Some things worth remembering as the Arch Manning recruitment tour makes its first SEC pit stop this weekend
In case you haven’t heard, Arch Manning is coming to the SEC.
Let me back up.
I fear that you, reader of this column, saw that first sentence and interpreted that one of the most highly coveted legacy recruits in college football history announced a commitment to an SEC program. He did not. At least not yet.
This weekend is, however, the first time that the 5-star 2023 quarterback is visiting an SEC school as a recruit. He’s scheduled to visit Alabama this weekend and Georgia the weekend after that. Manning already took advantage of the end of the dead period and visited Clemson, Texas and SMU.
Nobody would be surprised if other SEC schools like LSU (an hour away), Ole Miss (where dad Cooper, uncle Eli and grandpa Archie went) and Tennessee (where uncle Peyton starred) also got to host the junior-to-be at some point. The Athletic’s Jeff Duncan reported others like Ohio State, Notre Dame, Virginia, UNC, Duken (with David Cutcliffe), USC and Stanford could also get a visit from the Manning contingent.
In Duncan’s piece, the timeline of Manning’s decision outlined a potential spring 2022 commitment. That would be after a 2021 season in which the ultimate legacy made his rounds to several college campuses on unofficial visits. In other words, we’re now entering the time in which weekly headlines about Manning are conceivable.
Arch Manning next-up in Clemson’s insane run of QBs?
🔸 Tajh Boyd
🔸 Deshaun Watson
🔸 Trevor Lawrence
🔸 DJ Uiagalelei
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 6, 2021
But he’s not on Twitter, he has a private Instagram account and his Isidore Newman High School (La.) coach Nelson Stewart is the one handling the onslaught of incoming texts and calls from college programs regarding his recruitment. It’ll be easy to forget about that as reporters flock to get pictures of Manning visiting campuses, and with all the social media buzz, it’s safe to say his recruitment is already different than any of his family elders.
Consider that one of the many things worth remembering as Arch Madness begins.
(Sorry, Missouri Valley. I know you trademarked “Arch Madness” for your postseason conference basketball tournament. But am I wrong for suggesting there will be a few more eyes on Arch Manning’s recruitment than that Bradley-Valparaiso matchup?)
1. This recruitment is too competitive for it to just be about his famous uncles
Meaning if you’re a Tennessee or Ole Miss fan, I wouldn’t bank on any of the famous Mannings pushing the 16-year-old in a specific direction. Peyton and Eli didn’t have that. Even though Eli ended up at Ole Miss, a huge part of that was the relationship with Cutcliffe, which was established when he worked with Peyton at Tennessee.
Does that mean Tennessee or Ole Miss don’t have a shot? No, but if someone tells you they’re the leader solely because of the path Peyton, Eli or Archie followed, then they’re wrong. Arch said in The Athletic story that “nobody is pressuring him to do anything” and that he “didn’t even have to play football in college if he didn’t want to.”
On the flip side, just because neither Eli nor Peyton attended LSU means that the Tigers are somehow at a disadvantage. If new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz can at least come close to resembling the success of Joe Brady’s offense — a massive “if” — then that could prove to be the biggest factor in pushing Arch to become the first Manning to play at LSU, which is just an hour away.
If Arch attends any of those schools, it’ll be about more than anything that happened 20-plus years ago.
2. And don’t assume it’s about playing with high school teammates, either
Arch has plenty of Newman teammates getting the full-court press by elite college programs. Four-star 2022 receiver AJ Johnson is committed to LSU, as is 3-star 2022 offensive lineman Bo Bordelon. Plenty of other Newman players in the 2022 and 2023 classes will get looks with how regularly Manning’s games will be seen by college coaches.
Naturally, Manning’s Newman teammates, who are said to be an extremely tight bunch, will do anything possible for their quarterback to join them. And naturally, the college football world will spend far too much time dissecting that.
Could it be a nice little advantage to have his former teammates and best friends on campus to show him around for a recruiting visit? Of course.
But will that be the deciding factor in a recruitment as detail-oriented as this? Based on some of the few comments we’ve seen from Manning, my best guess is no.
3. That 2021 season is monumental for Year 1 coaches
Looking at you, Steve Sarkisian and Josh Heupel.
If a team is going to win the battle for Manning, one would tend to think it’ll be by showing it can light up scoreboards and develop a quarterback. Like, in 2021. While Sarkisian and Heupel both did that at their previous stops, it’s entirely different to do that as the head coach at a major program.
Those 2 head coaches are already dealing with enough without having to worry about succeeding immediately so that a 2023 prospect will seriously consider going there. But even though both of those coaches are considered to be rebuilding, nobody has to tell them what kind of impression it would make if they put up 40 points per game with a top-10 passing offense in Year 1.
Manning told The Athletic that he “couldn’t wait to see what (Texas) does this year.” If Sarkisian develops another quarterback in the same stratosphere as Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones for the third consecutive year, that could have a monumental impact. So could the fact that Manning already visited Texas and turned some heads:
QB Arch Manning with a 70 yard bomb to Johntay Cook II earlier today at Texas 🎯 pic.twitter.com/pvf36L6ajt
— Hayes Fawcett (@Hayesfawcett3) June 13, 2021
In order to gather some perspective on the new Texas coach’s offense, Duncan reported that the Mannings even reportedly got in touch with Atlanta Falcons quarterback with Matt Ryan, who worked with Sarkisian prior to his arrival at Alabama.
There’s no denying that all parties involved are doing their due diligence.
4. There’s no holding back on his recruitment in 2021
Knowing the way the Manning family operates, this isn’t going to be a recruitment with a bunch of commitments and decommitments. Like a 1-cut running back, Arch is expected to announce his decision in spring 2022 and not look back.
What does that mean for 2021? Even though he’ll only be a junior, it’ll be bananas. There figures to be some significant helicopter traffic in the New Orleans area when Newman plays (I guarantee Kirby Smart drops into New Orleans with the chopper). It also means we’ll likely see Manning on a bunch of different college campuses for games this fall. Maybe we’ll know ahead of time, and maybe we won’t.
Ah, who am I kidding? Any college assistant who gets word that Manning is going to be on campus will leak it. And automatically, that’ll be the biggest recruiting weekend of the year. Perhaps it’ll be the biggest recruiting weekend that whatever active head coach has ever had.
That’ll make it extremely difficult for a school to gain ground on his recruitment if it doesn’t receive either an unofficial visit by the end of 2021.
(Crap. I just searched for “Arch Madness” on Twitter in hopes that it’d be nothing but Missouri Valley Conference Tournament tweets, only to find that Inside Texas reporter Justin Wells already used that. One day, I’ll have an original thought that catches internet fire. One day.)
5. Don’t tweet at him
Because again, you literally can’t. And don’t tweet at his Newman teammates, either.
Just join in the fun of speculating wildly.