REDONDO BEACH, Calif. – Twenty of the 2023 cycle’s top signal callers were in Southern California this week for the Elite 11 Finals. The three-day event wrapped up with 7-on-7 play on Thursday afternoon.
For the purposes of On3’s Overall Top Performers, we’re looking at the cumulative showing over the course of the three days at the Elite 11 Finals.
The Elite 11 staff puts out their own ranking each day and named Jackson Arnold as the MVP, which they based off of “50% junior season film & performance/50% camp eval & physical traits” rather than solely on the three days of the Finals.
On3 charted the 7-on-7 sessions live, grading throw as on or off target. We did not penalize for wide receiver drops if the ball is well-thrown. Conversely, a receiver considerably slowing down to catch the ball is deemed as off target. It is not strictly a tally of completions.
Also note that two of the the cycle’s five-star quarterbacks, Texas commit Arch Manning and Tennessee pledge Nico Iamaleava, were not in attendance. Iamaleava missed the Finals due to an international volleyball tournament. Manning did not participate in any regional camps. They rank as two of the nation’s top five prospects.
On3 MVP: JJ Kohl – Iowa State
JJ Kohl erased any doubts of who would earn On3 MVP honors with his performance in 7-on-7 on Thursday. The Iowa State commit ended his sterling week with an emphatic showing, going 13 of 16 for six touchdowns and zero interceptions. It’s certainly on the shortlist of most dominant 7-on-7 sessions we’ve seen at the Elite 11 Finals over the years.
Kohl’s high-end physical gifts as a passer were readily evident on Day 1 and Day 2. He showed off arguably the biggest arm among the Elite 11 Finalists along with a nuanced ability to layer his throws with touch and placement. The arm talent transferred seamlessly to the live setting on Thursday. He absolutely carved up the secondary. No other quarterback took more aggressive downfield shots. Kohl had a four throw sequence comprised of three touchdowns and an absolute strike down the seam that nearly went for another score. He has a compact, quick motion and adjusted to the increased speed of play as well as any Finalist. We saw him quickly and naturally read leverage to find open receivers downfield.
There’s no question this was a breakout performance on a national stage for JJ Kohl. We knew the Ankeny (Iowa) High three-sport standout was a high-upside physical talent, but his passing skill set is further along than we could’ve hoped for. Kohl already ranks in the On300, but should be a lock to rise after a dominant week at the Elite 11 Finals.
2. Christopher Vizzina – Clemson
Christopher Vizzina had a strong week at the Elite 11 Finals, highlighted by a four touchdown, zero interception performance in 7-on-7 on Thursday. The Birmingham (Ala.) Briarwood Christian signal caller threw a touchdown on every drive. He had several high-level throws during the session, including a pretty corner route and a dart over the middle for the final score. Even of the misses were still impressive throws, including some aggressive deep shots. Similar to Kohl, we saw Vizzina adjust well to the presence of defensive backs, while others struggled with the speed.
Vizzina showed a projectable physical skill set throughout the week. He’s all of 6-foot-4, 205 pounds. We came away thinking he had the best feet and drops on hand – something that shows up on film, as well. The Clemson pledge ranks as the No. 19 overall prospect in the On300 and looked the part.
3. Dante Moore
Dante Moore‘s refined and polished skill set as a passer continued to shine on Thursday. Moore had the strongest 7-on-7 session prior to Kohl or Vizzina, with On3 charting him on target on 16 of 19 passes for four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He continued to showcase the quick release, accuracy and approach we saw in at OT7 earlier in the month. Moore is advanced as a quick game and intermediate passer. He rarely throws the ball up for grabs and takes what the defense gives him. We saw the Detroit Martin Luther King signal caller also mix in a few timely deep shots with a few going for scores.
The strong showing in 7-on-7 work capped over a very good week for Moore, which also included Day 2 On3 MVP honors. He’s a pure pocket passer who is one of the better in-structure operators in the 2023 cycle.
Oregon, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Michigan are in the mix for Moore, who ranks as the top uncommitted quarterback in the cycle. The Ducks currently have the edge in his On3 Recruiting Prediction Machine.
4. Jackson Arnold – Oklahoma
Jackson Arnold showed one of the livest arms at the Elite 11 Finals. The Oklahoma pledge particularly excelled in drill work. His quick release and juice on the football consistently stood out relative to many of the others on hand. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has a strong base and throws with power. Arnold was a little up and down in 7-on-7 play on Thursday, with On3 charting him as on target for 10 of 16 passes with one touchdown. He did have an interception, but it went right off the hands of a receiver and should’ve been a completion. We saw the receivers struggle a bit with Arnold’s velocity throughout the session. He was also a little late on a few throws and reads during 7-on-7. Still, we got to see Arnold’s arm talent on display over the course of the week.
5. Malachi Nelson – USC
Malachi Nelson didn’t have a ton of dominant moments over the course of the week, but was in the top group in most settings. Nelson had one of the better 7-on-7 sessions on Thursday, going 11 of 19 for three touchdowns. He did take two timed sacks. Even though Nelson wasn’t on his A-game, his talent and passing polish showed an elevated floor relative to many others. Nelson’s quick release and ability to throw with touch allowed for a steady showing day-over-day.
