The Hurry-Up: “Natural, Smooth” Thrower Malachi Nelson is Another Rising California Quarterback Star Who Ohio State Had Made Early Impressions On

By Zack Carpenter on March 20, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Malachi Nelson
Malachi Nelson (Blair Angulo, 247Sports)

The Hurry-Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.

Nelson another rising QB to watch

We detailed for you on Thursday the talent and recruiting update of Junipero Serra (Calif.) High School quarterback Maalik Murphy

Looking even further into the future, the Buckeyes’ recruitment of quarterbacks in the 2023 class got a major head start in November, when former Ohio State quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich threw an offer to one of Murphy’s friends, teammates at STARS and fellow Californian Malachi Nelson, Los Alamitos High School’s 6-foot-3, 180-pound quarterback.

Immediately when watching Nelson’s freshman season game tape, it was obvious what jumped out. He has a very fluid throwing motion and looks like a future star if he continues to develop. Jason Kwon, Chandler Whitmer and Yurcich (in that order) were in on Nelson early. Each of those are former Ohio State assistants after taking coaching jobs at Boston College, Clemson and Texas, respectively – Kwon as director of scouting; Whitmer as an offensive assistant; Yurcich as offensive coordinator.

But Yurcich wanted to extend that offer early to Nelson so that he could get the Buckeyes’ foot in the door. He knew the potential Nelson already was gifted with at such a young age and that’s why he made Nelson such a high priority, which has extended to the Buckeye staff after he left for the Longhorns.

“He could definitely throw with some of the guys on college rosters right now,” Nelson’s personal quarterback trainer, Danny Hernandez, told Eleven Warriors shortly after Ohio State offered him. “He could keep up with some college quarterbacks right now. I feel comfortable with him being able to make every throw. The ball comes out nice, it looks the right way. Mechanically, he’s generating power from the right sources. 

“When the ball’s flying out, he doesn’t look like that kid doing the heave-ho. You see kids throwing the ball that far and hard at his age, their heads are all flying to the side and legs lifted in the air. They’re off balance and throwing with all their might at that point. He’s looking smooth. He looks like he knows what he’s doing, and he does.”

Natural thrower

With many of the talented passers who Hernandez trains at STARS training facility in Southern California, he says that his job as a quarterback coach is often “to not reinvent the wheel and cookie cutter these guys and make them all the same” because so many of them are natural throwers. 

“For Malachi, with his right arm, there’s nothing I really have to work on. That’s just a natural, smooth flick of the wrist that he already has,” Hernandez said. “Are there ways where I can get him to engage his back hip in the throw a little more and be more stable with his front shoulder? Work on those little things so he’s more in sequence? Those are the things I can work with more. 

“But his right arm alone? Never had to do a single thing with that because he was just so smooth and natural already with that.”

That was a few months ago when Hernandez detailed how talented Nelson is, and when Eleven Warriors touched base with him last week, he said the offseason has been going as well as he continues to hone his craft of being a quarterback and work on perfecting his mechanics.

“I have been trying to work on getting my ball carriage up and getting the ball out on time,” Nelson said. “I’m going to try to hit as many camps as I can and the same with visits.

“It’s been good so far, trying to hit a couple camps here and there but also focus on getting better every day in the weight room and in the classroom.”

Part of that offseason regimen is to continue working with and competing with guys like Murphy, as the two share a friendship and bond as quarterbacks but also want to outdo each other. It’s the exact same atmosphere that has been going on at STARS for a while with some of the top-tier quarterbacks that have been developed there.

“(Malachi and I) work with each other very good,” Murphy told Eleven Warriors. “We compete really well there, usually every camp and every workout (we’re together). We’ve created a strong bond just through quarterback stuff.”

Throwing to NFL stars

Training at STARS has opened a lot of doors for both passers, and that includes being able to throw to – and against – some of the best talent at the highest level of the sport.

Nelson has thrown with Pittsburgh Steelers star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and he’s throw against Titans defensive back Adoree’ Jackson. 

“It’s awesome getting timing down with a big-name receiver like that who gets out of their routes faster. It’s challenging for me, and it’s only making me better with the timing and everything like that,” Nelson said. “JuJu’s just like one of us – fun to be around and throw the ball to. Timing’s different. At the NFL level, it’s obviously a lot different than varsity level, but it’s good getting used to those throws now. It’s only gonna help me, Maalik and all those other guys that are out there throwing to them.

“What throwing to those guys does is speed up your timing. They’re gonna be really early, but it’s better to be early than late.”

Murphy has not thrown to Smith-Schuter, but he has gone up against Jackson while also throwing with other NFL receivers like current free agents Paul Richardson and Jordan Lashley. 

“It showed me that there’s definitely a much higher speed than where I’m at right now, and I have room to get better as a quarterback,” Murphy said. 

Murphy already has nearly 20 offers to his name, and Nelson’s list stands at 11 programs, including Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Oregon and USC. 

Both of those lists will continue to grow, especially this summer as they improve. And though the coronavirus outbreak will continue to provide so many recruiting unknowns, both of them are eyeing Ohio State as one of the main programs they are hoping to visit as soon as they can.

Murphy and Nelson have both spoken highly of Ryan Day and the Buckeyes. And after Day was able to pull Rancho Cucamonga High School's C.J. Stroud out of SoCal and away from Oregon and USC (both programs that seem like they would have an early edge over Ohio State in both Murphy and Nelson's recruitments because of proximity) in the 2020 class, it's very possible he could end up doing the same with one of these two talents.

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