B/R Recruiting: Way-Too Early Look at Top 2023 Prospects

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2021

B/R Recruiting: Way-Too Early Look at Top 2023 Prospects

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    By now, everybody knows Arch Manning's name.
    By now, everybody knows Arch Manning's name.Credit: 247Sports

    Recruiting never stops, and coaches rarely sleep.

    Yes, the early signing period for the 2022 recruiting class just ended, and several prospects are going to see the heat turn up in the late cycle as coaches try to earn their signature. But any coach who hasn't already begun making calls to 2023 recruits are way, way behind.

    Those relationships should already be established and moving toward the home stretch of prospects narrowing down lists. That's the nature of the game these days. Plenty of players sign early, and if things don't work out, they can always bombard the transfer portal.

    It's no surprise Georgia leads the way early with eight commits.

    The 2023 recruiting class is strong once again, and we're here to make sure you know the biggest names on the board. Currently, there are 35 5-star recruits in the 247Sports composite rankings. Most of the names you don't know, but a few are familiar.

    It's never too early to get to know the hottest names out there for next year. Here is a way-too-early look at top 2023 prospects and some early trends about the class.

Another Manning Leads the Pack

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    Credit: 247Sports

    By now, you've likely heard of Arch Manning. He's Quinn Ewers with more name recognition, and he's been on the recruiting radar for several years. 

    The New Orleans product is the son of Cooper Manning. He's starring for Isidore Newman High School, much like his famous uncles Peyton and Eli.

    Virtually every school in the nation covets the 6'4", 215-pound signal-caller. Right now, it feels like it's going to wind up being an SEC battle (Alabama, Georgia or Ole Miss), unless Clemson or Texas can slam the door. 

    With the Longhorns landing Ewers from the transfer portal, you have to wonder if they're out. However, Manning told On3 Sports' Joe Tipton that it didn't affect his recruitment.

    "I think there are going to be good players everywhere," Manning said. "You can't really look at it based off other players and depth charts. I think you just have to find the best place for you."

    The Crimson Tide, Bulldogs and Rebels are hot and heavy after him, and LSU will try to get deeper into the mix with Brian Kelly at the helm. Lane Kiffin's Rebels (where Uncle Eli starred) have a flashing vacancy sign above their quarterback position with Matt Corral heading to the NFL.

    A player of Manning's ilk carries the kind of pedigree, swagger and skill set to believe he can step onto any campus and start. That's why he's the No. 1-ranked overall prospect, and his recruitment (and commitment) is going to be huge news.

Under the Arch, Rest of the Quarterback Class Is Loaded

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    Nicholaus Iamaleava
    Nicholaus IamaleavaCredit: 247Sports

    Arch Manning isn't the only marquee rock-slinger in the 2023 class. The class is stellar for quarterbacks, and it's going to be a free-for-all to see who can get them signed.

    One of the names is already off the board, though.

    Lincoln Riley secured a pledge from the nation's second-ranked overall player in signal-caller Malachi Nelson while he was at Oklahoma. Once he bolted for Los Angeles and the USC Trojans, Nelson followed suit, electing to stay closer to his home in Los Alamitos, California.

    The 6'3", 180-pound quarterback is an ideal fit for Riley's fling-it-around offense. He'll battle with Jaxson Dart and Co. upon arriving in Troy.

    Detroit product Dante Moore and Downey, California's Nicholaus Iamaleava are two other gunslingers worth watching. Home-state Michigan and Michigan State are all over Moore, along with Penn State and Notre Dame. When it comes to the intriguing 6'5", 195-pound Iamaleava, Alabama, USC, UCLA, Oregon and Tennessee are already in hot pursuit.

    That foursome represents the current 5-stars, but the 2023 class of quarterbacks is deeper than the current cycle's. Nine signal-callers are among the top 100, and only two of those (Nelson and Eli Holstein, who is dialed in with Jimbo Fisher's Texas A&M Aggies) are currently committed.

    With quarterbacks normally flying off the board early, you should familiarize yourselves with these guys now. 

Only 4 of 35 247Sports Composite 5-Stars Are Committed

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    Makai Lemon has pledged to USC.
    Makai Lemon has pledged to USC.Credit: 247Sports

    USC head coach Lincoln Riley has gotten off to a sizzling start to the 2023 recruiting class since arriving in Hollywood. The Trojans need a class fit for the red carpet if they're going to surge back to the top of the Pac-12 standings.

    Of the 35 prospects currently rated as 5-stars in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2023, only four are committed. Two of those are to Riley's Trojans. Along with elite quarterback Malachi Nelson, USC also has a pledge from 6'0", 180-pound athlete Makai Lemon.

    It isn't a coincidence that those two are teammates at Los Alamitos High School. Even though Lemon is playing cornerback and receiver in high school, he's expected to land on offense in Riley's system.

    Lemon stated "This is home" on Twitter upon flipping to USC.

    One of the biggest wins of the coaching carousel came when Notre Dame kept defensive line coach Mike Elston in South Bend to be on Marcus Freeman's staff. That tandem secured a pledge from 5-star edge-rusher Keon Keeley of Tampa, Florida, back in June.

    He's stayed firm through the coaching change, though the Irish will have to work hard to hang onto him with all of the Sunshine State programs (and others) trying to keep him below the Mason-Dixon Line.

    Finally, interior offensive lineman Alex Birchmeier of Virginia kept James Franklin's hot run of recruiting going by committing to Penn State, rounding out the only 5-stars to currently have a future home secured.