Overall, Malachi Nelson looked a bit better at the Elite 11 Finals than when we saw him at OT7 earlier in the month, where he may have been dealing with some shoulder soreness. Moving forward, the USC commit would benefit to continuing to add some strength.
6. Austin Novosad – Baylor
Austin Novosad was one of the cleaner passers on hand at the Elite 11 Finals. The Dripping Springs (Texas) High product is a pure thrower. The ball comes out of his hand clean and crisp with consistency. Novosad was a standout in drill work on Day 1 and fared well in his pro day scrip on Day 2. He threw the ball up for grabs a few times in 7-on-7 on Thursday and finished 12 of 17 for one touchdown and two interceptions. But it was a still a good showing for Novosad overall. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder is an in-structure pocket passer at this stage.
Ohio State, Texas A&M and Georgia remain in pursuit of Novosad, who is evaluating his options (On3+).
7. Kenny Minchey – Pitt
Kenny Minchey had a good three days at the Elite 11 Finals. He was a Top Performer on Day 2 with one of the better pro day workouts and showed good zip on his throws throughout the week. Minchey has a compact, powerful build and was able to drive the ball out to the boundary and middle of the field with little strain. He was solid, but not spectacular in 7-on-7 on Thursday, with On3 charting him on target for 10 of 18 passes with one touchdown, one interception and a sack. The four-star signal caller showed one of the more well-rounded passing skill sets on hand and had a solid week, in our opinion.
8. Avery Johnson
Avery Johnson showed continued progress as a passer during his time at the Elite 11 Finals. As we’ve noted in the past, Johnson is arguably the best athlete at quarterback in the 2023 cycle with speed and bounce that is on par with top receiver and defensive back prospects. But Johnson showed he’s much more than an athlete this week. We saw improved velocity and a tightened motion from the Maize (Kan.) High three-sport star. Johnson probably wavered the most in 7-on-7 work on Thursday, finishing 9 of 17 with one touchdown and one interception. Still, it was a positive showing overall.
Johnson has taken visits to Kansas State, Oregon and Washington with the Wildcats leading according to his On3 Recruiting Prediction Machine.
9. Jaxon Smolik – Tulane
Jaxon Smolik was a late addition to the Elite 11 Finals and made the most of the opportunity. The Tulane commit showed he belonged alongside the nation’s best and got better and better each day. Smolik had one of the better 7-on-7 sessions on Thursday, with On3 charting him on target for 9 of 17 passes for three touchdowns and one dropped interception. Smolik got hot during the middle of his turn, ripping two impressive touchdowns in rapid succession. He spins the ball well and throws with velocity. The West Des Moines (Iowa) Dowling Catholic signal caller looks like a steal for the Green Wave.
10. Eli Holstein – Alabama
Eli Holstein got off to a shaky start in 7-on-7 on Thursday, coming out a bit too wired. The Alabama commit threw a few balls up for grabs, but was able to settle down and ended with one of the better sessions on the day. Holstein completed 13 of his final 14 passes to finish 13 of 18 with three touchdowns. The finish to his 7-on-7 session was the high point of the week for the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder. Holstein will need to continue refining his mechanics and tightening his motion, but he showed the ability to drive the ball with velocity while throwing against live defenses. The Crimson Tide commit edges into the final top 11 due to his complete showing while throwing against live defenders, when compared with many of the other Finalists.
11. Rickie Collins – Purdue
The competition for the final spot was fierce, but we’re going with Rickie Collins due to his strong pro day workout on Day 2. The Baton Rouge Woodlawn product bounced back from an up and down Day 1 to turn in one of the better pro days we saw on Wednesday. Collins was relaxed and natural in his drops and was able to throw with accuracy and touch to all levels. He was a bit up and down in 7-on-7 on Thursday, finishing on target for 8 of 17 passes for two touchdowns and one interception.
+ Cincinnati commit Brady Drogosh entered as one of the top run threats on hand. Drogosh is not as seasoned or experienced as many others in this setting, but held his own. On3 charted the Michigan native as on target for 9 of 16 passes with two touchdowns and one interceptions on Thursday. Drogosh will need continued development, but he has considerable physical upside.
+ Oklahoma State commit Zane Flores was in the mix for the final spot in On3’s top 11. Flores had a solid week that with a steady showing that didn’t feature too many highs or lows. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder is probably not as polished as some others at this stage, but has tools to work with.
+ Florida State commit Chris Parson won the hole shot competition on Tuesday and had a very good 7-on-7 showing. Parson misses the top 11 narrowly in large part due to his struggles on Day 2, with the lowest target score on the day. On the positive side, Parson showed some encouraging competitiveness.
+ Miami commit Jaden Rashada continued to be up and down on Day 3, finishing 10 of 19 with no touchdowns or no interceptions. Rashada flashed his plus arm talent over the course of the week, but is still developing with his accuracy and feel for the game.
+ Penn State commit Marcus Stokes showed off a quick release in drill work on Tuesday. He struggled a bit relative to the others on Day 2 and had a mixed 7-on-7 session on Thursday. Stokes was on target for 11 of 17 passes for two touchdowns and one interception with several more dropped interceptions.
+ We never really saw Memphis (Tenn.) Lausanne Collegiate School quarterback Brock Glenn get totally comfortable over the course of the week.