Since the day Arch Manning stepped foot on a high school football field as Isidore Newman’s freshman starting quarterback, the college football world had been waiting for this moment.
And just like that, it happened in a flash.
Without any warning, Manning, a five-star quarterback and the No. 1 player in the Class of 2023, announced his commitment to Texas on Twitter on Thursday. The nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning made his declaration following his official visit to Austin this past weekend.
The timing of the decision caught much of the college football world off-guard. But the decision itself shouldn’t come as a surprise.
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Texas has been in the thick of Manning’s recruitment ever since last summer when he made his first visit to Austin.
He’s visited three more times since, including his official visit last weekend and to a game last fall. Texas coach Steve Sarkisian also traveled to Louisiana last fall to watch him play and quarterbacks coach AJ Milwee visited Manning’s coach, Nelson Stewart, at Newman and watched him play basketball during the winter.
But Texas wasn’t the only school traveling to New Orleans to watch him or bring him in for multiple visits. Manning also visited Alabama and Georgia four times and made stops at Clemson, LSU, SMU, Virginia and Ole Miss over the last year.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart went to Newman to visit with Stewart. Smart also saw him play last fall.
As winter turned into spring, the Longhorns were certainly in the hunt but weren’t the only favorite. Alabama and Georgia, at least in the public’s eye, had at least as good odds.
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On May 24, Alabama landed a commitment from four-star quarterback Eli Holstein. The decision pulled the Tide out as a top contender for Manning and the race was between Georgia and Texas.
And then, on the same weekend of Manning’s visit, his teammate and three-star tight end Will Randle committed to Texas.
Randle is Manning’s top target at Newman, as the two played flag football together and have known each other since they were young. Manning and Randle also visited Texas for a game last fall before going to Austin together for an official visit this past weekend.
That series of events, combined with the persistence of Sarkisian and Milwee over the last year-plus, were the driving factors that led to Thursday’s decision. But they weren’t the only reasons either.
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For one, Sarkisian has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks.
As the quarterbacks coach at Southern Cal, he tutored Carson Palmer into becoming the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Then as the coach at Washington, he helped turn Jake Locker into a first-round pick before returning to the Trojans as its coach and designing an offense that allowed Cody Kessler to have the most efficient passing season in school history.
Additionally, Sarkisian has plenty of NFL experience. He was the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator from 2017-18 – guiding an offense that had the fourth-most passing yards in the league in 2018 – and the Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach in 2004.
Manning might not be Texas’ starting quarterback when the 2023 season begins. The Longhorns already have Ohio State transfer Quinn Ewers, the No. 1 player from the Class of 2021, and former four-star recruit Hudson Card.
But even if it’s awhile before he starts a game for the Longhorns, it will be a sight the college football world can’t wait to see.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.