For Arch Manning and Clemson, recent QB success gives Tigers intriguing selling point

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Ole Miss is in Arch Manning’s blood.

At this point he could probably be a tour guide for the school in Oxford, Mississippi, pointing out where the statue of his grandfather, Archie, is located. No doubt, he’s heard stories of Archie’s playing days and listened to ones of when uncle Eli took the field for the Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Archie (1968-70) and Eli (200-03) combined for a 53-26 record under center at Ole Miss, while Cooper Manning, who played wide receiver and signed with Ole Miss, had his college football career cut before it began. Despite signing with the Rebels’ football team, Cooper, Archie’s oldest son, was diagnosed with spinal stenosis at 18 years old.

Decades later, as the oldest of the next generation of Mannings, it’s Arch’s time.

He just completed his sophomore year at Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans, where his father and uncles also attended, and led the squad to the Division III semifinals of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association playoffs. In October, the young QB picked up an offer from the Rebels, with Tennessee, his uncle Peyton’s alma mater, also throwing its hat into the mix.

“I think what really sets him apart is how well he’s played in that system,” Rivals national recruiting analyst Adam Friedman said of Arch. “He’s really mastered it from a mental perspective. He knows what coverages he’s looking at. He knows where the ball needs to go. He has a great sense of timing with his receivers there, and I think that helps him put up huge numbers — and the accuracy is outstanding. I think that’s what makes quarterback prospects special in this day and age.”

Ironically, Arch being a third-generation quarterback could be the reason he goes against the grain and decides on a different school.

On Saturday, Cooper and wife Ellen brought Arch to Clemson for the Dabo Swinney football camp. He impressed those watching with his poise and arm strength, then went viral when a video of him throwing a pass to four-star St. John Bosco (California) athlete Matayo Uiagalelei, the younger brother of current Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, made it to social media.

The five-star quarterback recruit left town with a scholarship offer from Clemson, as first reported by Grace Raynor of The Athletic on Sunday, which brings his total to 12.

“His experience at Clemson, everything he saw, everyone he talked to, they really did a great job,” Friedman said. “He really values a lot of the same things Clemson values as a program. Relationships and a lot of the stuff off the field really appeal to him, and on the field, Clemson’s record speaks for itself. They’re one of the couple of best programs out there for developing quarterbacks right now. That’s not lost on the Mannings.”

Arch Manning works out during Dabo Swinney’s football camp Saturday, June 5, 2021.
Arch Manning works out during Dabo Swinney’s football camp Saturday, June 5, 2021.

Clemson’s track record with QBs — it’s pretty good

As important as legacy is, Clemson’s recent history of quarterback success gives the Tigers a shot against the family history associated with Ole Miss and Tennessee, in addition to other SEC programs such as LSU, Alabama and Georgia, all of whom have offered.

Tajh Boyd (2010-13) began the current trend of high-profile quarterbacks at Clemson, totaling an ACC record of 133 career touchdowns to go along with 32 wins with the Tigers, which ties Rodney Williams for a program record. Then came two-time All-American Deshaun Watson (2014-16), who won the Heisman twice and led the squad to its second-ever national championship in 2016.

While not talked about as much, Kelly Bryant came in under center for the Tigers and pocketed the most top-25 wins as a starting quarterback with six during the 2017 campaign. Four games into the 2018 season, true freshman Trevor Lawrence replaced Bryant as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, leading them to a third national championship. That began Lawrence’s storied career at Clemson that ended with the Georgia native becoming the school’s first-ever No. 1 NFL draft pick, going to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The names Lawrence, Kelly, Watson and Boyd fill just about every Clemson passing record. It’s an intriguing aspect for any top-tier high school quarterback who wants his name included among the best. Clemson already has a Texas quarterback commit for the Class of 2022 in Austin Westlake’s Cade Klubnik.

They wouldn’t mind adding Manning into the fold for 2023.

“Clemson has done a great job taking recruits and building them in their program into outstanding players, going back to Tajh Boyd,” Friedman said. “Clemson and all their ability to develop their quarterbacks is what really stands out on the field for them.”

Friedman wouldn’t be surprised if Manning announces a verbal commitment before he starts his junior season of football, which begins Sept. 2 in Louisiana. Until then, Arch will have more schools to tour this summer. With the dead period ending on June 1, recruits can now take visits and tour college campuses.

Manning is already planning to visit Southern Methodist University and likely will take a trip to UNC as well. Earlier this month he told The Athletic’s Jeff Duncan he’s “wide, wide open” when it comes to his college choice.

It’s almost certain that Ole Miss, and maybe even Tennessee, will tug at his heart strings. Still, Clemson is very much in play, offering Arch the chance to carve his own collegiate path among the Manning family while falling in among a growing list of Clemson quarterback greats.

“His recruitment is obviously one of the biggest, probably the biggest in the 2023 class,” Friedman said, “and Clemson is right in the thick of it again for another franchise quarterback.”