Ex-USC QB Malachi Nelson, No. 1 recruit in 2023, to visit Boise State

ByPete Thamel ESPN logo
Thursday, January 4, 2024

Quarterback Malachi Nelson, ESPN's No. 1 overall recruit from 2023, will take an official visit to Boise State in the upcoming days, sources told ESPN on Thursday.

It will be his first visit since leaving USC, where Nelson spent his freshman season in 2023 before entering the NCAA transfer portal in December. The trip to Boise State will mark his first official visit, as he's received interest from myriad high-profile programs.

Boise State looms as the favorite, sources told ESPN, as Nelson looks for a blue-collar program where he can blend in and prove himself while growing up with a strong team. After being redshirted at USC in 2023, he would immediately available with four years of eligibility remaining.

Nelson would have an opportunity to earn the starting job at Boise State after quarterback Taylen Green's transfer to Arkansas. The Broncos won the Mountain West championship in 2023 under interim coach Spencer Danielson and have 18 starters returning.

The returning starters include four offensive linemen and Mountain West Player of the Year Ashton Jeanty, who led the nation in yards from scrimmage per game (159.6). Jeanty resisted big-money overtures from power conference teams to return to Boise State this year.

While at Los Alamitos High School in Southern California, Nelson threw for 2,898 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior, eventually eclipsing Arch Manning atop the ESPN recruiting rankings. He won back-to-back California Gatorade Player of the Year awards and his offer sheet included Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame.

Nelson took four snaps for USC.

While Nelson got interest from bigger programs in the portal, the potential to play immediately and a strong roster loomed large in him choosing to first visit Boise State. This visit could end up as an anecdote that supports the trend of players in the NIL era seeking playing time over big brands, as the generations-long path of top recruits signing with the biggest schools and waiting their turns is being tested.

Nelson clicked during multiple conversations with Danielson, according to sources, and also has a long-standing relationship with offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan. While Hamdan was an assistant at Washington in 2015-16, he began recruiting Nelson and stayed in touch with him.

Hamdan, a former Boise State quarterback, brings NFL experience from his time coaching Matt Ryan with the Atlanta Falcons and runs a pro-style offense, which is attractive to Nelson. There are also family ties in Boise, as Nelson's aunt lives there.

Boise State finished 8-6 last season, firing coach Andy Avalos in November before winning the final three games to win the Mountain West title.

Boise has a rich recent history that includes 19 consecutive years of being ranked in the Associated Press poll, a run that ended in 2021. Since 2006, Boise State earned a top-five ranking at some point in the season in five different years.

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