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I was able to attend the Elite 11 Finals this week in Los Angeles California where 20 of the top 2023 QB recruits in the country were vying for the coveted Elite 11 MVP Award which was ultimately awarded to Oklahoma commit Jackson Arnold. Here are some observations from the 7-on-7 sessions I was down on the field for.
Jackson Arnold - 4-Star Recruit - 247Sports Player Rating = 95
Arnold had all the buzz surrounding him heading into the final day, as his throwing sessions from Tuesday and Wednesday were so good he essentially had to hold serve in order to secure a top-3 spot in the class. However he did more than that, displaying a strong lower body, footwork and balance by unleashing a beautiful ball down in the left corner for a touchdown that got the sidelines stirring.
Arnold was rated as the sixth-best quarterback in the nation according to 247Sports’ internal board, as they bestowed a four-star grade with a 95 player rating on the Denton, TX native entering the competition. Expect to see 247Sports now come more in line with the other major services who already had given Arnold five-star status, as his .9851 composite grade will attest. He may have vaulted himself into the top-3 of a loaded 2023 class.
Dante Moore - 5-Star Recruit - 247Sports Player Rating = 97
With Arch Manning and Nicholaus Iamaleava not participating, you could argue that nobody had more hype surrounding them than the still uncommitted Dante Moore. With the CFB world wondering which school he will eventually choose, the spotlight was on him and he rose to the occasion. After wowing onlookers in throwing drills, he saved his best for last in the live sessions by seemingly moving the ball at will and capping off his drives emphatically. Here are two strong throws for touchdowns from his Thursday live game session.
You see how he surveys the field, stays patient and delivers the death blow when he finds a window. Moore’s surgical precision definitely solidified his blue-chip status as he is officially a made man in the 2023 QB hierarchy. The circus surrounding Moore’s decision will now continue unabated until a choice is eventually made.
Malachi Nelson - 5-Star Recruit - 247Sports Player Rating = 98
Not to be outdone was Los Alamito, CA product and the heir-apparent to Lincoln Riley’s USC quarterback dynasty, Malachi Nelson. While Nelson didn’t get the big publicity that eventual MVP Arnold or the uncommitted rumor-mill headliner Dante Moore did during this week, he simply went out there and continued to show why he deserves to be considered one of the very elite passers in this class. Here he is connecting with his High School and future USC teammate Makai Lemon to burn the opposing cornerback on a perfectly executed double-move.
While Nelson looked comfortable running the offense and didn’t force throws, he did have two end zone rollout overthrows and got dropped for a 5-second coverage sack within the five-yard line without making a throw on one rep. Despite the minor hiccups, Nelson passes the star QB eye test and it’s easy to see why the QB guru himself HC Riley at USC identified Malachi as his 2023 target.
Christopher Vizzina - 4-Star Recruit - 247Sports Player Rating = 94
Clemson commit Christopher Vizzina has inarguably one of the best 7-on-7 series of the day, leading his squad to four touchdowns in the brief time allotted to each quarterback. Here are all four of them, with three scored going to three-star hybrid-TE Zack Marshall who we will discuss later.
The 6’4/207 pro-style gunslinger from Birmingham, AL also completed 17-of-20 throws on his Wednesday session and much like Jackson Arnold he may have shown enough poise, arm strength and accuracy to earn five-star accolades from 247Sports. While Vizzina wasn’t one of the quarterbacks I felt like I “had” to see when I was there, he absolutely made a believer out of me.
JJ Kohl - 3-Star Recruit - 247Sports Player Rating = 89 (Composite = 4-Star)
Though Jackson Arnold won MVP, and Dante Moore won the most-hyped player award since he was the highest ranked uncommitted quarterback, it’s my belief that no quarterback helped himself more in Los Angeles than Iowa State commit JJ Kohl. The 6’6/227 skyscraper has prototypical pocket-passer stature and made it clear that he is a big game hunter that wants to stretch defenses vertically, as this pass clearly illustrates:
In fact Kohl was so ruthlessly efficient he threw four touchdowns in a span of seven passes during his 7-on-7 showing, which was as good as anyone in the camp if not better. You have to hand it to Iowa State HC Matt Campbell, as he once again beat the rest of the nation to Kohl and secured his pledge before his national coming out party. Though he is still considered a three-star recruit according to 247Sports, Kohl is a mortal lock to break four-star status when their next set of updates go out.
In addition to the standouts, a few highly regarded quarterbacks had some trouble moving the ball in the 7-on-7 sessions. ... Four-star Penn State commit Marcus Stokes was out of sync with his receivers for most of his session and looked visibly frustrated at times. ... Alabama recruit Eli Holstein made some nice throws towards the end of his series, but it took him a while to ramp up and he didn’t distinguish himself much in drills. ... Miami’s recent five-star verbal pickup Jaden Rashada had an inconsistent set of 7’s reps as well and wasn’t quite as impressive in the team setting as he looked in the Tuesday/Wednesday practices.
It wasn’t just quarterbacks who were out there competing for recognition, as there were a slew of talented skill position players out there catching passes that also impressed:
Roderick Robinson II - 2023 - 4-Star Recruit - 247Sports Player Rating - 90
A 6-foot-1, 230-pound wall of muscle, Robinson II has a rocked up frame that is developed well beyond his years. Despite his large stature, he was still agile enough to shake much smaller nickel backs and safety prospects in coverage while displaying the requisite body control to stop and make a nice high-point hands catch against an overmatched defender.
He was just as effective out of a tailback alignment as in the slot, and while we didn’t get to see Robinson take contact or read blockers, his size, speed and agility are palpable. There’s no fat on the kid to trim either, so if he can maintain his current weight it’s intriguing to think about how productive he could be in Chip Kelly’s hands while following in the footsteps of another big-bodied RB in Zach Charbonnet.
Zack Marshall - 2023 - Uncommitted - 3-Star Recruit - 247Sports Player Rating - 87
A 6’4/220 pound physical specimen, Carlsbad’s high three-star hybrid TE/WR/ATH Zack Marshall outshined every other prospect on the field at Redondo Union High School, making smooth hands catches outside his frame on tight window throws and coming out of it clean. Here he is running a seam route from the slot and catches a bullet from Elite 11 MVP Jackson Arnold.
These are the same kind of catches he was making all day in 7-on-7’s to the extent where many of us sideliners were wondering when the defense was going to finally adjust to the assault being laid upon them by Marshall. The Solana Beach, CA native was named one of the two skill position MVP’s at the event and put himself in position to bump his current 87 247Sports player rating up to four-star status if he continues to shine like he did on Thursday.
Gabe Sawchuk - 2024 - Uncommitted - 3-Star Recruit - 247Sports Player Rating - 87
Like his older brother Gavin who is enrolled at Oklahoma and ran a blistering 10.62s 100-meters last season, Gabe Sawchuk showed off the kind of speed that is a trait that runs deep through the Sawchuk family bloodlines. His father Kevin is a former FBS football player who suited up for Louisiana Tech during his playing days. While his father was a gritty special teamer on the football field, he was an exceptional track athlete who ran a sensational 10.43s 100-meters dash as his personal record. Clearly those fast-twitch tendencies have transferred down to both his sons, as Gabe looked smooth getting out in the flats and also showed the long speed to take defenders down the field on wheel routes. He’s two years out from college, but I'm excited to see what the youngest Sawchuk can do now that he has the backfield all to himself at Valor Christian in Littleton, CO.