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Tuesdays with Gorney: Breaking down the 2023 rankings

The updated 2023 rankings have been released so there is a lot to discuss heading into the all-star games.

Today, Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney offers his thoughts position-by-position on the new 2023 rankings release.

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RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK

Sunday: Who should be the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class?

Monday: Five-Star Countdown

Tuesday: New Rivals250 released | The 10 biggest movers | Teams that should be pleased

Wednesday: Offensive position rankings released | Programs with the most R250 commits

Thursday: Defensive position rankings released

Friday: State rankings released

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QUARTERBACK

Malachi Nelson
Malachi Nelson

This is one of the deeper and more talented pro-style quarterback groups that I can remember and after the first few there is the slimmest margin of difference between them so we can see a lot of shake-ups among this group from the top down. Arch Manning and Malachi Nelson lead the way but Dante Moore is someone I really like a lot and as we see him on the national level should be in the five-star discussion.

After that, though, the group stays strong. Nico Iamaleava is a physical specimen with unique qualities and he’s a multi-sport star (volleyball), Texas A&M commit Eli Holstein is as sound and polished as it comes and Jaden Rashada is someone I’ve liked for a long time as well. He was especially impressive this offseason.

The list goes on with elite players so this group is very strong. The dual-threat group is still led by Pierce Clarkson, who has had a great junior season splitting time with Michigan State commit Katin Houser, but I don’t necessarily see a five-star in that spot yet.

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RUNNING BACK

There is going to be a debate at the top of the running back group probably until signing day for this class as some prefer Justice Haynes (including me) and others like Richard Young a whole lot. Let’s also not forget Kaleb Jackson and Cedric Baxter among that highest-level group because both are supremely talented and deserved a bump in the rankings.

This is another deep group, though, because Trey Holly is great and Kedrick Reescano is someone who can emerge as a superstar. His recruitment hasn’t taken off yet but it should.

At all-purpose back, Rueben Owens II leads the way by a wide margin in my mind and could be in the discussion with Haynes and Young as the best back in this class.

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WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END

I love Brandon Inniss because he can get open against anybody and he’s a phenomenal route runner but new five-star Shelton Sampson is going to push him for that No. 1 spot in the receiver rankings. The Baton Rouge (La.) Catholic standout is long, athletic, smooth and catches everything.

There is a good mix of outside and slot receivers in this class as Carnell Tate has been impressive this season and maybe the most dynamic player at the position is Zachariah Branch, who is a blur with the ball in his hands. The top 10 at the receiver position is very good and some guys could move in there such as Kyler Kasper or a guy I really like, LSU commit Omarion Miller.

The tight ends in this class are intriguing but three have really separated into the top pack with Duce Robinson leading the way. He’s just such an awesome-looking prospect and physical specimen. He's followed by Georgia commit Pearce Spurlin, who’s lean but such a playmaker, and then Oklahoma pledge Luke Hasz, who has the more traditional tight end role but can catch a lot of passes as well.

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OFFENSIVE LINE

Kadyn Proctor
Kadyn Proctor (Rivals.com)

Kadyn Proctor’s athletic ability and toughness really make him stand out for us but there was discussion on Francis Mauigoa as a five-star because he’s such a special prospect with so much upside. He's still learning the position, and one would think three or four years from now he’s going to be super special. We decided to hold off for now to see more of him this offseason. That might end up being a mistake.

Moving TJ Shanahan Jr. to five-star was not a tough call. He stands up against any offensive lineman in this class and he has position versatility, which is really valuable. Nobody playing along the offensive line is more fierce in game settings.

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DEFENSIVE LINE

This could be one of the best strong-side defensive end groups in Rivals history dating back to 2002 now with three five-stars and potentially more down the road. David Hicks, Jr., Lebbeus Overton and now Jayden Wayne all have five-star status. One notch below them are Brenan Vernon, James Smith and Kelby Collins and all three of them will be in the five-star discussion because they’re that good. This group is so loaded with special players like Peter Woods and Gabriel Harris a little further down that position ranking.

Matayo Uiagalelei stays atop the weakside defensive end rankings and a good point was made about how we could have him at 260 pounds being a weak-side. But it’s because he’s so versatile and moves so well that he can play in space and come off the edge so well. At that size, Uiagalelei also plays tight end and is very good there.

This defensive tackle group is solid but just OK at this point.

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LINEBACKERS

Outside linebacker is especially interesting because while there are no five-stars yet, there are four candidates in particular who could reach that level. Malik Bryant, Drayk Bowen, Jaiden Ausberry and now Tackett Curtis has entered that range one notch below five-star status and all of them are really talented players.

At inside linebacker, Anthony Hill has emerged as a five-star prospect and just continues to make plays all over the field. After that, there could be some debate about who should be placed where.

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DEFENSIVE BACKS

Cormani McClain
Cormani McClain (Rivals.com)

We’re not going to force five-star rankings especially this early in the recruiting cycle for the 2023 class but I get the feeling more five-stars will be named at cornerback in the coming rankings releases. Cormani McClain is the lone five-star now but AJ Harris, Javien Toviano, Tony Mitchell, Jahlil Hurley (I especially like him) and Bravion Rogers (who has emerged in the last few months) are just too good to think none of them will end up as five-stars. That high-end four-star group below them is also very solid and could be moving up as well.

I want to see more of this safety group in person. Caleb Downs, Derek Williams, Sylvester Smith (I especially think he could be special) and Dakaari Nelson lead the way right now.

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ATHLETE

A lot of these guys will move into their respective positions but this is a really special group right now. Alex Styles is really awesome on the football field and Samuel M’Pemba could be the best edge rusher when it’s all said and done. And Nyckoles Harbor is a special athlete who will find his way on the football field wherever he goes because that speed and length is unique.