Give Steve Sarkisian that much: As he enters his sophomore year at Austin, it’s too early to tell if Texas will ever return, but he’s racking up elite quarterbacks as Elon Musk sparks interest.
Forget if Arch Manning can beat Quinn Ewers, is he better than his uncles?
Should Texas lock the quarterback room door?
Could Sark turn Texas, of all schools, into QB U?
Forgive the overreaction. That’s what happens when the latest in a line of football royalty from Archie to Peyton and Eli to Arch commits to Texas, a program that for too much of its glorious history, couldn’t pick a quarterback from a lineup if he had a Heisman under his arm.
Sarkisian’s potential to straighten out such a dodgy story is exactly why Texas boosters bet on a coach with a mediocre win-loss record. Thursday’s announcement suggests they were right. At least for now. It also lends credence to Texas’ impending eastward move. Even though the Mannings did give Arch ample room to make his own decision, I guess the fact that he kept him in the SEC made it easier for them to bite their tongues.
One more thing: getting a commitment from the biggest rookie of the century, as Arch has been billed, should help morale, with Jimbo Fisher setting up the best class in the country on the road.
Texas will have more quarterback talent on campus in 2023 than at any time in its history. Besides Manning and Southlake Carroll’s Ewers, the top quarterback in the 21-year-old class, there’s also Hudson Card, the No. 2 quarterback in the 2020 ESPN rankings, as well as Maalik Murphy, an ESPN 300 rookie in 2022.
The downside is that a crowded quarterback room can get ugly. Remember when Baker Mayfield left Texas Tech? The only saving grace for Kliff Kingsbury was that, after all the dust cleared away, he still had Patrick Mahomes, the best of the bunch.
Sometimes it doesn’t shake so well. Mack Brown complicated things when he called Major Applewhite, the sentimental favorite, and Chris Simms, son of a two-time Super Bowl winner, co-starters in the quarterbacks. The competition has divided fans and fueled rumors, including one that Simms’ father stuck his nose into the decision.
And to think: if John Mackovic had not forgotten Drew Brees for Applewhite, the drama could have been completely avoided.
With a few notable exceptions, the history of the Texas quarterback isn’t exactly legendary. Professional football leagues drafted more Longhorns than players from any other school in the state. But not so much at quarterback. Between Bobby Layne in 1948 and Simms in 2003, Longhorn’s only QB chosen to play the pro job was Rick McIvor in 1984. The NFL drafted seven quarterbacks from Texas, in total. Even Rice can count six.
The triangle is to blame for some of the drought, but that only represents the 60s and 70s. A Texas coach might have balanced the ledger on his own.
Quarterbacks complicated Mack’s otherwise excellent tenure. Even his greatest QB. Vince Young’s prospects didn’t look promising at first. When the father of a local high school quarterback asked a Texas aide why he came after his son if they already had VY, the aide called Young “uncoachable.” Mack finally made good and Young returned the favor with a national championship. When Colt McCoy followed in Young’s footsteps, with Garrett Gilbert behind the scenes, the Longhorns’ line of succession at quarterback finally seemed secure.
It should have been, anyway.
Not so much, it turned out.
Gilbert didn’t make it, at least not in Texas, and the high school quarterbacks Mack didn’t offer read like a guest list at Heisman House. Andrew Luck, RG3, Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel and Patrick Mahomes. Andy Dalton also did not receive an offer. Neither did Nick Foles. Or Ryan Tannehill. All told, the quarterbacks listed above have had plenty of starts in the NFL. A couple won Lombardis. Any one of them could have changed the fortunes of Texas considerably. Maybe even gave Mack another national title. Besides, he could still work in Austin.
Neither Charlie Strong nor Tom Herman changed the narrative much either, although Sam Ehlinger was certainly good enough. Not a game changer, but good enough. In one year, Sarkissian has raised the bar.
Or at least he has it on paper, anyway. The problem with recruitment services is that they don’t come with guarantees. Even a five-star QB can go out. Ewers barely played enough at Ohio State to ruffle his bleached mullet. Manning still has a ball in his future. By the time Arch is on campus, if he doesn’t change his mind in the meantime, so many Texas quarterbacks could be swayed by his landmark decision, it could jam the transfer portal. Come to think of it, that could be a sign of progress.
Find more Texas coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.