Which freshman QBs will play in 2023? We rated chances for the top 10, including Arch Manning

NCAA Football

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Five-stars Arch Manning (Texas), Malachi Nelson (USC), Dante Moore (UCLA) and Jackson Arnold (Oklahoma) headline the quarterbacks in college football’s 2023 recruiting class.

They form as talented a top four as we have seen in years, but that doesn’t guarantee playing time — particularly for Nelson, who will be competing against Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.

This quarterback class might not be as deep as those in recent years, particularly at the dual-threat position, but there are still several hidden gems and refined passers who could make a statement this fall.

We are seeing high school signal-callers arrive on campus ready to compete for on-field reps and for the right to move up the depth chart. Last year, for example, Conner Weigman and Cade Klubnik saw their share of significant playing time for Texas A&M and Clemson, respectively.

We break down the top 10 quarterbacks in the 2023 class and examine their strengths, the depth charts they are walking into and predict how likely they are to earn playing time early.

Jump to:
Alabama | ASU | Clemson
K-State | OU | Tennessee
Texas | UCLA | USC

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 1

Scouting report: Nelson is a talented thrower who has a smooth, fluid and quick delivery. He’s poised and accurate with his throws downfield. He can change arm angles and make plays on the move, and while he’s not an elite runner, he does possess good mobility.

USC’s QB outlook for 2023: Nelson will be competing with redshirt sophomore Miller Moss, also a former ESPN 300 quarterback, for the backup job behind defending Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. Nelson might be the more naturally talented player, but Moss has knowledge of Lincoln Riley’s scheme and experience in his corner.

How Nelson can develop as a freshman: Nelson must focus on three things to grow as a freshman: leadership, theory of the game and physical growth and maturity. Beyond him bulking up from his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame in the weight room, it is imperative for Nelson to better understand pass protections and defensive schemes.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: Medium. Barring any unforeseen injury to Williams, we believe Nelson can secure the No. 2 spot. It is also likely USC will try to play him in four games and have him redshirt this fall.

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 2

Scouting report: The ball jumps off Moore’s hand, and he can change arm angles and beat the pass rush with his release. He’s a good ball handler who can turn his back to the line of scrimmage off the play-action and get right back on his progressions. He sees the field well and can fit passes into tight spots.

UCLA’S QB outlook for 2023: Moore will battle incoming Kent State transfer Collin Schlee and redshirt junior Ethan Garbers. If Moore can prove he can make good decisions and protect the football consistently, his upside and talent level should see him climb the depth chart quickly.

How Moore can develop as a freshman: Moore must demonstrate he can play within himself, protect the ball, take what the defense gives him and understand pass protections. He will not be able to rely just on physical superiority as the playing field has been leveled.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: Very high. Bottom line: Moore is more talented than anyone on UCLA’s roster, so while some typical freshman mistakes can be expected, Chip Kelly will be willing to live with that while he builds the offense around him. The Bruins got a late steal in Moore, and unless an injury were to occur, we would expect him to see a significant role this season.

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 3

Scouting report: Arnold is extremely accurate with a strong arm, smooth stroke and a compact delivery. At 6-1, 195 pounds, he has adequate size, but he has good feet and pocket mobility. As the top dual-threat quarterback in the class, he is resourceful and can extend plays.

Oklahoma’s QB outlook for 2023: Incumbent starter Dillon Gabriel returns along with walk-on General Booty. This is not a steep hill to climb for Arnold in our opinion. Gabriel will be on a short leash, especially if Arnold plays to his potential.

How Arnold can develop as a freshman: Arnold played in virtually the exact same offense with similar terminology his entire high school career. He is highly competitive and mature, and Brent Venables’ offense is so quarterback-friendly that his learning curve will not be overly complicated.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: High. Gabriel, entering his fifth year of eligibility, will have to be far more productive and consistent than he was last year to ward off Arnold this fall. Arnold is bigger, has a stronger arm and is more talented. His upside is significantly higher than Gabriel’s.

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 5

Scouting report: As the nephew of Super Bowl champions Peyton and Eli Manning, Arch handled the spotlight with poise and confidence. When it comes to his on-field abilities, he is a polished, talented quarterback with good arm strength. At 6-3, 204 pounds, he is mobile enough to keep plays alive and pick up yards with his legs.

Texas’ QB outlook for 2023: Redshirt freshman Maalik Murphy moved to No. 3 on the depth chart the moment Manning signed on the dotted line. Incumbent Quinn Ewers is the very talented but up-and-down returning starter for the Longhorns.

How Manning can develop as a freshman: Manning is playing catch-up to Ewers, who has an 18-month head start on Steve Sarkisian’s scheme and significantly more game experience. Manning will need to adapt to a serious jump in level of competition, which is why spring football is very important for him.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: High. Manning and Ewers are already in a public battle for the starting job, based on Sarkisian’s comments prior to spring football starting for the Longhorns. Why? Because Ewers cannot play like he did last fall. He can’t be streaky and inconsistent. Consistent performance is how Manning wins the job or Ewers keeps it.

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 23

Scouting report: Iamaleava has great height and a lanky build at 6-6, 195 pounds, but he will fill out and get bigger and stronger at the next level. He has raw talent with the arm strength to make difficult throws. He has a smooth release and can polish up and tighten his delivery.

Tennessee’s QB outlook for 2023: The Vols have limited options under center in 2023 with Hendon Hooker off to the NFL. Joe Milton III is expected to be the starter, and redshirt junior transfer Gaston Moore is also on the roster. Iamaleava has a great opportunity in front of him.

