Speculation remains regarding the 'who' in The Athletic's story about an unnamed elite class of 2023 quarterback recruit cashing in on his name, image and likeness before taking a snap as a high school senior.
The report suggested the teenager is part of a deal that can max out higher than most NFL base salaries at $8 million. It samples the value college football programs, and more specifically those surrounding said schools, place upon the future of the sport's most important position.
It's also a reminder that the talent at the top of the board at the position is quite deep. The class is strong well beyond the consensus top duo in NFL legacy Arch Manning and Malachi Nelson, who has already come off the board to Lincoln Riley at USC. Even on the front-end of the camp and combine circuit, just days after the Elite 11 tour kicked off, there are already scores of big names to keep an eye on in the near future.
Two-thirds of Power Five programs are still searching for the next addition to the quarterback room in the recruiting class of 2023. Twenty rising-senior QB recruits have found a home and gone public with the pick to play in the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 conferences. Of the 40-plus yet to add their arm of the future, several figure to continue to jockey for position for the best available throughout the spring.
Even as many elite recruits take the process slower after a wild 2021 coaching carousel littered with change, the top passers in the class could soon narrow their options, and in some cases have those lists narrowed for them. It's a process often dubbed quarterback dominos, where the selection and timeline of the sport's most coveted players creates a ripple effect to those still available.
Most programs only take one high school passer per recruiting cycle and those coming off exception classes are sometimes less inclined to add one early the following year. Michigan, Penn State, Utah, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Maryland and Virginia took multiple prep passers in the 2022 cycle, and not-so-coincidentally those schools don't appear to be as well-positioned to stay in the mix for elites still on the board in 2023 outside of Detroit (Mich.) King quarterback Dante Moore.
The big, tall-in-the-pocket passer doesn't have an official list of programs he is considering, but most of the buzz surrounding his name as of mid-March lies with Notre Dame, Michigan and LSU following a recent trip to Baton Rouge. Additional SEC programs Georgia and Florida are newer to Moore's offer list and trips to those campuses are possible. Miami, where primary Michigan recruiter Josh Gattis now calls the plays for the other UM, got Moore in town for a visit in late January.
Miami hosted another elite quarterback in Nico Iamaleava, who just transferred to Long Beach (Calif.) Poly this week, during that same window Moore was able to see Coral Gables. The two are likely at the top of Mario Cristobal's board as he looks to land his first quarterback recruit at his alma mater (Jacurri Brown committed to Manny Diaz's staff initially), but Moore and Iamaleava's contenders overlap elsewhere with the defending national champs coveting each as well.
For the tall Californian who broke out in 2021 in throwing for 33 touchdowns against just one single interception at Downey (Calif.) Warren High School, former Georgia assistant Dan Lanning has his attention at Oregon and even more buzz lies in the SEC with Josh Heupel and Tennessee. Iamaleava took an extended trip to Knoxville in early March and became the focus of the UT basketball student section to the tune of hundreds chanting, 'We want Nico!'
Iamaleava has long been fond of the UT fan base, with the latest trip serving as the latest example of what recruits often refer to as 'feeling the love.' During his first trip to Knoxville, in the fall, the tall talent recalled signing the first football autographs of his life to the well-informed fanbase. Couple the buzz with a timeline centering on a spring decision, and the Volunteers appear to be in strong position. In addition to Oregon and Georgia, Alabama has also long been under heavy consideration by the 6'6" quarterback's camp.
Dominos continue there in looking back at the big picture of the class, and it's where Manning comes back in. Georgia and Texas are the next two stops for the most talked-about recruit in years, but Alabama has been among his favorites from the beginning of the process. In addition to the legacy prospect and Iamaleava, Alabama has also been recruiting Eli Holstein, a longtime Texas A&M commitment from Louisiana.
In the Crimson Tide's home state, another domino soon to fall resides in Christopher Vizzina. The Birmingham (Ala.) Briarwood Christian star has also hinted at an upcoming decision following his latest round of visits. He took a third trip to Ole Miss, another in the Manning sweepstakes, earlier this month. Ohio State, which was once a player for Moore, then hosted Vizzina on campus and he was offered before he left. Georgia came back around and hosted him for a visit last weekend while programs like Clemson, Notre Dame, Florida and Auburn have also been involved in his pursuit at one point or another.
Get the picture?
When one of the trio -- Moore, Iamaleava or Vizzina -- makes a decision it will remove the winning program from the running of the others. Of course Manning could shake up the entirety of the expectation if he accelerates the process and comes off the board sooner, but few expect as much in the short term. His coach at New Orleans (La.) Isidore Newman, Chris Stewart, recently admitted there wasn't much of a concrete timeline.
For defending national champion Georgia, title game opponent Alabama and fellow SEC programs Ole Miss and LSU -- each linked to Manning throughout the process -- the decision to take a quarterback sooner rather than later will play fascinatingly. Taking another passer before Manning is ready to make a commitment could all but end said program's chances of picking up the phenom recruit.
Picking up two elite QBs in the same class rarely happens, especially as it's happening. USC signed SI99 recruits Jaxson Dart and Miller Moss in the same class of 2021 (Dart transferred to Ole Miss in January). Alabama added Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones, each future first-round NFL Draft picks, within two months of each other in the class of 2017 under Lane Kiffin -- but Jones wasn't viewed as a top-tier talent at the time.
Other examples are few and far between, so think of these decisions as a blue blood musical chairs with each seat representing a different program's pursuit of coveted right-handed triggermen. The football world tends to link quarterback classes to one another, like when Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields came out in the same prep class or Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf at the highest level, and the depth of talent at the top of the 2023 class will be another in that light.
The upcoming decisions will shape the future of the nation's top quarterback rooms, recruiting perception and showcase the closing ability of college coaching staffs from coast to coast.