Malachi Nelson, Former ESPN Top-Ranked Recruit, Transfers To Boise State

Malachi Nelson, Former ESPN Top-Ranked Recruit, Transfers To Boise State

Even though Nelson could have gone to a university with a bigger NIL bank, so to speak, he was pulled to Boise by the allure of something money can't buy, good old fashioned playing time

Malachi Nelson, the USC quarterback who moved alongside USC head coach Lincoln Riley, who recruited him to play at Oklahoma, when Riley took the job in Los Angeles, has transferred to Boise State University. Nelson, the top-ranked recruit in the class of 2023 by ESPN, announced his move with a short post on Twitter/X.

“Boise, this is it…Committed.”

Nelson closed out his tweet with the hashtag Bleed Blue, referencing the signature blue turf at Boise’s Albertson Stadium.

Nelson only took three snaps this season for USC in his redshirt freshman season. For him, perhaps he saw the writing on the wall before USC opted to play Miller Moss, as Caleb Williams sat out the Holiday Bowl in preparation for his entry into the NFL Draft in April. Moss, a redshirt sophomore, would set a Holiday Bowl record, passing six touchdowns as the Trojans defeated the Louisville Cardinals 42-28. Nelson entered the transfer portal a few weeks prior to the Holiday Bowl and found his new home in Boise, where new Head Coach Spencer Danielson is quietly making moves using the transfer portal.

In addition to Nelson, Boise State has signed a former University of Indiana wideout, Cam Camper, from the transfer portal. Camper is seen as a potential replacement for Eric McAllister, the team’s leading receiver, who entered the transfer portal shortly after Arkansas signed their signal caller Taylen Green to replace their outgoing transfer portal-bound quarterback, K.J. Jefferson. 

Boise State was in desperate need of a quarterback after the transfer of Green. Since Nelson has four years of eligibility remaining, the Broncos can build a program around Nelson’s skills as a pro-style quarterback. Initially, Boise was not viewed as a favorite landing spot for Nelson because of the presence of other schools with big names and deeper NIL endowments, like the University of Miami. However, as sources told ESPN, Nelson and coach Danielson understand each other, and Nelson has a previous relationship with Boise State Offensive Coordinator Bush Hamdan. Hamdan recruited Nelson while he was at the University of Washington in 2015-2016 and kept in touch with Nelson over the years.

According to The Athletic, in December 2022, Nelson told the outlet that he is not a player who wants to sit behind anyone he thinks he can outplay. “There’s only a few guys I would be OK sitting behind, and the best quarterback in the country (Williams) is definitely one of them.” Nelson will still face competition for the starting job at Boise State from incumbent quarterbacks Maddux Madsen and CJ Tiller. Still, the expectation, given Nelson’s recruiting evaluation, is that he should win the job and produce. 

Player movement in the transfer portal/NIL era has become more pronounced than ever before, something that will not change. Even though Nelson could have gone to a university with a more extensive NIL bank, so to speak, he was pulled to Boise by the allure of something money can’t buy: good old-fashioned playing time. In the past, college coaches like Alabama’s Nick Saban, for example, could essentially stack teams with talent and keep players for years rotating in a deep well of talent at various positions. Still, the transfer portal has changed the way college coaches build their programs by giving players a system akin to the NFL’s free agency system, except without the lucrative contracts that often come with it. 

Boise State already had a potent rushing attack in 2023, but now that they have an elite signal caller to pair with that piece, their more traditional recruiting path will get a little bit easier. This is particularly the case if Nelson’s play attracts the eyes of talented wide receivers who otherwise wouldn’t have been interested in coming to Boise State to begin in 2024. If Nelson wins the job in the spring, he will give Boise State the kind of elite quarterback they have not had in their program’s history.