How Iamaleava can develop as a freshman: As one of the most highly anticipated arrivals in Knoxville in quite some time, Iamaleava has huge expectations to perform. His success will largely depend on maturity and focusing on football, not name, image and likeness or social media hype. All of that will take care of itself if Iamaleava develops as a passer and wins games for the Vols.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: High. Milton may be coming off an Orange Bowl win over Clemson in which he threw three touchdown passes, but he’s way too erratic and inconsistent considering how talented he is physically. Iamaleava will likely be the No. 2 quarterback when the season begins, but if he doesn’t take over the starting role, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Vols preserve his redshirt season.

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 29

Scouting report: At 6-4, 225 pounds, Holstein is a strong-armed passer who can really drive the ball. With more of a classical approach, he can layer the ball and change speeds, and is always a threat to run if the pocket collapses.

Alabama’s QB outlook for 2023: With former Heisman winner Bryce Young off to the NFL, Jalen Milroe and redshirt freshman Ty Simpson will compete for the starting job this spring and into the fall. This leaves Holstein and Dylan Lonergan getting third- and fourth-team reps and operating the scout team.

How Holstein can develop as a freshman: There is no pressure for Holstein to play right away. This will be a time for him to learn the offense, focus on practice and weight room habits and work on his technical skills. He and Lonergan will have ample opportunities to get better on the scout team.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: Low. The Crimson Tide have a logjam of talented quarterbacks on the roster. Unless disaster strikes, we would not see Holstein playing this fall. His goal this year is to beat out Lonergan and win on the scout team each day.

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 31

Scouting report: Rashada is a tall, lean, polished and smooth passer. He has consistent throwing mechanics, good arm strength and poise. He can drive the ball vertically with solid accuracy.

ASU’s QB outlook for 2023: The Sun Devils’ quarterback depth became quite crowded this offseason with the additions of Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne and BYU transfer Jacob Conover. They both join incumbent Trenton Bourguet. Emory Jones has moved on.

How Rashada can develop as a freshman: While Rashada may be as talented, if not more talented, than ASU’s current crop of quarterbacks, he will have to show he is mature enough for the coaches to trust him with the offense. Pyne and Bourguet both bring experience and are older.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: Medium to low. Arizona State isn’t good enough to blow opponents out, so there won’t be too much mop-up duty; if there is, Rashada might see some time and still secure his redshirt. He is the Sun Devils’ future, but maybe not their immediate future.

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 36

Scouting report: Lonergan has good feet, poise in the pocket and is someone who focuses on his rhythm and timing. He has good but not great arm strength right now; however, he is a very accurate passer with good feet.

Alabama’s QB outlook for 2023: Alabama has four ESPN 300 quarterbacks on its roster with Milroe (No. 112, 2021), Simpson (No. 34, 2022), Lonergan and Holstein. When Young went down with an injury against Arkansas and missed the Texas A&M game, it was Milroe who stepped in.

How Lonergan can develop as a freshman: Similarly to what we wrote about Holstein. Holstein is the better athlete of the two, is more talented physically and participated in a bowl practice with Alabama, so he has a leg up. Lonergan, meanwhile, is finishing with baseball and will begin practicing with the Tide this summer.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: Low. Lonergan will likely redshirt, run the scout team and battle with Holstein for the third spot. There is no pressure to play. Nick Saban hasn’t had to rush quarterbacks over the past few years (see: Mac Jones, Young).

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 42

Scouting report: Vizzina has good measurables at 6-3, 205 pounds, and will continue to grow. A tall, lean pocket passer, he has a high over-the-top delivery that can be a bit long. While we would like to see him become quicker and more compact with his delivery, he has a strong arm, can make all the throws and has good vision across the field.

Clemson’s QB outlook for 2023: The Tigers’ quarterback room is very thin. With DJ Uiagalelei out, the incumbent Cade Klubnik should be entrenched as a starter under new coordinator Garrett Riley. Clemson also brought in journeyman Paul Tyson from Arizona State.

How Vizzina can develop as a freshman: Barring anything unforeseen, Vizzina should secure the backup spot behind Klubnik. His talent is superior to Tyson’s and he’ll continue to learn and get better because he will get a lot of reps, which is rare for a freshman.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: Medium to high. Clemson is talented enough to produce double-digit leads, which means Vizzina will likely play in four games, or perhaps more, which would burn his redshirt season. Both he and Klubnik will be learning a new offensive scheme, which might even the playing field a bit as well.

2023 ESPN 300 ranking: 77

Scouting report: Johnson has a huge ceiling when it comes to physical development. He can create plays with his feet, improvise and extend plays. While he has a loose delivery, he can drive the ball with a strong arm and change arm angles as well.

Kansas State’s QB outlook for 2023: The Wildcats return Will Howard, who started five games in place of Adrian Martinez last year and helped them win the Big 12 title. Redshirt sophomore Jake Rubley was the No. 27 recruit overall in the 2021 class and was right behind Howard on the depth chart.

How Johnson can develop as a freshman: Johnson is talented enough to play right away but needs to spend significant time in the weight room to add size and strength to his 6-2, 175-pound frame. He has two veterans in front of him whom he can learn from, so he can take time to mature, grow and learn the playbook.

Chances he could see the field in 2023: Low. Barring injury, it is likely Johnson will redshirt. Playing four games would be great for his development but won’t be necessary either. Expect him to try to push Rubley for the No. 2 spot.

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