Texas football isn’t Alabama, which makes Arch Manning a fit

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If Arch Manning wants to be in the best position to win a national championship, be surrounded by future NFL talent, and join a ready-made powerhouse, then the five-star quarterback’s recruiting decision should be simple: pick the Alabama or Georgia.

If he wants to carve out his own legacy, then the most appealing choice for the latest ballyhooed talent from SEC Football’s First Family would be to pick a lame school Big 12.

If Manning can bring Texas back, this story would catapult what his grandfather Archie and his uncles Peyton or Eli achieved during their exceptional careers at the SEC.

The tea leaves suggest the Longhorns are well placed in the Manning contest. Recruiting website On3.com lists Texas as Manning’s commitment favorite ahead of Georgia and Alabama, though Isidore Newman’s rising New Orleans senior has said little publicly to single out the Texas of these powers of the SEC.

There are no wrong choices here.

Manning is the highest-rated rookie in the 2023 recruiting class. Regardless of his college choice, he’s on a path that leads to the NFL.

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In Alabama and Georgia, Manning would enter a robust and busy schedule to pursue success.

Once a dynasty known for defense and deadly traffic jams, Alabama’s quarterbacks are second to none these days. Alabama’s Bryce Young is the defending Heisman Trophy winner and an early favorite to be the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Alabama’s two previous quarterbacks, Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa, became first-round picks.

But Alabama is never about one player, and Manning could have a great career and not establish himself at a higher level than Tagovailoa, Jones or Young.

Defending national champion Georgia has become a twin power within the SEC. Like in Alabama, signing with the Bulldogs would ensure Manning would be surrounded by elite talent, although defense is the hallmark of Kirby Smart’s program.

Texas, meanwhile, is coming off a 5-7 season. The Longhorns have never made the college football playoffs, and they’ve only had two quarterbacks drafted since Vince Young became a first-round pick in 2006. Since Young hasn’t had a Texas offensive player drafted in the first round.

What better way for Manning to escape the shadow of his grandfather and uncles than to reestablish Texas as a national power?

By Manning’s junior season, Texas will be in the SEC. When Texas A&M made its SEC debut in 2012, Johnny Manziel ensured the Aggies a majestic finish. Manning could have a similar effect for the Longhorns’ SEC debut.

Joining the established elite was never a requirement for the Manning family.

Consider Peyton Manning’s selection from Tennessee. He forged his own path and signed to the Vols’ No. 1 recruiting class in 1994, in what became a watershed moment for UT’s success in the ’90s.

Peyton got along well with then-Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe when he was drafted and throughout his career. Eli then performed for Cutcliffe at Ole Miss.

Comparatively, Arch Manning has teamed up with Steve Sarkisian, who is entering his second season as Texas coach after two seasons as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

“Obviously he’s a monster coach with what he’s done in Alabama and the Falcons and everywhere else,” Arch Manning told 247Sports last year. “He knows how to coach quarterbacks. He’s actually just a really nice, really laid back guy, and I really like him.

Like Sarkisian, Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has NFL experience. But given the pace at which Tide is passing through offensive coordinators, the chance of O’Brien being in Alabama in 2023 doesn’t look better than a coinflip.

Sarkisian, who played quarterback at BYU, doesn’t have a rock-solid track record like Nick Saban or Smart. Alcohol issues cost Sarkisian his job at Southern Cal in 2015. But he was still successful with quarterbacks. Six of the quarterbacks Sarkisian worked with as an assistant at USC or Alabama became first-round picks.

Texas football, in its current form, is not comparable to Alabama or Georgia. Since 2010, the Longhorns have had five losing seasons and one 10-win season.

It could be part of the appeal.

Texas would provide more of a blank slate where Manning can cast himself as the savior of a dormant program.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s cover, consider a digital subscription which will allow you to access all of this.

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