New names in top five

College football’s 2023 recruiting cycle is nearing its end with national signing day on Feb. 1. Following the high school season and All-Star games, we have updated our ESPN 300 rankings for the final time this cycle.

ESPN’s recruiting rankings date as far back as 2006, and for the first time in 18 years, we have finished a cycle with four quarterbacks ranked among the top five overall prospects. In fairness to all four quarterbacks, each could make a strong case for being the No. 1 overall player. And in the broader lens of college football, each school those quarterbacks Landed should flourish given their systems and skill sets.

Malachi Nelson remains at the top despite missing out on the Under Armor All-America Game due to injury. The USC signee capped off an excellent high school career, tossing 35 touchdown passes as a senior, and is the heir apparent to 2022 Heisman Trophy Winner Caleb Williams.

Dante Moore, who Flipped from Oregon to UCLA just prior to December’s early signing period, moves up one spot to No. 2 overall after winning the Michigan Division III state title. He concluded his high school career at the All-America Bowl in San Antonio with four touchdowns and the MVP award. For Pac-12 fans out there, this is the first time ever that USC and UCLA have secured the top two players in the country.

But there are some new faces in the top five overall, as well as some recruits who earned a coveted fifth star following strong showings since our last update in October. Here is what you need to know about the final edition of the rankings.

Jump to:
More top-five QBs | A new No. 1 defender
New five-stars | Big Movers | New faces

More QBs at the top

Oklahoma signee Jackson Arnold, the 2022 Gatorade National Player of the Year, jumps from No. 8 to No. 3 overall after a stellar senior season against some of the best competition in the country. He completed 69% of his passes for 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions. They also performed at a high level during the Under Armor All-America week.

Arch Manning, the Nephew of Super Bowl Champions Peyton and Eli who signed with Texas, started as the No. 1 Recruit when the 2023 class transitioned from the Junior 300 to the Senior 300. However, he ends the cycle at No. 5 overalls. Manning’s slide is not the result of diminishing skill, but more of not seeing him compete deep into the state Playoffs or on a national All-Star game platform. Isidore Newman (Louisiana) lost in the state quarterfinals, and the senior struggled in his final high school game (96 passing yards, two INTs).

Tennessee signee Nicholaus Iamaleava (No. 23) moved up nine spots overall and is the fifth quarterback ranked in the top 25 overall, edging out fellow QBs Eli Holstein (Alabama), Jaden Rashada (uncommitted) and Dylan Lonergan (Alabama). The Vols commit took home MVP honors at the Polynesian Bowl in Honolulu.


A new top defender

Peter Woods, DT
Clemson | New ESPN 300 ranking: 4 (Previous: 8)

The biggest QB disrupter in the class is also the only non-QB among the top five in the ESPN 300. He jumped onto our Radar as a sophomore and not only solidified his five-star status as a senior but earned a bump inside the top 10 with a dominant performance during Under Armor All-America Game week. At 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, his lack of length and physical upside may concern some, but his explosiveness is undeniable. He is extremely quick off the snap, can play with leverage and power, and has a Tenacious finishing style. Clemson has developed some elite defensive linemen in recent years, including two of Todd McShay’s top 10 draft-eligible prospects in Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee, and Woods has demonstrated the ability to be the Tigers’ next great DL.


Four new five-star prospects

Keon Keeley, DE
Alabama | New ESPN 300 ranking: 12 (Previous: 20)

Keeley was on the cusp of five-star status for several updates and ends this cycle rightfully among that group. He’s a defender with elite length (6-foot-4) and a rare blend of initial quickness, agility and body control. Keeley has the tools to be a force off the edge in the SEC. He gave a glimpse of what he could do consistently as a junior, hunting down fellow five-star Arch Manning during a nationally televised game. After an impressive performance during the All-American Bowl week, he again has proven he is one of the most promising defensive prospects in this class.

