Tuesdays with Gorney: Position-by-position on new 2023 rankings
The new 2023 rankings are rolling out as the updated Rivals250 has been released. In this week’s Tuesdays with Gorney, national recruiting director Adam Gorney shares his thoughts position-by-position and what stands out to him.
RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK
Wednesday: Offensive position rankings released | Five schools that should be pleased
Thursday: Defensive position rankings released
Friday: State rankings released
Saturday: Rival Views
Sunday: Who will move up most in the next Rivals250?
I love the top of this pro-style group with Arch Manning, USC commit Malachi Nelson and then Dante Moore and Nico Iamaleava all as five-stars now. Moore’s resume is too long and too good to keep him off the list and Iamaleava is such a talented passer and fluid athlete that both deserve that ranking.
We will see how it plays out from here. We’re not opposed to making future changes at the position but they need to be warranted. Iamaleava has such rare abilities that he could be someone that moves even higher among the five-star group. I also wouldn’t count out Texas A&M commit Eli Holstein from joining that group because I liked him a lot last spring at the Rivals Camp Series event in Dallas.
I know that running backs have been devalued in the NFL Draft and that’s one big reason why we don’t have as many five-stars at that position as we’ve had in years past. But there are three really good ones at the top here and all of them will remain under five-star consideration as we go through the 2023 class.
Roswell (Ga.) Blessed Trinity’s Justice Haynes and Lehigh Acres (Fla.) Lehigh’s Richard Young continue to battle for the top running back spot and then El Campo, Texas, standout Rueben Owens II is the No. 1 all-purpose back. When all is said and done and we consider dynamic ability, Owens could be the best of the bunch but we will see.
I saw Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater’s Cedric Baxter over the holidays when covering the Under Armour Game and his size and length stand out. Michigan State got a steal in New Caney, Texas, standout Kedrick Reescano.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END
This is always one of the toughest positions to rank because there are so many prospects and so much to consider so changes are inevitable. But I like where we’re at in our wide receiver rankings right now. Moving Carnell Tate to a five-star was a no-brainer for me as he’s consistently one of the best receivers at every single event. Brandon Inniss and Shelton Sampson are easy five-star selections as well.
After that, we can have some debates and discussions about where players should be slotted. USC commit Zachariah Branch is as dynamic with the ball in his hands as any receiver in the country, Jalen Hale is arguably the best-looking receiver in the class and Johntay Cook II absolutely dominated a 7-on-7 event over the weekend.
At tight end, Phoenix (Ariz.) Pinnacle’s Duce Robinson is the top guy because he has such an incredible mix of physicality and playmaking ability but Georgia commit Pearce Spurlin is not far behind. He’s a stat machine and incredibly productive so he could be worthy of another bump in the rankings soon.
The 2022 offensive tackles befuddled us because no one stepped up and snatched that No. 1 spot but this 2023 group should be highly competitive for that top billing. Five-star Kadyn Proctor leads the way now but Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy’s Francis Mauigoa, who’s originally from American Samoa, and Lee’s Summit (Mo.) Lee’s Summit North’s Cayden Green are not backing down. The competition should be intense and interesting.
I love five-star TJ Shanahan Jr. as the No. 1 offensive guard. He’s someone who loves to strap it up, be physically dominant and he backs down to nobody. But right behind him are Penn State commit Alex Birchmeier and Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep’s Chase Bisontis, two other very talented interior lineman. Ohio State commit Joshua Padilla might be underrated but we will see in time.
The defensive ends in the 2023 class are phenomenal and it’s a deep group so there are going to be lots of conversations and potential changes along the way as some emerge and others fall off through the rankings cycle.
At strong-side defensive end, David Hicks Jr. and Jayden Wayne are the five-stars but Notre Dame commit Brenan Vernon might not be getting the respect he deserves and James Smith is now settled back in Alabama and could be in line for a massive offseason and senior year. He’s one of the most-talented players on tape from his sophomore season. I also really like Kelby Collins from Gardendale, Ala., but need to see more of him in person.
At weakside defensive end there are some interesting debates. Notre Dame commit Keon Keeley is a new five-star and his length and production are so off the charts that it was impossible to not move him up. Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State and others are trying to flip him.
There are not many better-looking prospects in the entire class than Matayo Uiagalelei from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco so he’s in the five-star conversation as well along with Platte City (Mo.) Platte County’s Chandavian Bradley, who is leaner but also has that outstanding length that’s so coveted.
After a 2022 defensive tackle class led by Walter Nolen, Keithian Alexander and Travis Shaw that spoiled us, this group has come back down to Earth a little bit. Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha’s Jason Moore leads the group but I’m not certain there is a five-star here yet. There are probably others at defensive end.
This is a talented linebacker group led by five-star Anthony Hill from Denton (Texas) Ryan who is a complete tackling machine. There is potential from others, especially at the outside spot with Malik Bryant, Drayk Bowen, Jaiden Ausberry and Tackett Curtis leading the way. But Tausili Akana is someone who could emerge in one of those top spots as well.
Cormani McClain was excellent once again at the Chicago Pylon event over the weekend and has solidified his spot as the No. 1 cornerback. It’s not locked in forever but he’s just a different level of player at the position although it’s definitely loaded with AJ Harris, Javien Toviano, Tony Mitchell, Jahlil Hurley and Bravion Rogers all one spot away from five-star status.
At safety, Caleb Downs is at the top of the list but we held off making him a five-star at this point. That could definitely happen in the future. I really like Munford, Ala., standout Sylvester Smith and he could move even higher after this offseason.
The top-two athletes are freakishly good and so versatile it’s amazing. Samuel M’Pemba could star at linebacker, edge rusher and he looks so great physically that he’s a top-10 talent for sure. Nyckoles Harbor is an Olympic-level track prospect and a phenomenal football player as well. Both are now five-stars and both are incredibly special, just watch Harbor in this race:
Two others I really like in the four-star range who could move up are Mississippi athlete Isaac Smith, who starred at receiver/tight end at the National Combine but projects as a safety in college, and Chula Vista (Calif.) Mater Dei Catholic’s Jeremiah McClure, one of the most athletic and electric playmakers in the class.