The first big quarterback recruiting dominos of the year dropped in a matter of days.
On Friday, Eli Holstein backed off of a longstanding commitment to Texas A&M. Three days later, on Monday, Nico Iamaleava made a long-anticipated verbal commitment to Tennessee public and Volunteer fans should be plenty excited about the big-arm headed to Knoxville.
The two moves shift the expected dominoes at the game's most important position in the recruiting class of 2023, not only in eventual college choice but potentially with the timelines some of the decisions may come in.
For example, Sports Illustrated noted Detroit (Mich.) Martin Luther King quarterback Dante Moore potentially getting to a decision sooner rather than later just last week. Since, the coveted passer visited Florida, Florida State and Auburn, among others, and there is a slight sense the process may be extended longer than most in the industry have anticipated.
Then on Monday morning, Moore picked up an offer from Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M, the first known target the staff has moved in on since Holstein backed off of the Aggie commitment. TAMU is one of the few recruiting powers not involved in the hunt for Arch Manning, still the table setter in the 'quarterback domino' conversation. That race appears to include Georgia, where he visited again over the weekend, along with Texas, Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU and others.
Ahead of the recent visits in SEC and ACC country, Moore had been linked to programs closer to his Midwest home like Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, more than those in the South. But LSU, Auburn, Florida and Florida State could extend the recruiting process if for no reason than additional options for the passer to consider. It's the Midwest programs most keyed in on Moore's decision, most having not budged on a potential second option to date should it miss on the Detroit native -- a hint of confidence in recruiting the position.
The SEC schools have done the opposite, even at the top in Georgia and Alabama, each also in on Iamaleava prior to Monday's Tennessee commitment. Kirby Smart's pitch has also been heard by Manning, Moore and Christopher Vizzina while Nick Saban's search has been centered on Manning and Holstein. At the time of his most recent trip to Tuscaloosa, Holstein was still committed to Fisher's Aggies. Around the same time, Florida offered under new coach Billy Napier and there was talk of a trip to Gainesville. UF has also been involved with Vizzina, as has Ohio State, Ole Miss and Clemson. The Birmingham (Ala.) Briarwood Christian standout is fresh off of a trip to in-state Auburn.
"Loved every second of it," Vizzina told SI on Monday morning.
Like with Moore, Vizzina has added options to the table and has yet to go public with a list of favorites. Unlike Moore, though, he has hinted at perhaps taking more time for the choice, with the goal most quarterbacks share in wanting to be pledged before the 2022 football season begins. Moore could end up on the same timeline, leaving some staffs with tough decisions to make potentially between the two.
What Tennessee has done, in not only going all in on Iamaleava and landing his commitment, is trust its own evaluation. Head coach Josh Heupel, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting as a quarterback back in 2000 before leading Oklahoma to a national championship, was willing to take the Californian's verbal commitment whenever he was ready. It had long been clear Iamaleava would come off the board first, thus eliminating potential additions like Manning (whose uncle Peyton of course played at UT) and Vizzina, who Tennessee had been pursuing since the fall.
The Midwest programs courting Moore (outside of Ohio State) are likely in the same boat, especially at Notre Dame, given how those staffs have slowed in the pursuit of others at the position. Most programs don't take more than one quarterback and conversely, most highly-coveted quarterbacks don't pick the same program -- and are often in communication with one another ahead of big decisions.
Manning has long been expected to take his time with the process, and his coach has hinted at a commitment coming beyond the spring months altogether, so which programs will follow Tennessee's lead in being willing to take a passer before Manning's decision is to come in? Will any staff now push that much sooner for Moore or Vizzina? Those moves could potentially cost a program Manning, so don't expect a budge from Texas or Georgia, also the only two programs hosting the NFL legacy prospect this month.
As is the case for plenty of movement in college football one way or the other, it could come back to Nick Saban and Alabama. It was in it for Iamaleava and has already hosted Manning and Holstein as well as Birmingham native Vizzina dating back to the fall. The in-state star does not have an offer from the program to date, however. Saban, Bill O'Brien and company could have a decision to make if Holstein is closing in on when he wants to come off the board. Or does it begin to push for Vizzina fresh off of his Auburn trip?
Of course there are always wildcards in any quarterback domino scenario and in the 2023 cycle the biggest what if could be filtered into an uncommitted quarterback not named Manning: Dylan Lonergan.
The Snellville (Ga.) Brookwood two-sport standout will have mystery attached to his name because he happens to be an elite quarterback and pitching prospect all in one breath. The football offers dot the SEC and ACC, including Georgia, Alabama, Miami and Florida most recently. Rated to the highest level as a pitching prospect on Perfect Game, Lonergan is expected to take trips to Alabama and Ohio State in the coming weeks, with plans to play both sports at the college he selects. The visits will provide further clarity on those possibilities.
In true wildcard fashion, it's unknown whether or not every program will be on board with the plan. Typically, programs are more conservative with quarterback prospects, though playing football and baseball has been done by the likes of Russell Wilson, Heisman Trophy winners Jameis Winston and Kyler Murray, and John Rhys Plumlee with Ole Miss (he has since transferred to UCF), among others. As Lonergan mulls visits and potential college destinations, he could become quite the fallback option for those who miss on Manning, Moore, Vizzina and others.
There are also plenty of other undeclared names out there as 40-plus programs in the Power Five search for the face of their 2023 recruiting classes. Those who could eventually earn more options after the most coveted come to a decision include Pittsburg (Calif.) High School's Jaden Rashada, Ponte Vedra Beach (Fla.) Nease High School's Marcus Stokes and Kennesaw (Ga.) North Cobb High School's Malachi Singleton.