Raylen Wilson, OLB
Georgia | New ESPN 300 ranking: 15 (Previous: 68)

Georgia’s second straight national title demonstrated how effectively the Bulldogs can replace top defensive talent. Now, the No. 2-ranked recruiting class looks poised to bring in a new wave of impact Defenders led by Wilson, one of the new Bulldogs who could step in and help replace starters lost to the NFL. A prospect with a sturdy build, impressive top-end speed, an explosive closing burst as well as a good feel for the game, he looks like a player ready to step on campus and make his presence known. He was among the best Defenders during the week in Orlando.

Suntarine Perkins, ATH
Ole Miss | New ESPN 300 ranking: 18 (Previous: 48)

While Perkins projects to outside linebacker at the next level, his overall ability as a football player on both sides of the ball keeps him in the athlete category. He has a chance to become a dominant defender and can really Rush the passer. He showed out with a huge performance for Raleigh High School (Mississippi) in the state Championship game, rushing for more than 300 yards with four TDs at RB and also intercepting a pass on defense. During the week in Orlando at the Under Armor All-America Game, he concentrated fully on defense and flashed excellent sideline-to-sideline range and coverage skills on Quicker slots, reminding us of the All-America performance last year by LSU’s Harold Perkins Jr .

Adepoju Adebawore, DE
Oklahoma | New ESPN 300 ranking: 20 (Previous: 57)

Defense was a need for Oklahoma in this cycle, and Coach Brent Venables addressed it in Adebawore. Known as PJ, he is one of the biggest risers in this update based off his elite measurables (6-5, 230, 84-inch wingspan), strong testing numbers and high ceiling. He uses his length and frame to wreak havoc as an edge rusher. He still has plenty of room to fill out and grow as a player, but he showed during Under Armor All-America week that he is already translating his physical gifts into impact play.


Big Movers

Kelby Collins, DT
Florida | New ESPN 300 ranking: 53 (Previous: 67)

Collins, a Florida signee, jumped 14 spots with an outstanding effort during the Under Armor All-America week, earning game MVP honors on Jan. 3rd At 6-5, 280, Collins has barely scratched the ceiling of his ability. As a junior, he weighed 250 pounds and was a defensive end who could play both standing up and with his hand on the ground. Now, he can move inside and play either tackle spot in Gainesville. We feel he will tip the scales close to 300 pounds at the next level without losing any of his initial quickness, while simultaneously improving his strength and improving his abilities against double teams. Collins is scheme-versatile, easy to coach and plays with a high motor.

Jelani McDonald, ATH
Texas l New ESPN 300 ranking: 178 (Previously: 237)

McDonald continued his stellar senior season with a great performance at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio. He moves into the top 200 thanks to his back-seven versatility and explosiveness. While he played DB in the Bowl game, his excellent length (6-2 with a 78-inch wingspan), range and lower-body burst (22-foot triple jump) project out to a nickel linebacker role for Texas. He will most likely start his career at the hybrid Star position in Austin.


New ESPN 300 entries

Jermaine Mathews, CB
Ohio State | New ESPN 300 ranking: 43rd

Mathews is an underrated in-state pickup for the Buckeyes. He is a defensive back who possesses elite speed on the perimeter and will combine good height (6-0), length and loose hips to lock down Big Ten wideouts. Mathews registered a 21.9 max speed on senior film, meaning he can also be a factor in run pursuit.

Landen Hatchett, C
Washington | New ESPN 300 ranking: 287

Hatchett is a 6-3, 280-pound center who also received some interest in baseball but will instead focus on football at Washington. He has the makings of a multi-year Anchor in the Offensive trenches for the Huskies. He is a big man who blends a lunch-pail style of play with good mobility and flexibility. During All-America Game week, he flashed great pulling skill after snapping the ball and blocked effectively at the second level. Hatchett is a tough player that will win Battles in a phone booth. The 2023 class has supplied one of the better collections of center prospects in recent cycles, and among that group, Hatchett is most ready to play.

Mikey Matthews, WR
Utah | New ESPN 300 ranking: 291

Matthews, a former three-star recruit, made one of the biggest moves, earning a fourth star and placing his way into the top 300. He had an outstanding week during the Under Armor All-American Game and practices. What he lacks in stature (5-9, 170) he makes up for with toughness, ball skills and outstanding route running ability. It didn’t matter who was covering him; the Utah signee simply got open and made plays.

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