USC’s top-rated quarterback signee can see the forest through the trees, so to speak. When asked to assess the debut season of his future head coach in Los Angeles, Malachi Nelson took a big-picture approach.

247Sports Greg Biggins caught up with Nelson at the Under Armour Next All-America Game to talk about his health, USC, and Lincoln Riley.

The Trojans’ 2022 campaign came to a disappointing end on Monday with a 46-45 loss to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl. Though the Trojans had bigger dreams, Nelson told 247Sports it was still an amazing first year for Riley and the Trojans.

“It was still an amazing season,” Nelson said. “We were under .500 last season and a year later, we’re playing in the Cotton Bowl and I think it’s only up from here.

“I think the losses will just make this team more hungry and there’s still a lot of room for improvement. I look at the players coming in with me, Zach (Branch) and Kai (Makai Lemon), we’re all coming in and going to be ready to roll.”

Though highly touted — he’s the third-ranked player in the entire class — Nelson’s arrival will be somewhat muted. With Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams returning for one final season of college ball in 2023, the Los Alamitos star will fight for a backup job during his freshman season.

He’ll also be coming off an injury. Nelson didn’t play in the All-America Game because of a shoulder injury he told 247Sports he suffered at the end of his junior season.

In addressing the issue, he was told he could either have surgery after his junior year and miss his senior season, or put off surgery until the end of his high school career.

He told 247Sports it’ll be three months before he can start throwing again and six months before he’s fully cleared.