Five-star 2023 quarterback Malachi Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif./Los Alamitos) announced his commitment to Oklahoma on Sunday, officially delivering a big blow to the USC Trojans, who were after Nelson as the lone quarterback target in the 2023 class for a long time.
Nelson to Oklahoma had been viewed as a done deal, so there was no surprise in his Sunday announcement. That doesn’t take away how big of a deal it is for Oklahoma and the national landscape in the 2023 class. The Sooners are absolutely rolling when it comes to quarterback recruiting right now. Oklahoma signed the No. 1 quarterback in the 2019 class, in Spencer Rattler, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2021 class, in Caleb Williams, and now has a commitment from the No. 2 quarterback in the 2023 class, in Nelson. It’s pretty easy to understand why, when Oklahoma produced back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 overall draft picks at the position, in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
USC has to figure out how to bounce back at the position after losing Nelson, and the Trojans might be well-positioned to do just that. While Nelson early on looked like the runaway leader as far and away the best Southern California quarterback prospect in the 2023 class, a strong charge has been put together by Nico Iamaleava (Downey, Calif./Warren) this spring. USC offered Iamaleava in early April, and the 6-foot-5, 195-pound prospect is now all the way up to the No. 41 overall prospect and No. 5 quarterback in the nation. The offer reportedly ruffled some feathers, since Nelson had been the only quarterback USC was chasing in that class. But it’s one that needed to happen.
The situation between these two prospects and the two standouts 2020 Southern California quarterbacks, Bryce Young and D.J. Uiagalelei, is very similar. Young and Uiagalelei were the top-two quarterbacks in the country that year, which is different than Nelson and Iamaleava, but that’s splitting hairs when you’re still talking about two of the five best in the country. The fact of the matter is that USC has to land one of Nelson and Iamaleava. And with Nelson now committed to Oklahoma, the Trojan spotlight on Iamaleava is burning even brighter. The Trojans did themselves a favor here by getting into the recruiting mix when they did, rather than waiting until Nelson announced his commitment. Iamaleava and his family needed to know the USC coaches were serious about pursuing him and it meant something to go in with an offer while Nelson remained uncommitted.
The issue for the Trojans now is that Iamaleava took several visits to some national powers in June and walked away from Alabama and Ohio State with offers. He also visited Clemson and Georgia and was pretty blown away by all four schools. The Trojans also got Iamaleava on campus for a very important unofficial visit and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back there later this fall.
USC held a commitment from Young in the 2020 class but ultimately lost him to Alabama, where he will likely serve as the starting quarterback this fall. The Trojans couldn’t rebound in that class, eventually chasing a few other options but not signing a quarterback. USC looked to be the leader for Nelson for some time before his commitment to Oklahoma. USC has to figure out a way to rebound and grab Iamaleava, who seemed like he might fit at UCLA before the national attention and the Trojans shifting focus.
But it’s tough to bet against the Trojans coaches when recruiting that quarterback spot right now.
Kedon Slovis looked like a reach in the 2019 class as a three-star prospect compared to some most highly ranked local options. The Trojans turned out to be right on with that call and Slovis enters his junior year as an established starter and nationally recognized at the position. In the 2021 class, USC went out on a limb a bit by recruiting Jaxson Dart late in the process while holding commitments from Jake Garcia and Miller Moss. The Trojans wound up with Dart (losing Garcia to Miami), and he looks like a potential star after an outstanding senior season and more than a handful of spectacular moments during the spring. And in the 2022 class, USC reeled in a commitment from three-star Devin Brown, beating out Wisconsin and virtually nobody else for the prospect from Queen Creek, Arizona. It looked like another Slovis-type signing, in a lightly recruited Arizona prospect. But after some seasoning and development, Brown is now the nation’s No. 174 overall prospect and No. 12 quarterback, likely with a few more rankings bumps on the way as he’s made his way to Draper (Utah) Corner Canyon, looking to put up the same eye-popping numbers Dart did on his way to being named the Gatorade National Player of the Year last season.
There are some positions where the Trojans have some work to do and eyebrows are starting to raise a bit. Offensive line and linebacker could use some big additions in this class. Despite this story looking like another national power coming into USC’s backyard and stealing a five-star prospect away from the Trojans, there is still more 2023 quarterback recruiting story to be written for USC.