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Arch Manning commits to Texas in most impactful pledge of modern recruiting era: Wasserman

Everyone speculated, but nobody really knew what direction five-star quarterback Arch Manning of New Orleans (La.) Isidore Newman was headed. Where he was going, when he was announcing, what his commitment would mean, all of it, was the perfect cocktail that makes college football recruiting what it is — a tornado of rumors, television segments, radio appearances and message board posts.

So when we got the answer Thursday — where Manning would ultimately choose to go to school — it appropriately happened in a flash. It was loud and quiet at the same time.

It was a work of art. It was poetic. It was Manning.

Manning, the prince of football royalty, broke his silence without saying anything other than providing the information people wanted. He posted a picture of himself wearing a white Texas shirt with a simple message: “Committed to the University of Texas. #HookEm.”

No long monologue, no thank yous, no reason given, no explanation of his future plans, nothing more. It was his decision, then out. Back to silence.

“Arch is unapologetically who he is,” Isidore Newman head coach Nelson Stewart said. “That’s what makes him great.”

Manning was built in a college football hype machine. He’s 6-feet-4, has a solid 220-pound frame, a rocket arm, golden-brown hair and is a member of the first family of football. His uncles are Peyton and Eli Manning, and his grandfather, Archie Manning, is a legend. Mix all of that together and he’s an NIL goldmine. But he’s also a player who could give a program desperate to be a national championship contender hope again.

Calling him a savior is an understatement — just ask Texas fans.

That’s what Texas got Thursday, interestingly enough, less than a year after Quinn Ewers — a former No. 1 overall recruit in the nation, transferred to Texas from Ohio State. If Ewers, who played at Southlake (Texas) Carroll in the Dallas suburbs, was Texas’ savior, what does that make Manning?

If you can find the words, apply them. One thing’s for sure: Manning’s commitment makes you want to scream from the top of your lungs:

“TEXAS IS BACK!!!”

That’s become a running joke. But after attaining a commitment from Manning — the No. 1 overall player in the 2023 class with a perfect rating of 1.000 — Texas is clearly taking a giant step in the right direction. When you think about what this commitment means symbolically, it’s almost as significant as anything that could be done on the field. Manning could have gone anywhere. But after all of his visits and research and thought, he decided that Texas — a program that won only five games in 2021 — was the best place for him to pursue what will assuredly be a memorable college football career.

Put a value on that.

Put a value on a kid who wears a ball cap every day, drives a truck and picks up all of his friends and drives them to and from school. And he’s just like Peyton — a former top-tier recruit who was friends with other elite-level prospects and was on the phone with them the day he committed to Tennessee. Arch Manning was never in front of cameras or posting Twitter messages that drew manufactured love from anonymous college football fans, but he was on group text messages with top-100 players from coast to coast. You can bet Manning’s phone is buzzing right now — not only because of his commitment but because other top-tier prospects who want to play with him are now considering Texas.

“He’s very social,” Stewart said. “He’s very popular. He’s always surrounded by friends, a lot of which he’s had since he was in pre-K at Newman. He’s just not caught up in the rest of what maybe other people would be. We never discuss things like NIL or conferences or uniforms teams wear. He’s just about the school, forming relationships and forming relationships with the entire staff. Not just the head coach, but the offensive coordinator, the strength coach the recruiting staffers, all of them. But the most important thing to him? Getting along in the locker room.”

Since the beginning of Manning’s recruitment, there has been no shortage of people who will tell you he’s overrated, that he wouldn’t be a five-star prospect if his last name were Smith. But all evaluations lead back to the same thing — he’s worth the hype.

Part of the evaluation process with a quarterback is intangibles, too. So how do you rate a kid who is all about football and relationships, not the drama of becoming the most media-savvy recruit of all time? If Manning wanted to turn his recruitment into a documentary, Netflix would have been at his front door before the phone clicked off. If he wanted NIL money, he’d have more sponsorships than he’d know what to do with. Flo from Progressive would have to learn how to weave football puns into a commercial urging you to bundle your home and auto insurance. This is a kid who has everything he wants at his fingertips. Money, attention, hype, profile, all of it was right there for the taking.

But all he cares about is playing ball.

“I’ve worked with Arch as a young quarterback,” said Dave Cutcliffe, a longtime college coach and Manning family friend who recruited Peyton to Tennessee and Eli to Ole Miss. “He has a deep-seated love for the game. He has a deep-seated love for competition and winning.”

So what you get is a prospect who didn’t talk to reporters and intentionally chose a different uniform number than his grandfather, dad and uncles wore to ensure that he would be viewed as his own player. Add that up with the talent, and what kind of evaluations do you think you’re going to get?

Here are a few:

Steve Wiltfong, director of recruiting 247Sports: “You look at the physical stuff, he’s ready to walk into a college quarterback room and be ready to go. You look at the arm talent, there’s not a throw on the field he can’t make. I think that when you watch him on film, you see the anticipation, you see him be accurate with the football. Then you put him on the chalkboard, and just his high football IQ, his ability to command the game from that standpoint is exciting. And then obviously the intangibles, he’s a great kid, great leader, great student, you know, people gravitate towards him. I’ve been over to Isidore Newman for practice. And I’ve watched almost all his games, just the way his team responds to him.”

And if his last name weren’t Manning? “The kid is talented, man,” Wiltfong said. “The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. He comes from good genetics. His mom and dad were good athletes, too. It just so happens his last name is the most powerful last name in football, but those traits that were passed down to him are relevant.”

A Pac-12 recruiting staffer who has broken down Manning’s film: “Arch is tall with long arms, narrow hips and skinny legs. There is no question he is a Power 5 talent, and he would be even if his last name wasn’t Manning. But he has some things to work on to live up to being a national recruit. Arch is a smart quarterback who makes quick decisions because his eyes are in the right place. Has a good understanding of time and space. He has the range to make big throws down the field, and also has fastball velocity to throw short to intermediate darts through tight windows. He is elusive in the pocket but is by no means a dual-threat. Clean pocket accuracy is very good but misses a lot of throws on the move. When he is moved off his spot, his accuracy drops significantly.

“I question his production and success against better competition. Game gets fast for him when he is under duress. Dropped to 34-for-64 in two losses against St. Charles Catholic and Berkeley Prep last season while only putting up 31 points in those games. That said, as he gets battle-tested and the game slows down for him, he has the natural ability to be a solid starter at the Power 5 level in Year 2 or 3 of college.”

That second evaluation was refreshing, right?

It brings you down to earth a little, a reminder that Manning isn’t Peyton yet. He isn’t Eli yet. He isn’t a Super Bowl champion yet.

He’s a five-star recruit, one who has earned his ranking through good genes, relentless effort and keeping his eyes on the prize in a world where the temptation to do otherwise is so powerful. If his name were something else, he would still be a five-star quarterback prospect. But because his name is what it is, the significance of this commitment carries a weight that can’t be compared.

Texas isn’t the same program today as it was yesterday.

Texas has Manning. What’s next has never been more exciting.

(Photo: John Adams / Icon Sportswire)

 

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