The seismic news this week that USC and UCLA will soon join the Big Ten caught just about everyone by surprise. That includes 2023 USC quarterback commit Malachi Nelson, who was participating in the Elite 11 Finals when he was pulled aside Thursday and informed of the news.

Nelson spoke to 247Sports shortly thereafter, expressing excitement over the prospects of playing in the Big Ten.

“It’s something I literally found out 13 minutes ago, so I don’t have too much context on it,” Nelson said live on 247Sports’ YouTube channel, “but you dream about playing at the highest level and playing against good competition. Playing against better competition is nothing that I would shy away from or not want, you know what I’m saying? We’ve got C.J. (Stroud) out here, and we might see him next year. Playing at that level, you can’t help but to be excited.

“I love the competition. If it means better competition, you’ve gotta play against the best to be the best. Being at that high level and showing what we think USC can get back to, it’s gonna be exciting.”

The Trojans will join the Big Ten prior to the start of the 2024 season. Nelson, a 5-star in the 2023 class, will spend his freshman season in the Pac-12 and his sophomore year in the Big Ten.

That’ll no doubt provide quite the adjustment. Players will tell you the jump from high school ball to college ball is a tough one. To have to make that adjustment, and then pivot a year later to a completely different brand of defensive football would be a tall task.

Fortunately for Nelson, the timeline coach Lincoln Riley has set the USC quarterbacks on with his recruiting and use of the transfer portal might help a great deal. Caleb Williams, just a true sophomore, won’t be eligible to enter the NFL Draft until after the 2023 season. Nelson will more than likely spend his freshman year learning the playbook and serving as Williams’ understudy.

When the 2024 season arrives, if Williams does indeed declare for the NFL Draft, it’ll be Nelson’s turn to take the reins of the offense. Perhaps USC can use that time in the interim to help ready its next quarterback for what he’ll see in the Big Ten.