Arch Manning did this his way. The family ties to Mississippi and Tennessee did not influence his college decision. Growing up in Louisiana did not bind him to LSU. The twin Southeastern Conference towers of Georgia and Alabama could not lure him.
In the end, the latest member of the United States’s greatest quarterbacking family is blazing a different trail to Texas. His commitment to the Longhorns—announced out of the blue, in what appears to be his first and only tweet—gives him his own path. It will take the top recruit in the class of 2023 outside the SEC (for at least a season) before Texas enters the fold.
And it could be a defining moment for Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian.
Sark wasn’t a slam-dunk hire in January 2021, and his first season at Texas did nothing to convince the fan base that he was destined for greatness. The Horns went 5–7, with a six-game losing streak that included an embarrassing loss at Kansas. They were punished at former rival Arkansas and blew a three-touchdown lead against eternal rival Oklahoma. It was a dismal fall.
The only way to turn around the burnt-orange battleship was on the recruiting trail. Sark got a good start on that with a top-five class of 2022 haul, according to Rivals.com. That included Ohio State transfer quarterback Quinn Ewers, the No. 1 QB nationally in 2021 and the guy many believe will start for Texas come September.
But the presence of Ewers sure didn’t dissuade Manning. That’s not a surprise—the nation’s No. 1 recruit isn’t going to be worried about competition, even from another guy who held that status previously. It does, however, set the stage for an incredibly intriguing August 2023 training camp on the Forty Acres.
Manning’s recruitment was obviously high-profile, but the grandson of Archie and nephew of Peyton and Eli largely kept his decision-making process to himself. He made several visits, both official and unofficial, as the world waited and wondered what the highest-profile recruit in years—maybe ever?—was going to do.
In the spring it seemed clear that this was boiling down to a decision between Alabama, Georgia and Texas. After visiting Austin last weekend, Arch apparently had seen enough.
The commitment tweet dropped at 12:16 p.m. ET. There would be no live announcement on TV, no hats on a table, no other gimmicks, no leaks to the media. Just a one-man news break that shook the sport. This was a throwback recruitment from an earlier time.
For Sark to go head-to-head and beat the two best recruiters in the sport, Kirby Smart and Nick Saban, is huge. It’s also a welcome development for Texas boosters in the ultimate water cooler state to (at least temporarily) mute the noise of Jimbo Fisher’s recruiting success at Texas A&M.
And now we’ll see who rides Arch’s coattails to Austin. His recruitment will, in turn, recruit others to join him.
Manning doesn’t figure to have let financial compensation dictate his college choice. His family has money, and if anyone understands that the real payday comes at the NFL level, it’s the Mannings. Cooper Manning, Arch’s dad, can afford to buy a round of Sweetens Cove (the family's bourbon brand) for all his pals at The Kingpin tonight in New Orleans.
But boy howdy, does Arch have an opportunity for an NIL windfall.
Texas has as many rich boosters as anyone and also has the accompanying urgency to put that money to use. Take a look at the schools that are making recruiting moves in the new NIL era, and many of them have a common characteristic: desperation. Texas A&M, Tennessee, USC, Miami—it’s been a while since they’ve competed for a national championship. Texas fits the profile.
The losers in the Manning derby can and will survive. Georgia and Alabama aren’t going anywhere. LSU might have failed to protect the home state, but there are a zillion other star recruits in the state and Brian Kelly was trying to come from behind with Manning after the Ed Orgeron era fell apart.
Ole Miss and Lane Kiffin—who tried everything he could think of to lure Arch, including having “MANNING” painted in the end zone for a game last fall—probably feel the sting the most. The Rebels don’t have many natural advantages against SEC super powers; being the alma mater of Arch’s dad and grandfather provided hope. But Kiffin couldn’t get into the final stages with Arch.
Ultimately, Texas’s outsider status might have been one of its best selling points. Arch Manning was going to go his own way and do his own thing, and the Longhorns provided an attractive option. Now all the scion of the U.S.’s QB dynasty has to do is turn a decade-old punch line into victorious reality.
Is Texas back? Today, the Horns have fresh hope.
More CFB Coverage:
• What Arch Manning’s Commitment Means For Texas’s Recruiting, Future
• Ten College Football Games to Circle This September
• How Deion Sanders Is Fueling Rise of HBCU Football
• Candid Lane Kiffin Opens Up on NIL, Boosters