Dynamic Year for Defenders

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    Georgia DL Lebbeus Overton is going to be a huge recruit.
    Georgia DL Lebbeus Overton is going to be a huge recruit.Credit: 247Sports

    The quarterbacks are rightfully going to get the majority of the 2023 class headlines. But the depth of dynamic defenders is noteworthy, too.

    Six defensive linemen and three edge-rushers are 5-star prospects, led by Georgia lineman Lebbeus Overton. The 6'4½", 265-pound athlete can get after quarterbacks from the edge or with his hand down. He could grow into a defensive tackle, too.

    Defensive lineman David Hicks and linebacker Anthony Hill are a pair of Lone Star State stars who are shaping up to be Texas-Texas A&M battles early.

    Florida cornerback Cormani McClain is another electrifying playmaker who is coveted by the Gators, Hurricanes and Seminoles, among others. The top-10 prospect will likely receive calls from everybody before the cycle is over.

    Other elite defenders like Georgia safety Caleb Downs, IMG Academy edge-rusher Malik Bryant and Washington defensive lineman Jayden Wayne are big names, too.

    But perhaps the most intriguing player of the bunch is Washington, D.C., athlete Nyckoles Harbor. At 6'5" and 225 pounds, Harbor is a world-class sprinter who ran a 10.31-second 100-meter dash and can play edge, linebacker, receiver or tight end.

    "If I go even lower than that... I am already getting a little talk about going pro before my 12th grade season," Harbor told 247Sports recruiting analyst Brian Dohn. "If I keep it up, then I have to make a decision like that—should I quit football overall and go full on track or go to college and do both."

Another Uiagalelei Is Going to Be Coveted

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Back in 2020, everybody in the nation wanted huge-bodied, big-armed quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who was one of the two big-name signal-callers (along with Bryce Young) to come out of California.

    Dabo Swinney won the Uiagalelei sweepstakes, and though he hasn't had the same career at Clemson as Young has at Alabama, there's still plenty of time for him to live up to those 5-star expectations.

    Will he have a familial support system around him while he tries to take the next step? It's possible.

    His brother, Matayo, is a 5-star edge-rusher from St. John Bosco Prep. The 6'4", 255-pounder is the No. 19-ranked overall player in the country (No. 6 on 247Sports).

    The Tigers are in the mix, but it's no slam dunk that he joins his brother, especially now that Brent Venables is the head coach at Oklahoma. The younger Uiagalelei has plenty of suitors.

    USC will likely be hot after him to stay home, and other powerhouses like Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State are in the mix, too. With Venables in Norman and with a relationship already established, you'd be unwise to count out the Sooners.

    Back in August, Uiagalelei already loved the Trojans, partly because of his love of the music industry.

    "It's in L.A., just the culture of USC is home," he told SI.com's JP Priester. "It's in L.A.. There's a lot of music out here."

    He also noted how short of a trip it was from home.

    With Lincoln Riley now in the mix, the Trojans have to be seen as a threat to the Tigers, too. This is one worth watching.

Yellowhammer Banner

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    James Smith is a Montgomery product transferring to IMG
    James Smith is a Montgomery product transferring to IMGCredit: 247Sports

    There are so many elite prospects from Alabama in the class of 2023, they deserve a topic all to themselves.

    As if Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban needed any help recruiting the nation's top talent to Tuscaloosa every year, the 2023 class has tons of elite playmakers virtually in their backyard. This cycle would be a good time for Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin to assert himself on the recruiting trail, too.

    The Yellowhammer State boasts five 5-star prospects in the early 247Sports composite rankings, the same number as Texas and trailing only Florida's eight. Alabama is no stranger to elite talent, but it's out of the ordinary for the state to have so much elite talent at the top of the rankings in one cycle.

    It all starts with James Smith, a Montgomery product who is attending IMG Academy. The 6'4", 310-pound defensive lineman is the No. 3 player at his position in the 2023 class and the No. 11 player overall.

    But the most impressive position group comes at cornerback, where there are three explosive playmakers on the back level in Alabaster's Tony Mitchell, Phenix City's AJ Harris and Florence's Jahlil Hurley.

    Throw in another defensive lineman—Mitchell's Thompson High School teammate, Peter Woods—and this is a talented group of defenders who will have teams from all over recruiting them. 

    The allure of staying home is heavy, but they're going to have their pick of where to play college ball.

Pass-Catchers Load the List at the Top, Too

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    Credit: 247Sports

    There were only two 5-star wide receivers in the 2022 recruiting cycle, but the 2023 class kicks it up a notch.

    There are six 5-star wideouts in the early rankings, and with Makai Lemon expected to play on offense, that makes seven. Other athletes like Samel M'Pemba have played the position as well, although he projects to play defense in college.

    Equally unsurprising is that a handful of those guys hail from Florida and Louisiana, two states known for producing blazing-fast receivers.

    Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Brandon Inniss doesn't qualify as a burner, but he is the best of the bunch, ranked No. 9 overall. The big-bodied, physical receiver is the top player at his position in the class.

    IMG Academy's Carnell Tate is another Sunshine State product, and he is high on Notre Dame and Ohio State early on. Miami's speedy Jalen Brown rounds out the trio of pass-catchers from Florida.

    Others like Las Vegas' Zachariah Branch, who plays at powerhouse Bishop Gorman, Texas' Jalen Hale and Louisiana 6'4", pass-catcher Shelton Sampson Jr. complete a healthy class of receivers who will be coveted by teams around the nation.

    Other elite players at all positions will emerge as we get closer to the 2022 high school season and when the camp circuit heats up this summer.

    All stats courtesy of CFBStats and Sports Reference. Recruiting rankings via 247Sports' composite rankings unless otherwise noted.

    Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.