Nelson, a true freshman out of Los Alamitos High School, was the number one ranked recruit in the 2023 class and was seen as the heir apparent to Caleb Williams. Unfortunately, due to some ailing injuries, he was unable to make the leap this season and could not overtake Miller Moss as QB2.
Heading into the 2024 season, the expectation was a QB battle between Moss and Nelson for the new starting QB role, but once USC became very interested in the Transfer Portal QB market, most notably for Cameron Ward or Will Howard, it became clear that whoever transferred in would be the favorite to start in 2024.
In terms of on-the-field performance, based on everything that we heard from Lincoln Riley throughout the season, he was pleased with Malachi Nelson’s progress, but reading between the lines, it always felt like he was still a ways away, or at least behind where Riley hoped he had been.
You also have to take into account NIL in this day and age of college football. I have been told that Nelson was unhappy with his current NIL situation at USC. We have seen this all around the college football landscape where young athletes are over-promised and then under-delivered. Highly recruited players are leaving big-time programs in droves this offseason, searching for new NIL potential.
This is definitely a blow, but we will see how the program rebounds with the announcement of an expected transfer portal QB in the coming days.