College Football

Get to know Arch Manning, a rare pass-rush talent and more 2023 recruits

The ESPN Jr. 300 rankings have been released for college football’s 2023 recruiting class, and there is plenty of headline talent and slots to debate.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions across the high school landscape, this first underclassmen ranking relied heavily on in-person camp and event evaluation from our team of scouts.

To get you caught up on who made the list and which recruit is the top overall prospect, here is everything you need to know about the 2023 ESPN Jr. 300.

The debate for No. 1

DE Lebbeus “LT” Overton
Milton High School (Georgia)

Selecting the top spot in this initial ESPN Jr. 300 release was challenging, but there were plenty of examples as to why Overton deserved to be the top-ranked 2023 prospect. Overton plays against premium competition at a premium competition, as we still place our highest value on pass-rushers.

From a measurement standpoint, he’s a physically impressive defensive end with wide shoulders allowing him to carry his weight well while still being extremely agile and fast. At 6-foot-3, 265 pounds he may not quite jump out in overall size in the same way Jadeveon Clowney (6-5) or Myles Garrett (6-4) did, but he possesses comparable length with an 81-inch wingspan.

Overton also shows a similar rare blend of speed, power and explosiveness. He demands double-team attention on blocking schemes, or else he will disrupt the backfield in a major way. While strong enough to take on blocks and be stout against the run, he also moves with top-tier quickness to avoid offensive linemen as a pass-rusher. Overton flashes great lower-body flexibility and bend on pursuit, which also can be seen on the court; he is a member of Milton’s state championship basketball team.

Despite quickly establishing himself as a prospect to know as a sophomore and racking up early offers, Overton continues to seek opportunities to compete and hone his craft with an intense, workmanlike approach. His outstanding mindset, combined with superior physical tools at this stage, put Overton at the top of our first 2023 rankings. Clemson, Alabama, Texas A&M and Oklahoma are in the mix early as top contenders.

QB-PP Arch Manning
Isidore Newman School (Louisiana)

It’s early, and there is a lot of football to be played, but the race for the top-ranked player could eventually see Manning out in front. It’s easy to look at him and see all the favorable physical traits, but there are two distinguishing qualities that set him apart: poise and nuance.

It is not often a prospect his age, even going back to his freshman season, display the type of confidence he has. The nephew of Super Bowl champions Peyton and Eli Manning carries himself with a quiet calm and feel for the moment. His body language and ability to maintain an even keel when things aren’t ideal comes instinctually.

What does nuance mean? It’s a feel for what a particular throw requires — speed, touch, power, rhythm, timing and layers. Manning has a nice feel for trajectory and how to throw his receivers open, essentially placing them in in the spot where only they can catch it. He can layer the ball to navigate coverage which minimizes risk. There is a ton of pressure that comes with being a Manning, and so far, it looks like he’s up to the task. Clemson, Texas, Alabama and Georgia are among the schools he visited in June.

Corners at a premium

College football coaches emphasize how important a cornerback’s length and reach is along the perimeter. Height, long limbs, and range are the attributes, and this group certainly has them.

Of the top five cornerbacks ranked within the top 50 overall, only one stands shorter than 6-foot-2, and that’s the 6-1 Javien Toviano. The 6-2 Cormani McClain, who is ranked fourth overall, ran a 4.58 laser-to-laser 40, which is up to NFL-level standards.

Tony Mitchell, the No. 21 overall player, is a legitimate two-way threat with his combo of speed and ball skills, and yes, he’s tall (6-2) and long. A.J. Harris, ranked 29th overall, may not have the true speed of others, but he’s also 6-2 with excellent recovery quickness (4.25 shuttle).

Standouts in the trenches

DT Peter Woods
Thompson Public School (Alabama)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 3

There are three defensive tackle prospects among the country’s top 11, and leading this talented interior is Woods. The five-star jumps off the screen with his dominance on tape and was just as impressive in person during an ESPN High School Football Showcase game last fall.

At 6-2, 276 pounds, he’s not among the most massive defensive tackles, but he is elite in his initial quickness, and as a result, he can be a disruptive force in the backfield. Woods also plays with great leverage and demonstrates excellent functional strength with his hands to control blockers

While still developing size, this is a quick, agile player that is capable of wreaking havoc every time the ball is snapped. It will be tough to beat out in-state Alabama for his commitment.

OT Francis Mauigoa
IMG Academy (Florida)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 8

At this stage, the 2023 offensive tackle class does not look to be a deep one, but two among the top 10 are emerging: Kadyn Proctor (No. 6 overall) and the intriguingly promising Mauigoa.

He is a massive prospect with impressive power to manhandle and consistently pancake defenders. For his 6-foot-6, 327-pound size, Mauigoa also possesses very good body control and agility to block opponents in space. Although he has potential at defensive tackle, it appears Mauigoa will make the full-time transition to offensive tackle, which will help his development.

His trajectory could be like other elite tackle prospects that have emerged from IMG Academy, like 2021 five-star J.C. Latham and current 2022 five-star Tyler Booker. Both initially preferred defense but transitioned and bought into playing offensive line at IMG, which propelled them up our rankings. One difference here: Mauigoa is already starting near the top. With roots out West, USC and Oregon are top contenders for his talents, as are Georgia and Alabama from the SEC.

Future risers

QB-PP Nicholaus Iamaleava
Warren High School (California)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 23

Normally a top-25 ranking would leave a low ceiling in the ESPN Jr 300, but Iamaleava has the potential to become one of the top passers in this class. It’s very clear having seen him throw in person that he has great arm talent, but what makes the California native so exciting is his upside.

Standing at 6-6, Iamaleava has huge growth potential to add weight and strength to his frame to further enhance his arm velocity and overall physical tools. USC and UCLA are two of the top schools battling it out for him out West with national powers Alabama and Ohio State in the mix.

TE-H Duce Robinson
Pinnacle High School (Arizona)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 77

There are 19 total tight ends in this initial release, and Robinson is one of the most intriguing. He caught our attention this spring at the Under Armour Phoenix camp with his tall, lengthy frame with room for further development.

A big target, he displays good body control and ball skills to win the contested matchups. With his blend of size and sleek movement skills, Robinson displays the tools to be a versatile weapon at tight end and create scheme advantages. Robinson’s father played at Florida State under Bobby Bowden. Aside from the Seminoles, Robinson is starting to pick up major offers from schools such Ohio State and Georgia.

CB Kodi DeCambra
Bishop Gorman High School (Nevada)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 174

Potentially overshadowed at Bishop Gorman by higher-ranked teammates Zachariah Branch and Justyn Rhett, DeCambra has grown and gotten faster at each event he has attended. He currently checks in at 5-foot-11 and is approaching 180 pounds. The four-star prospect has been clocked with a 4.58 40-yard dash and consistently measures a vertical jump over 35 inches.

But he should not be overlooked with his effort, refined footwork and man-to-man skills. As of now, DeCambra has Pac-12 interest, including offers from Arizona State and Colorado.

OLB Grayson Howard
Andrew Jackson High School (Florida)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 241

Howard arrived at the Elite Underclassmen Orlando camp with no reported offers, but stood out when it came to testing (4.75 40-yard dash) and competitive drills. He secured MVP honors for his position and has since seen his offer list grow, that list including Texas A&M, South Carolina, Georgia Tech and Duke.

Howard has size (6-3, 210), a frame to pack on additional bulk and can cover the field sideline-to-sideline with great pursuit speed. This explosive linebacker should continue to shoot up our rankings. He projects to an every-down defender who can produce versus the run and the pass.

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