In his weekly series, Rivals National Recruiting Director Adam Gorney offers his thoughts on recruiting topics and storylines that impact the national landscape with a focus this week on the new 2023 rankings.
RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK
Wednesday: Offensive position rankings released
Thursday: Defensive position rankings released
Friday: State rankings
Saturday: Rivals Roundtable
CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals250
RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info/coverage on 2021 camp series
NEW NO. 1
MORE MANNING: Teams most involved in recruitment
It was not particularly easy naming Arch Manning the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class. It wasn’t exactly difficult, either.
The New Orleans (La.) Isidore Newman standout threw at multiple schools this summer and had excellent performances. One source told me that when Manning threw at Clemson on the same field with other 2023 standouts, it was not even close. He worked out at Texas, too, and the reviews were very strong.
There is also no getting around that Manning comes from football royalty. His uncles are Peyton and Eli Manning and Peyton was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past weekend. Arch Manning was there. His grandfather, Archie, has his number retired at Ole Miss and he was the second overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft.
This is definitely not a case of Arch Manning getting an inflated ranking because of his family although it helps to have incredible resources like his uncles, his grandfather and others close to him. Any question about the position, about how to lead a team, be a winner, anything at all, Manning is literally a phone call away from greatness.
The other factor that moved Manning to No. 1 was that we thought Lebbeus Overton was a five-star prospect and a very talented defensive end with a lot of upside, but not a surefire No. 1 after seeing him at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and Future 50.
No doubt, Overton can play. He’s going to be a tremendous defensive linemen in college football and beyond. But he was not the surefire, no questions asked, No. 1 prospect.
Oklahoma quarterback commit Malachi Nelson could have claimed that spot. I argued for him in rankings meetings, made a pitch, and that’s why he’s so high in the rankings but didn’t take that No. 1 spot. He has all the talent in the world and it could 100 percent be argued that he’s more prepared for success in the Sooners’ offense and more talented at the same stage than Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray (No. 1 picks and Heisman Trophy winners) and Spencer Rattler, who is almost definitely going to be a first-round pick as well.
This early in the recruiting cycle for the 2023 class, we felt comfortable stopping at seven five-stars. There are a whole lot of players just one notch down from there which screams to me that there could still be a lot of movement left at the top.
So now that Arch Manning is the new No. 1, we’ll see if he can stay there.
POSITIONS I LIKE A LOT
The two deepest and arguably best position groups in the 2023 class are strong-side defensive end and cornerback.
At defensive end, five-stars David Hicks and Overton lead the way, followed by high four-stars Brenan Vernon, James Smith, Jayden Wayne, Kelby Collins and Jordan Renaud. All of those players could push for five-star status over the next couple years and Collins is one I especially have my eye on because he had a very strong summer and his sophomore film is incredible. I actually think sixth at the position is a little too low for him.
Cornerback is also loaded. AJ Harris took over the top position after a phenomenal summer followed by Javien Toviano and Tony Mitchell. But the highest part of that second tier of cornerbacks is also outstanding with Jahlil Hurley, Cormani McClain, Ryan Yaites and Justyn Rhett particularly standing out most.
Pro-style quarterback, tight end, offensive tackle, offensive guard and outside linebacker also stand out.
PROSPECTS I LIKE MOST FOR FIVE-STARS
Vernon, Smith, Wayne and Collins are four players who have five-star potential right now at the defensive end spot. Wayne is similar to Kayvon Thibodeaux, a little more physically filled out at the same stage but a touch less athletic, and Collins has some of the best sophomore film at any position.
Malik Bryant is an outside linebacker/edge rusher who is phenomenal and one of the most physical defenders in the class. Francis Mauigoa is focusing more on offensive tackle and he could be one of the best linemen, a physically dominant force along the line. There will definitely be others for sure but these are just a few I have my eye on heading into their junior seasons.