West Spotlight: Toughest rankings questions

The final rankings update for the 2023 class is set to be released later this month and there is a lot to finalize before then. Final postseason performances as well as in-person evaluations at the Under Armour Next All-America Game, All-American Bowl, and the upcoming Polynesian Bowl will weigh heavily into this last update to the rankings.

Dozens of prospects from the West region were active during the all-star season and those results will have an effect on the rankings. Here are the five toughest rankings questions we’ll be facing in the West region.

Is Zachariah Branch the No. 1 receiver?

Over the last couple rankings cycles, we have flip-flopped Ohio State signees Brandon Inniss and Carnell Tate as the two-best receivers in the class but after the Under Armour Game, there might be a new No. 1 in our midst.

USC signee Zachariah Branch was not only unstoppable during the week of practice but he was fantastic in the game as well both at receiver and on special teams. His level of dynamic ability and playmaking mentality is so rare and after being focused on the Buckeyes signees, it could be the Las Vegas Bishop Gorman standout who demands top billing at the position.

It’s going to be a tough call. Inniss has been so good for so long and while he doesn’t have the highlight-reel skills of Branch, there might not be a better or more reliable pure receiver in 2023. He catches everything, gets open against everyone and he has for years. Whether Branch ends up No. 1 or not will be up for debate but he’s definitely left a big impression late in the recruiting cycle.



Any more five-stars in the West?

Roderick Robinson
Roderick Robinson

California has traditionally been one of the top-three states nationally to produce top talent and while there are five-stars in the surrounding states as well to bolster the numbers a little bit, the tally is still lacking in that one state.

Florida has nine five-stars currently in the 2023 class; Texas has six. And California has only three in quarterbacks Nico Iamaleava and Malachi Nelson and defensive end Matayo Uiagalelei.

Could there be others? Oregon wide receiver signee Jurrion Dickey is the first prospect outside five-star status and he was fantastic this past summer especially at the OT7 event in Las Vegas. Then there’s Georgia running back signee Roderick Robinson, who ran for 2,378 yards and 37 touchdowns in an incredible senior season. There are others to consider as well but getting to five-star status is also a big challenge.


What to do with five-star quarterbacks?

Nico Iamaleava
Nico Iamaleava (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

This has been a question that has vexed us throughout this recruiting cycle as five-star quarterbacks Nico Iamaleava and Malachi Nelson continue to prove they’re two of the best in the class. But in which order?

Nelson did not play in the Under Armour Game following postseason surgery but he had another phenomenal season especially connecting with fellow USC signee Makai Lemon, one of the best receivers in the country.

Iamaleava was also terrific – transcendent at times – for his Downey (Calif.) Warren team as he threw a beautiful deep ball and showed dynamic ability that maybe no other elite quarterback has in this class. He is expected to throw at the Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii next week and that could put any further discussion to rest.

A Tennessee signee, Iamaleava has the edge right now but there’s one final rankings release ahead as both five-star quarterbacks have been terrific this season.


Are changes coming to the Utah rankings?

Spencer Fano
Spencer Fano (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Utah is one of those states where it’s tough to get accurate rankings sometimes because there are a ton of talented linemen there but through camps and 7-on-7 season it’s difficult to see a lot of them travel the country to some of the best events.

That’s why national all-star games are so important and many of the state’s top players made big impressions over the last few weeks.

Utah signee Hunter Clegg was at the Rose Bowl when he was contacted about playing in the All-American Bowl so on the family’s drive back home, Clegg stopped off at the Las Vegas airport to fly to San Antonio. It was there where the four-star who’s ranked as the second-best player in the state shined and made a serious push for the No. 1 player in Utah.

Four-star offensive lineman Spencer Fano, also a signee at Utah, had an impressive week in San Antonio as well and current No. 1 Tausili Akana is a special prospect with incredibly long arms but he the Texas signee could be pushed for others who had better weeks at the all-star events.

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