Can Texas QB Arch Manning live up to the expectations that come with his name?

Posted by

Texas quarterback Arch Manning will be a better QB than Ohio State’s Julian Sayin, Alabama’s Jalen Milroe, Nebraska’s Dylan Raiola and Oklahoma’s Jackson Arnold. 

At least, that’s the idea when taking into account just how much attention Manning draws given his last name. It began with his beloved grandfather, Archie, and followed with his Super Bowl-winning uncles, Peyton and Eli. All three made their mark playing in the SEC, where Arch will now be playing, as Texas makes the move from the Big 12.

Manning, who had wanted to play on the Forty Acres since he was a small child, will likely get that opportunity within the next three years. As he matures and the sport evolves, our collective fascination with what decisions he makes on and off the field grows. He’s a rare case study – a player with enormous potential to make money from his name, likeness and image – who not only hasn’t leveraged that opportunity, but has aggressively avoided it.

It’s one thing not to take money to sell ads for the local car dealership in Austin, Texas. It’s another thing to opt-out of the highly-anticipated EA Sports College Football Game set to debut this summer. For many, myself included, that game is the sole reason the NCAA’s decision to allow players to profit from NIL is seismic.

The O’Bannon v. NCAA lawsuit effectively terminated future editions of the game. And while video game players, like myself, are excited to play the game, having the ability to play as yourself will surely be a thrill to current college football players. The only honor more gratifying would be gracing the cover. But it begs two questions: What exactly does Manning want? And do people across the sport believe in him?

The answer to the first question is rather simple: he wants to play ball at his dream school — no more, no less. That sentiment has led to enormous support from a contingent of fans, coaches and administrators across the sport who believe the culture of college football has become too focused on money and too unfocused on the merits of a college education. 

The answer to the second question is informed by whether you believe the first. I believe most folks, myself included, are rooting for Manning to be great. However, I root for all players to succeed. Football is hard, and now, playing football has never been harder. I want each player to come out ahead in life after having played college football, and I think most do. But is that going to be true for Manning? It’s difficult to know, given his recruitment and career have not been like many others.

Manning also won’t have the benefit of over-delivering. He can only meet an expectation, or fall short of it, because he was ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class. In other words, he’s not only rated higher than all the aforementioned QBs, but also ahead of freshmen who started on College Football Playoff teams this past year, like Kadyn Proctor and Caleb Downs at Alabama. He is also rated higher than other QBs in the 2023 class, like Nico Iamaleava and Dante Moore, who started at least one game for UCLA and Tennessee, respectively.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Manning is sitting behind the No. 1-ranked recruit in the 2022 class, Quinn Ewers, who might become the first player off the board in the 2025 NFL Draft. Last season, Ewers led the Longhorns to the program’s first-ever College Football Playoff appearance, as well as their first conference title since 2009.

Manning has been compared to Ewers since he first committed to Texas, and will continue to be throughout his college career. Given that Ewers has not played an entire season due to injury, combined with Malik Murphy’s decision to transfer to Duke, there’s a real possibility Manning will play significant snaps at QB for Texas this season against SEC competition.

If that does happen, the facts will form the foundation for opinions. The ceiling of what Manning is capable of will also reveal itself. For now, such a ceiling is limitless. Our powers of imagination make that so. Until then, all Manning can do is try to become a scout-team All-American. 

For added context, the following players from Oklahoma’s 2014 roster were what I deem scout-team All-Americans: Baker Mayfield (Heisman Trophy winner), Mark Andrews (All-American), Orlando Brown (All-American), Dorial Green-Beckham (No.1-ranked recruit) and Nick Basquine.

For Manning, in spring 2024, being a scout-team All-American is enough. When the time does come for him to become QB1, I will join you in giving his opening act my full attention.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

Get more from College Football Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more