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Arch Manning chooses Texas - but the decision comes with plenty of risk

Start spreading the news. Arch Manning, son of Cooper Manning, nephew of Peyton and Eli, and grandson of Archie, has committed to the University of Texas over his other finalists, Georgia and Alabama. The rising senior is the top player and quarterback in the class of 2023, with a perfect 1.000 rating by 247sports, and is one of the most sought-after recruits in modern history.

In three years at Isadore Newman Academy in New Orleans, Manning has completed 65% of his passes for over 5700 yards and 72 touchdowns to go against 18 interceptions. His play style resembles his grandfather Archie more than it does Peyton and Eli, as Arch is a good athlete who can get outside the pocket better than his uncles can and could be useful in the college game in the read option or short yardage portions of the game. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, the size is elite and his arm goes right along with it. He can make all the throws, shows good flexibility with different arm slots when required and throws the ball on time and accurately. Not surprisingly given his pedigree, his knowledge and understanding of the passing game is advanced for his age.

First off, what a coup for Steve Sarkisian in Austin. While I have some questions on why exactly Manning chose Texas, it’s the highwater mark of the Sarkisian tenure in Austin as he enters a pivotal year two after a 5-7 campaign next year, with a move to the SEC expected to be completed for next season. In fact, with Quinn Ewers transferring from Ohio State to Texas after eight months of what could only be described as an absolute circus surrounding Ewers, and with Manning’s commitment, Texas is set to have the only three 1.000 rated quarterbacks since 2000 all suit up in burnt orange and white, the other being Vince Young.

Manning was no doubt encouraged by Texas’s offensive line class in the class of 2022 that features six four-star or better linemen, two five stars, and three in the top 100. Those players being a year older works out great for Manning, who is widely expected to be three-and-done, as it takes linemen a little longer to develop. They’ll be third-year players when Ewers hands the job over to Manning, assuming that’s what happens.

That’s a big if. The loser in this is Quinn Ewers. The pressure on Ewers to be the savior of the program was already big enough. Ewers, who will retain freshman eligibility going into this season, was a long-time Texas commit, and the number one player in the class of 2022, only to flip to Ohio State and then decided to skip his final year of high school in part to some NIL opportunities highlighted in Columbus. Ewers found his way back to Austin this year after CJ Stroud lit the world on fire at Ohio State last year and Ewers realized he had no path to the starting job, where he would need to beat out former five-star Kyle McCord for the backup job, anyways.

Make no mistake, fans will expect Ewers to perform well immediately. Unfortunately for Ewers, even if he lights it up this season, he will not have dissipated any of the pressure. Though most think the Manning family is more than fine with Arch taking a de-facto redshirt year, that doesn’t mean the Texas fan base will be if Texas loses a game in 2023 in which Ewers isn’t at his best. Whether Sarkisian has any real plans to play Manning at all in 2023 in meaningful snaps won’t matter for the public perception. Quinn Ewers will have to be nearly perfect or else a fanbase known for being finicky will be up in arms. Maybe Ewers feeds off of that and uses it to keep himself locked in and playing his best football, but it could go the other way, and it’s not ideal in any sense if you’re in the Ewers camp.

I get the appeal of picking Texas. I already mentioned the strong recruiting in the trenches they did last year and weapons will be begging for slots in the next few recruiting classes to catch passes from Ewers and Manning. Austin is a super fun city, too, and UT is as good as any public institution in America, with an unrivaled sports culture. And, if Arch is the one that leads the Longhorns back to the promised land, he is a legend forever.

But, to me, the downsides outweigh the risk. You’re talking about a kid that is so advanced at this age, with the pedigree and top-flight coaching available to him all his life, that the mission for any college program that he would go to is simple: don’t screw it up. Unless you’ve been in a coma the last decade, Texas football is synonymous with screwing things up that seemingly cannot go wrong. If there’s a program that could somehow screw up two generational quarterback prospects back to back, it’s Texas. And, given Sarkisian’s unstable personal life and battle with alcoholism, plus the fact that Texas boosters are notorious for pushing coaches out, and you have a situation where he can’t say for certain who will be his coach for the entirety of his college career.

The final thing that gives me pause on Texas as an option is the most important, I think it will be crucial for Arch and his family to keep the circus atmosphere around him to a minimum. It’s simply not conducive to optimum development to have that kind of hoopla following his every move. At a place like Alabama or Georgia, he would’ve been a huge cog in a machine, but at Texas, he is the entire machine. It will be all Arch, all the time. I would’ve told him to get as far away from that as possible.

As far as the two other finalists that didn’t get his commitment, I think it looks much worse for Georgia. Alabama is Alabama, they have proven they’ll have elite offenses with a lot of different quarterbacks and as long as Nick Saban is there, they’ll be fine.

Yes, Georgia did win the national championship last year with a walk-on, noodle-armed quarterback in Stetson Bennett. But, that was with a once-in-a-lifetime defense. I have no doubt that Georgia will continue to have outstanding defenses under Kirby Smart, but it’s likely they’ll never have one as good as last year’s behometh. This was their chance to take the next step in quarterback recruiting. Class of 2021 five-star recruit Brock Vandagriff is a nice prospect with some real question marks, but Manning would’ve truly signaled Georgia’s arrival as a program on the same long-term tier as Alabama, not just one who can beat it once every four or five years. Ultimately, my guess is Georgia’s vanilla offense did them in. It’s hard to feel bad for Georgia fans who just came off a national title, but this one should sting because it just feels like Georgia made more sense than Texas from a stability standpoint and Smart couldn’t get it done. Small change compared to a national championship, yes, but we could look back in four years saying that this was the chance Georgia had to truly become a dynasty and couldn’t quite get it done.

As for all of college football, I know people have different opinions on this, but I think it’s a much better sport when Texas is good. It provides geographical balance and creates better storylines. With Texas coming to the SEC sooner rather than later, it could help them make a much smoother transition than Oklahoma.


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