In his weekly series, Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney offers his thoughts on recruiting topics and storylines that impact the national landscape.
MORE GORNEY: Recruiting rumor mill
RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info/coverage on 2021 camp series
THOUGHTS ON USC AND ITS MISSES
Lane Kiffin was immature as USC’s coach but would any fan trade the Steve Sarkisian or Clay Helton years to go through the growing pains with Kiffin if anyone knew how talented he would become as a play-caller at Alabama and now as a head coach at Ole Miss? Who knows if that maturation process would have even happened at USC but it also speaks to giving coaches more time to implement their systems and develop their recruiting classes before everyone is so happy to fire someone for “the next best thing.”
How’s that worked out for USC? The Trojans got lambasted and embarrassed by Oregon State on Saturday night in front of an empty Coliseum in the second half. The search is on for another coach to take over in Los Angeles and more than anything, a change in mindset is needed around that program.
And keeping players home is an imperative. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Ole Miss QB Matt Corral – the two leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy – were both once committed to the Trojans. I’m pretty certain neither regrets their decision one bit.
CAN FSU REALLY KEEP HUNTER?
Travis Hunter is one of the best athletes in the Rivals era dating back to 2002. We’ve compared him with a taller Adoree’ Jackson but he’s more dynamic and impactful on the football field. He’s so skilled, so versatile and has such length and range that it’s almost unfair he’s still playing high school football.
And he’s been committed to Florida State since March 2020.
That’s all well and good because back then, coach Mike Norvell was just hired, there was excitement around the program’s future after a few nauseating seasons under Willie Taggart.
Florida State went 3-6 in Norvell’s first season (albeit a strange COVID year as well) but now the Seminoles are winless in four tries this season. It’s hard to believe it was only weeks ago that FSU battled Notre Dame to overtime and things looked headed in the right direction. Since then, losses to Jacksonville State, Wake Forest and Louisville have dampened any thoughts of high hopes.
For his part, Hunter has never even shown the slightest indication of looking around. He said in recent days that he’s sticking with Florida State regardless of wins and losses this season. I believe him but I’ve also been around long enough to know recruits sometimes say one thing and end up doing something else.
Only time will tell with Hunter. He’s talented enough to play at Florida State right now and be one of the best players on the team. But that might also be part of the problem: One player can only do so much. The Seminoles need a lot of help all over the place and convincing Hunter – and all the elite four-stars committed – that things are moving in the right direction will be another job to pile onto Norvell’s to-do list.
THE GREAT 2023 QB RECKONING
There is a great debate (read: argument) coming about the 2023 pro-style quarterback class. It could be one of the best in recent years, loaded with not only talented players but a diverse cast of characters with different strengths and different weaknesses. That will only make for some interesting takes as we try to rank them all the right way.
As I see it, the top five players might not all have an argument for No. 1, but certainly one could be made.
Arch Manning holds the No. 1 spot in the entire 2023 class and that’s perfectly fine with me. Pair his unique ability, his intelligence, his pedigree, throw it in a pot and there would be little surprise if Manning is someone who’s super special and playing this game at a high level for a very long time.
I’ve seen Oklahoma commit Malachi Nelson twice this season. Reviews are mixed. When he’s good, he’s awesome. The ball comes out beautifully, he’s so smooth and can make really tough throws look easy. But there has been inconsistency there as well and some poor decisions have led to turnovers. With his cast of receivers (mainly, fellow Oklahoma pledges Makai Lemon and Deandre Moore), the Los Alamitos, Calif., offense should be unstoppable.
Then we get to the three four-stars who could make their arguments as well.
Dante Moore has been excellent so far this season at Detroit (Mich.) Martin Luther King and Texas A&M commit Eli Holstein is off to a great start this season, completing 74 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and no picks.
Heading into this past offseason, Downey (Calif.) Warren coach Kevin Pearson told me Nico Iamaleava was the next superstar quarterback in Southern California. He is being proven right.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound four-star who is also a star volleyball player (which speaks to his athletic ability if nothing else) through four games is completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,242 yards with 20 touchdowns and one pick. That’s why Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, UCLA, USC and so many others have already offered.
Right now, the order is Manning, Nelson, Moore, Iamaleava, Holstein. No promises that’s how it finishes.