It wasn't the best-kept secret in college football recruiting but Christopher Vizzina picking the Clemson Tigers actually went down on Tuesday afternoon, he announced.
Stranger things have happened in quarterback recruiting, so a chalk decision after a prospect makes near back-to-back visits could be relatively welcomed in the class of 2023, where plenty is still to be determined at the position.
Vizzina, the Birmingham (Ala.) Briarwood Christian standout, first became a national recruit because of Dabo Swinney and company's offer in November. Many others followed as he was wrapping up a storied junior season, often thought of as the most important among quarterbacks as college programs set and reset their prospect boards and pecking orders, in which he threw for 2,000-plus yards and totaled 31 touchdowns (16 passing) before falling to the eventual Alabama Class 6A state champions.
The Tiger pledge completes his ascent into the range of the top rising-senior quarterback prospects in the country, picking Clemson over a stacked lists of finalists including defending national champion Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Auburn after taking trips to each of the campuses of late.
One could assume the Tigers were out in front for some time for Vizzina, something other colleges likely knew, since the program was eliminated by the Arch Manning camp earlier this year following coaching changes under Swinney. Few could forget the early buzz CU had with the most famous recruit in high school sports, especially after a viral throw at last summer's Tiger prospect camp. It's an example at both how fluid contenders for top prospects is and the impact the coaching carousel has had on even the most coveted prospects.
Manning has since visited Georgia, Alabama, Texas and most recently Virginia, where his sister attends and additional recruiting pitches are coming in, as the most tracked recruitment in the country continues without a clear end in sight. No top contenders will be revealed and no verbal commitment date is likely to come into focus unless his verified Twitter account kicks off with that kind of bang. It's nothing new on the Manning front, just as Clemson falling out of contention led to the program picking up a promising physical emerger in Vizzina.
But Manning isn't the only top passer taking his time and/or not revealing where things may stand. Dante Moore has been just as busy on the visit front and like Manning, some of the programs thought to be most consistently involved overlap with select finalists from Vizzina's decision. Moore has seen Notre Dame and Ohio State, a pair of hats on the table for the newest Tiger commitment, of late. Manning of course has been back at Georgia while Ole Miss is the campus with the most family history and in-turn familiarity.
Buzz around Moore's recruitment has long been linked to the Detroit native sticking in the Midwest, most likely at Notre Dame, in the end. Visits outside of the region continue, however, with Miami, LSU and Oregon each getting him on campus with the chances to do so again once he begins to take official visits. Some prospects have already begun taking trips legally funded by college programs, though the majority will begin the official visit slate in June. Should Moore join that group, he may be able to get another look at Coral Gables, Baton Rouge or Eugene before the final pick is to be made.
As was the case before Vizzina came off the board, programs aren't going all-in on one passer, for the most part, the way Clemson has over the last several months or the way Texas has for Manning from the outset of Steve Sarkisian's tenure. Just about every other program looking for the next face of said program is casting a wider net, flirting with prioritizing whoever is atop the board while keeping No. 2 and No. 3 just warm enough to remain interested in the spot.
Per 247Sports, 25 Power Five programs have now filled the QB position in the class of 2023. Many of the blue blood programs yet to do so continue to court multiple targets simultaneously despite a lack of clarity on when the top of the board may decide. It's not just Manning and Moore in what is quickly becoming known as an elite group of passers.
Jaden Rashada would be the hottest name, nationally, leading up to this time of year if not for Vizzina. The Pittsburg (Calif.) High School standout also broke out in 2021 with comparable passing marks to the Alabamian, including 27 passing scores against five interceptions. While trying to stay in the hunt for in-state Manning and hoping for another trip from Moore, LSU has increased attention on Rashada. Oregon shifted focus to him after the last big domino, Nico Iamaleava, opted for Tennessee despite considerable family and regional ties to the Ducks. Ole Miss has also hosted Rashada twice and figures to get him back on campus at least once more before all is said and done.
Arkansas gets Rashada on campus this coming weekend, his first trip since a multi-day stay at Miami (who could also get Moore back on campus) in a recruitment the Californian admits could come to an end any day or go all the way to Early National Signing Day in December. Florida just offered he and Eli Holstein, a former Texas A&M commitment, in recent weeks.
After a breath last month at a 7-on-7 tournament in Dallas, Rashada admitted he would like to be committed by the time his final high school football season kicks off. Moore has expressed similar. It can be assumed Manning won't take his recruitment into the 2022 season but that recruitment has been navigated with and 'old school' mentality, on purpose, to allow for as much time as he may need to make a pick. Throw in a new option like Virginia, under a first year coach in Tony Elliot, and Texas needing to bounce back in Sarkisian's second season -- and maybe the Manning recruitment does what is most rare for elite passers.
Could he still be on the board into the 2022 college football season? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but imagine the timeline shift Manning could create at a position typically wrapped up by most programs by Independence Day.
It's no secret many programs are more likely to hold out for Manning than move on, even Nick Saban and Alabama. While courting another Louisianan in the aforementioned Holstein, who has been on campus in Tuscaloosa twice this spring, SI sources say the ball is in Manning's court with the Crimson Tide. Him holding off on a public pick, or even-more surprising moving on from the program as a contender ala Clemson could push Holstein to make a decision elsewhere. A&M, Florida, Oregon, Arkansas and others are among those in the mix.
Georgia native Dylan Lonergan and Tennessee's Marcel Reed each offer dual-threat (and in Lonergan's case dual-sport) abilities and should continue to factor into the top of the recruiting board conversation at select schools still looking for future QB1. Lonergan has visited Florida and Alabama while Georgia is also among those interested in the potential MLB pitching prospect. Reed was at Ole Miss at the end of March while also fielding longstanding interest from Arkansas, Auburn -- bringing the Vizzina fallout full circle -- and others among his 20 reported scholarship offers.
The depth of talent at QB among those still to make a college decision and the school shuffle of keeping multiple players interested in joining the future quarterback room could make for a long road until each chair is filled among college football's top destinations.
And we thought the winter coaching carousel had twists and turns.