recruiting cycle, the quarterback situation will hash itself out. Manning has incredible talent, potential and pedigree. Nelson is a surgeon who is going to a perfect offense for his abilities at USC. Moore was phenomenal all weekend in Vegas, too, and then others could join that elite five-star status as well.
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And is Dante Moore second in the QB rankings?
Moore is not about flash, he’s about substance. He’s not about the hype and everything that sometimes comes with the biggest spotlight, he’s about delivering strikes to his receivers, getting coached up by Cam Newton on his C1N team and getting better.
It’s what I love about him and why it’s hard to believe sometimes that he might be the fourth-best quarterback in this class. It’s an absolutely loaded group no doubt but Moore is one of those guys, down late in a game, you want the ball in his hands because pressure doesn’t seem to exist in his world and he will methodically win games and torture defenses while doing it.
This all leads to the question above: Are there really three better quarterbacks in the class? He might not run the fastest 40 at the combine out of Manning, Nelson or Iamaleava and Iamaleava will almost definitely test the best but Moore is such a precision passer who makes the right call on almost every play it’s impressive to see.
Is Jaden Rashada a five-star quarterback?
Right now, we are at 19 five-stars in the 2023 class. We will try to get to 32 to mimic the first round of the NFL Draft but won’t push it if we don’t find it necessary. It might be essential to get Pittsburg, Calif., four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada into that elite group.
After crisscrossing the country on visits just a couple weeks ago, Rashada looked strong at the Steve Clarkson QB Retreat and then looked absolutely phenomenal at the OT7 event this past weekend. It helped that four-star receivers Jalen Brown, Jurrion Dickey and others were playing with him for the Miami Immortals but still he was great.
Rashada has all the arm talent in the world but what was most impressive was his ball placement and touch on difficult passes over the outstretched arms of linebackers and defensive backs. The four-star is consistent, very talented and should at the very least enter that five-star quarterback discussion.
Is Brandon Inniss the best receiver in the class?
In the last 2023 rankings release, the decision was made to flip Carnell Tate to the No. 1 receiver in the class and move Brandon Inniss to second. It was certainly not a fall for Inniss who has been more than solid at every event this offseason. It was intended to be more of a reflection of Tate’s special ability as an outside receiver.
But I’m not certain it was the right decision. One event does not make a ranking but I thought Inniss was definitely more productive in Las Vegas and he continued to show exactly who he is – a guy who can get open against anybody, who catches everything and is just so consistent that it’s hard to keep him off that No. 1 line.
Tate has more length and maybe bigger-play ability, Hykeem Williams is the big outside receiver and Zachariah Branch is the undersized speedster who will beat anybody in space but Inniss has been the most consistent and just gets open all the time. It has us thinking maybe he should move back to No. 1 but no guarantees yet.
Is Ryan Wingo the No. 1 receiver in 2024?
This is going to be an interesting debate in the coming years. Ryan Wingo was very impressive in Las Vegas from a physical standpoint and from a production perspective so by no means will he plummet in the rankings. But there’s a guy named Jeremiah Smith who could 100 percent push Wingo for that No. 1 receiver ranking in 2024.
Smith, from Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade Madonna, plays on the same South Florida Express team as Inniss, Tate, Williams, Joshisa Trader and others but he does not get lost in the shuffle, had some major chunk plays over the weekend and has the size and production that he should be considered for No. 1. It’s early but right now I see those two competing for that top spot especially since KJ Bolden should get moved to athlete.