Everything is bigger in Texas, including the hype. Arch Manning’s Texas commitment has the Longhorns dreaming of national championship glory again. By the time Manning 3.0 is eligible for the 2026 NFL Draft, it will have been 20 years since Vince Young painted his Jackson Pollack on the Rose bowl turf during the 2006 national championship campaign game and then inscribed his name in the endzone.
Being named the top player in any class is a high bar. However, Arch Manning will arrive on campus next year with even more fanfare and expectations than Quinn Ewers, the top quarterback in the previous recruiting class. Manning is one of seven recruits to achieve a perfect composite score from 247 Sports, a consensus tabulation of recruit rankings. The only other consensus top players were Ernie Sims, Vince Young, Rashan Gary, Robert Nkemdiche, Jadeveon Clowney, and Ewers, who distinguished themselves as legends of the high school ranks.
That composite score isn’t a reflection of his skill set, but rather where the individual sites ranked him. Of the other players to garner that ranking, Manning 3.0 has the least impressive resume.
In high school, Vince Young was a prep GOAT. In his senior year at Houston Madison High School, Young threw for nearly 4,000 yards, 59 touchdowns, and was an absolute juggernaut. Ewers, a starter at Southlake Carroll in Texas, threw 73 touchdowns to eight interceptions in 22 games before reclassifying to spend what would have been his senior season at Ohio State.
Ernie Sims led North Florida Christian to state championships in all four seasons between 1998 and 2001. Clowney’s freakish size, athleticism and production made him one of the most high-profile recruits of the decade. He was a premier player on a South Pointe team that won and earned the No. 3 spot in the annual MaxPreps high school ranking after winning South Carolina’s AAAA Division II title, then logged 52 sacks in his final season.
Rashan Gary made a name for himself by shredding blockers in the trenches and catapulted to No. 1 after transferring to Paramus Catholic High School for his junior year. Robert Nkemdiche registered 18 sacks and scored 17 touchdowns on offense as a junior en route to a Georgia High School Association 6A state title.
2023 isn’t a shallow quarterback class, either. The idea that Manning is vastly superior to the five-star talent in this class is a tough pill to swallow. Malachi Nelson received his first scholarship offer from Auburn in eighth grade, and Nelson has looked the part of a phenomenal arm talent at Los Alamitos High School.
Manning is more Manning projection than contemporary reality. Manning’s mechanics and deep ball placement have been raved about, but football isn’t a theoretical exercise. Against the competition, he’s been average in crucial moments. While USC quarterback Caleb Williams consistently pulled off heroic exploits throughout his prep career.
In his final playoff loss, Manning was a dud, completing just 6 of 17 passes for 47 yards in Isidore Newman’s 49-7 loss to Lafayette Christian in the second round of Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division III playoffs. In fairness to Arch, the closest Newman has ever come to a state title is when Peyton and Cooper’s ’91 squad advanced to the semifinals.
Nico Iamaleava has shot up the rankings since winning MVP at Overtime’s OT7 camp. He rose from Rivals’ 48th ranked prospect to 8th overall after slinging 50 touchdowns to just two interceptions in two seasons as the starter at California’s Warren High School. Iamaleava, a sinewy, 6-foot-7 quarterback, was on a program that faced the same competitive disadvantages as Arch does at Isidore Newman, winning 13 of his 14 games in two seasons. Their only loss was a 42-35 defeat to Corona del Mar in a playoff thriller that Iamaleava was knocked out of.
In the five years leading up to Iamaleava’s inaugural season at Warren High School, the program lost 22 of its 66 games and their most renowned football alum was former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple, a Class of ’75 graduate. Iamaleava, who transferred from national powerhouse Long Beach Poly, will be transferring back there for his senior season where he’ll be scrutinized intensely against similar levels of competition.
Don’t get me wrong. Manning is a great high school quarterback with a high football IQ. However, he’s been graded on a Manning curve. He’s skipped opportunities to attend the Elite 11 and various 7-on-7 football camps that would pit him against the best players in the nation. There’s some Manning pedigree baked into those rankings and it’s past time to pump the brakes until he’s regularly excelling against top competition. Manning might rise to the challenge and emerge as a transcendent signal-caller at Texas, or he might be an average collegiate talent. Unfortunately, anything short of excellence will make him Texas’ latest 21st-century flop.