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Arch Manning to Texas: Optimism in SEC Transition?

With Arch Manning headed to Texas, how does this change the Longhorns approach toward the SEC

Arch Manning heads to Texas. Will he be ready to bring the Longhorns to glory in the SEC?

Manning, the top quarterback recruit of the 2023 class and perhaps the most sought-after player in recruiting history pledged his allegiance to the Burnt Orange Thursday via Twitter. He now will join forces with Steve Sarkisian and a revitalized Texas roster, which hopes to continue its rise toward the top the recruiting for the impending class and beyond. 

It's not as if Manning didn't have options. Alabama was high on the Isidore Newman passer. So were Georgia and LSU. At one point, Clemson looked like a front-runner while Virginia made a splash late in the process. 

Arch is taking a play out of his uncle's book by following a coach who he believes will get the best out of him. Peyton was hooked on then-Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe. He'd go one to set records in Rocky Top. Eli followed Cutcliffe to Ole Miss and still ranks as the Rebels' all-time leader in passing touchdowns. 

For Arch, Sarkisian is his Cutcliffe. The track record of developing quarterbacks plays well in the second-year coach's favor. It's more than just Mac Jones at Alabama as well. Does anyone remember Carson Palmer? Matt Leinart? Mark Sanchez. 

Yep, Sark worked with them too. Jake Locker became a first-round talent while at Washington. Tua Tagovailoa also was a Heisman finalist and eventual top-five pick while at Alabama. Sarkisian served as his offensive coordinator during the 2019 season. 

The news of Manning heading to the Forty Acres is a story in itself due to the history of the position. According to 247Sports' composite ranking, only three quarterbacks have garnered a perfect 1.000 recruiting ranking. The three — Vince Young, Quinn Ewers, and now Manning — will call Austin home for their college careers. 

The difference between Manning and the formers? He's going to the SEC and its high level of competition. And no, there isn't an allotted transitional period for the program after its last two recruiting cycles featuring two of the top-ranked quarterbacks in recent memory. 

Texas will make the jump to the new conference no later than 2025. The hope would be that it transitions in a similar style to that of in-state rival Texas A&M, which won 10 games back in 2012. In large part, the quarterback position was the biggest asset to the Aggies' success. 

Johnny Manziel made his mark on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and the rest was history. He won a Heisman and put the Aggies on the map of the new conference Manning could have a similar impact since by then he likely would be running the show. 

Ewers isn't going to transfer until further notice. Initially a commit under Tom Herman, the Southlake Carroll alum elected to reclassify his status and later join the like of Ohio State on the new NIL deal. His goal was always to play for the Longhorns. Sarkisian gave him the chance. 

Already the favorite to win the starting job in 2022, Ewers would likely hold onto the title of QB1 in 2023 when Manning arrived on campus. This would allow Sarkisian to redshirt the 6-4, 215-pound passer and get him more acquainted with the offense while saving a year of eligibility. If Ewers lives up to the hype, he likely will turn his attention to the NFL when he'd become draft eligible in 2024. 

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The Longhorns are in limbo in terms of their status with the SEC. Some believe that with four programs joining the Big 12 next fall, this could kickstart the move to the SEC with Oklahoma toward next season. Perhaps it comes in 2024. 

Either way, Manning likely is the starter or at least fighting for first-team reps when Texas makes the jump to the conference where "it just means more." Depending on how his first season unfolds, he could be a legend in the making, joining greats like Young and Colt McCoy. 

Simply adding a quarterback won't change Texas' outlook entering a conference. It takes more than one name to change the narrative of a program that finished 5-7 a season ago and only surpassed the double-digit win marker once in 10 years. Keep in mind the Longhorns fell flat in Week 2 against an Arkansas team that was expected to be a "bottom-dweller" in the conference. 

Arkansas is improving. So is Kentucky. Ole Miss is coming off its first 10-win regular season in program history. Tennessee currently is in line to land quarterback Nicholaus Iamaleava, a passer who many believe can mirror Manning's level of impact with a program. 

Let's not forget Alabama and Georgia also exist and won't be slowing down. Neither will LSU under the direction of former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. Oh, and 'little brother' Texas A&M just nabbed the nation's top recruiting class this past cycle

Adding Manning does benefit the Longhorns in building their roster through the recruiting trail. Take for instance Caleb Williams' transfer to USC. Soon after, receivers and offensive linemen were knocking on the Trojans' door trying to invade their roster via the transfer portal. 

Manning's commitment could have a similar impact. The Longhorns have been in contact with receiver Johntay Cook II and running back Cedric Baxter Jr. Texas also nabbed two offensive linemen in SI99's rankings for 2022 and will look to add more in 2023.

The great Ray Liotta once echoed 'If you build it, they will come' while portraying "Shoeless" Joe Jackson in "Field of Dreams." The "it" is Manning. Now comes finishing the rest of the lineup.

Manning very well could be the hero needed in Austin by the time he departs for the next chapter in his career. Will Texas be back? His role in the transition to the SEC likely will decide that outcome.

You can follow Cole Thompson on Twitter @MrColeThompson

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