Commentary: Boise State quarterback Malachi Nelson might not live up to the hype

Boise State football fans are more excited this year than year’s past, mainly because the team received quarterback Malachi Nelson, the team’s highest recruit in program history.

Although it is exciting to receive a player (especially a quarterback) that was highly regarded in high school, fans should pump the brakes on their expectations for Nelson this season.

Just because a player succeeded in high school does not mean that he is guaranteed to succeed in college. This can be supported by many collegiate careers including Tate Martell, Ben Olson, Max Browne and many more. 

Nelson, the 6-3, 180 pound quarterback from Los Alamitos, California, threw for 2,898 yards and 35 touchdowns during his senior year of high school and was named the top recruit in the 2023 class. His performance helped him receive offers from University of Alabama, University of Oklahoma, University of Georgia, Ohio State University, Notre Dame and University of Michigan before deciding to commit to University of Southern California (USC).

It is undeniable that Nelson was dominant in high school, but his prior success has not shown any signs of carrying over to the collegiate level. He had high expectations set upon him considering his high-profile recruitment status and he did not live up to it at USC.

Nelson had only a few appearances in his first year, and did not take advantage of any opportunity he had. He made his first appearance during USC’s 2023 spring game despite being a month out of a shoulder surgery and had three turnovers.

He also did not perform well enough to earn the backup quarterback spot and had to sit behind NCAA star Caleb Williams and redshirt sophomore Miller Moss. While sitting behind Williams and Moss, Nelson only played four snaps.

According to USC head coach Lincoln Riley, Nelson also battled multiple injuries while with the team that hindered his ability to develop throughout the year.

“Malachi is obviously a young guy, he’s got a world of talent, he’s working hard, he’s had a few physical hurdles he’s had to overcome, which has not been – it hasn’t necessarily been maybe the smoothest of years and a lot of it out of his control just trying to get back healthy where he can train and develop to the level that he wants to and we all want to,” Riley said. 

Even though the USC starting quarterback spot became available after Williams declared for the 2024 NFL Draft, it did not seem likely for Nelson to land the role.

Prior to Nelson announcing his intent to enter the transfer portal, word got out about former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard being set to visit USC. This move from USC made it seem like the program was not content with Nelson’s performance throughout the year and was looking for a better player to fill their quarterback position.

Transferring to a different school after a disappointing year does not guarantee a player’s success.

Nelson will be facing less prestigious opponents at Boise State than he would at USC, but even then he is not guaranteed a career rebound with the Broncos.

Jeff Schweiger was considered the third-best defensive end and the ninth-best overall player in the 2004 class and committed to USC. After not living up to the expectations set by his high school career at USC, he hoped to revive his career by transferring to San Jose State. Despite making the transition to a less prestigious school, he remained unproductive.

In his defense, Nelson had a solid outing in the small amount of time he had during Boise State’s first scrimmage of spring camp, going 7-10 for 73 yards and a touchdown. He also has a chance to build off this at Boise State’s spring game on Apr. 20. Although these performances do not dictate how well a player will do when the season hits, they are good reference points.

Nelson could end up being a great quarterback for Boise State, but it is impossible to know exactly how he will do in the future. With that being said, expecting Nelson to become the next Kellen Moore prior to his first official snap as a Bronco seems unrealistic given his collegiate career up to this point.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Stan Counsell

    Boy, that was a downer article. Yes, Nelson is untested and had some injuries to deal with but the negativity was over the top. He has tremendous potential but he will need time, practice, coaching, teammates, and good health in his corner. Our HC and OC will see to that. It will all play out when the season begins.

  2. Roger Weston

    Miller Moss had three years with the program and two with Riley. He set bowl and school records in his first full game as a starter. He threw for six touchdowns. Even Will Howard fled USC after Miller Moss’s bowl performance. Nelson may just need a little experience. His ceiling is probably high.

  3. Benjamin Weaver

    I agree with Stan. This article is depressing. He only played 4 snaps of college football. Give him a break! 4 snaps can’t dictate anything. He was a backup to a Heisman trophy winner. He played really well in the spring game. He still has a few months to develop and a whole season ahead of him. He is also only a sophomore! Our HC and OC are amazing at what they do and I have confidence that he will develop! Go Broncos!

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