Tuesdays with Gorney: Thoughts from RCS Los Angeles
The first stop of the Rivals Camp Series took place last weekend in Southern California and after the event there were a lot of questions answered but still so much to consider in the 2023 and 2024 classes and beyond. In this week’s Tuesdays with Gorney, Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney offers some thoughts:
RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info for 2022 series
THE QB DEBATE RAGES
There are four five-star pro-style quarterbacks in the 2023 class now and two of them threw Sunday at East Los Angeles College in USC commit Malachi Nelson and Downey (Calif.) Warren’s Nico Iamaleava.
The two are similar in some ways - phenomenal arm talent, the ability to throw receivers open, clearly two of the best quarterbacks in this class - but different as well.
Nelson is more cerebral, a quiet leader, a surgeon. Iamaleava takes over with physical tools, his incredibly long and athletic frame, the ball popping off his hand all over the field as he makes throws that look nearly impossible.
The debate will continue through the offseason and probably into their senior years about which one should be ranked higher. Right now, Iamaleava is ranked as the fourth-best quarterback in the class but it’s hard to imagine three are better even if they’re named Arch Manning, Malachi Nelson and Dante Moore.
Nelson dissects defenses, patiently waits for a crack in the door and then obliterates defense. California has two five-star quarterbacks and they were both impressive - again - this past weekend.
YOUNG OL WILL BE STARS
The West is not known for always producing elite offensive line talent but two young prospects competed Sunday at RCS Los Angeles and both have the potential to be superstars.
Douglas Utu is a 2025 recruit from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman who was born in 2006. Keenyi Pepe is a year younger as a 2026 prospect who was born in July 2007 and he was supposed to play at Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco but it looks like he’ll be at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy.
In a solid group of offensive linemen, Utu and Pepe showed off excellent footwork, good power for their age and even though they were years younger than most of the competition neither backed down at all. If anything, they fit right in and that was telling because it seemed like the learning curve was gone.
Utu is already 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds and has a handful of offers. Pepe is 6-foot-6 and 276 pounds and has seven offers even though he’s still not in high school. Both should have any offer they want in the coming years.
The 2024 class is already shaping up to be an impressive one among the quarterback position and while Carlsbad, Calif., standout Julian Sayin will not be the most physically impressive it could easily be argued he’s by far the most technically sound and that should carry him well in the rankings.
There’s really only one way to put it: Sayin almost never throws a bad ball. His throwing motion is superb, the ball spins, it gets to where only the receiver can get it and he has absolutely no problem with accuracy, arm strength or decision-making.
That’s why he’s so coveted by Notre Dame. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has developed a strong bond with Sayin already and the feeling is mutual. But Georgia, Texas, Florida and others are also heavily pursuing Sayin.
Jadyn Davis, CJ Carr, Dylan Raiola, DJ Lagway and others will be involved in the discussion as the top 2024 quarterback nationally but Sayin has proven over the years - and especially on Sunday - that he should be under serious consideration as well.
THOUGHTS ON BRANCH
There are three five-star receivers in the class right now with Brandon Inniss, Shelton Sampson and Carnell Tate leading the way. Zachariah Branch measured in at 5-foot-9 and 171 pounds Sunday on Sunday and he’s going to be an interesting debate as to whether he’s a surefire five-star as well.
What’s so interesting is that his brother, Zion, ended up 6-foot-1 so there’s a possibility the 2023 four-star receiver could still grow but he’ll probably never be as tall as his older brother. I’m not sure that’s going to make that much of a difference in terms of Branch’s ranking since he’s so sudden and dynamic. Because of his incredible ability to separate and catch everything thrown his way, the USC commit might be in line for a bump to five-star status.
Two weeks ago at the Battle Las Vegas tournament, Branch was literally unstoppable. No one had any answers to the point where one team put two defensive backs on him. At the Rivals Camp, Branch was also very good and has speed and playmaking ability that’s so incredibly rare.
He will never be the 6-foot-4 target of Sampson on the outside. He might not even be in the 6-foot or 6-foot-2 range of Inniss and Tate who have also been phenomenal this offseason. But Branch will get serious five-star consideration since he’s the most dynamic receiver - and it might not even be that close - in this class.
LYONS MAKES HIS MARK
Walker Lyons is already ranked as the fourth-best tight end in the 2023 class and it might be tough to move up much but there could be a discussion that the Folsom, Calif., standout should be third at the position rankings nationally.
Phoenix (Ariz.) Pinnacle’s Duce Robinson and Georgia commit Pearce Spurlin are super special and have been unstoppable over the last couple years but Lyons might be right behind them. He has good size, he has great hands and what stood out most about him this past weekend was his intelligence and competitiveness.