The recruitment of blue-chip quarterback Arch Manning, a rare collision of talent, pedigree and possibility, captivated college football for years.
While Manning has long been considered the top player in the Class of 2023, the family remained intent about attempting to keep his recruitment as low-key as possible. His Instagram is private, and he has not been an active participant in name, image and likeness opportunities. But that has still been difficult, considering the family’s pedigree and the magnitude of how much his decision could sway a program’s fortune.
Manning even used his first tweet to make the announcement, on a verified Twitter account with a bio that simply says “high school student.”
— Arch Manning (@ArchManning) June 23, 2022
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian also reacted to Manning’s announcement, first retweeting his new quarterback recruit then writing “All Gas, No Brakes!!!” in a follow-up post.
Manning is a nephew of Eli and Peyton Manning, a grandson of Archie Manning and son of former Ole Miss wide receiver Cooper Manning. He is the star quarterback at Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans — throwing for 5,731 yards and 72 touchdowns in his first three years of high school football — and has been considered a top-flight prospect since middle school.
Any morsel of news around the quarterback has rippled significantly throughout the recruiting universe. The commitment of Manning’s high school teammate and close friend, three-star tight end Will Randle, drew interest as it represented a bellwether for where Manning could be leaning.
“He made this decision on his own. This was his decision to make,” said Nelson Stewart, Manning’s high school coach. “I’m just happy he’s where he needs to be. He’s an 18-year old kid. There was a lot on his shoulders. Took his time and showed a lot of maturity.
“When it comes to that family, the choice was his.”
Stewart said that, from the start, the family stressed Arch Manning having an “old-school, 1970s type recruitment.”
“It unfolded naturally. I’m just so proud of him,” Stewart said. “Hope he can rest and enjoy his senior year with his friends and take that next step. There’s a huge ceiling in front of him.”
His commitment to Texas represents both Arch Manning carving his own path and perhaps reuniting with the family’s SEC roots. The Manning family has strong ties at Ole Miss and Tennessee, and Arch Manning could end up as a link to the SEC, as he could be Texas’ starting quarterback in 2025, when the Longhorns are slated to debut in the conference.
The commitment represents Texas’ first No. 1 overall recruit in the ESPN 300 era (since 2006) and its first quarterback ranked in the top 20 since Garrett Gilbert in 2009. It also gives Texas a key building block for its 2023 recruiting class, with skill players expected to be attracted to playing with a talent such as Manning.
The decision marks a massive win for Sarkisian, especially coming off a 5-7 debut season that included a home loss to Kansas. Manning’s decision reaffirms Sarkisian as one of the country’s top quarterback tutors and Texas as a quarterback destination. Sarkisian is the Longhorns’ playcaller and has coached such quarterbacks as Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones and Matt Leinart.
The Manning family also built a strong relationship with Texas quarterback coach A.J. Milwee, which played a big role in the comfort level of sending him to Austin.
Stewart credited the amount of time and effort that Sarkisian and Milwee put into recruiting Manning. Stewart joked that he spoke to Milwee “more than my wife the last two years” and that the quarterback coach was around Isidore Newman enough that he would be flipping the light on in the weight room at 7 a.m.
Stewart added: “Sark, besides being a genius in pass game and second-to-none in football acumen and offensive ideology, he’s a good person. He and A.J. Milwee formed their own relationships. They really took the time to really recruit hm. I was able to see it firsthand.”
Manning’s decision gives Texas one of the country’s most robust and competitive quarterback rooms. The Longhorns have Ohio State transfer Quinn Ewers, who was widely considered the top quarterback in the Class of 2021. They also have talented quarterbacks in Maalik Murphy, an ESPN 300 recruit in the Class of 2022, and Hudson Card, who was ESPN’s No. 2 quarterback recruit in the Class of 2020.
How good is Manning? One coach who recruited him told ESPN that he would likely still be the No. 1 player in his class if his last name was something other than Manning.
“He does have a big arm,” the coach said. “He’s a lot more mobile than everyone thinks. He’s not like a Manning who can’t move. He can get out of trouble. He’s not a statue in pocket. He played basketball and can dunk.
“He’s a prototypical kid that sees the field well. He’s not going to make bad decisions and not make bad plays worse and will truly run the offense.”
Manning has developed a reputation as a gym rat who loves football. The biggest knock on him is the competition level in high school, as there will be a steep adjustment in college. But the coaches who recruited Manning were blown away by his work ethic, as he has embraced the details.
“What I’ve been impressed with is him living with the pressure,” the coach said. “He’s got to live with that pressure and deal with all that. That may be a good transition for him. He’s been doing it his entire high school career. No stage is going to be too big.”
And for Texas, the commitment gives the Longhorns a marquee player to build around for their journey to the SEC. Texas got blown out 40-21 at Arkansas last year — a barometer for just how far the program needs to go to compete with the middle of the pack in the conference.