July 19, 2024

Arch Manning taking all practice reps as backup QB for Texas


NEW ORLEANS — Texas quarterback Arch Manning has taken all the reps as the backup quarterback during practice for the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the first time this season he heads into a game as the No. 2 player behind starter Quinn Ewers.

Manning, who arrived at Texas for his freshman season as the most heralded quarterback in the country, was elevated to the backup spot for the game against Washington after Maalik Murphy announced he was entering the transfer portal. Murphy has since announced that he plans to transfer to Duke.

“When you get into the season, you don’t always have the opportunity to get everybody the amount of reps that you would like to. So I think that’s the biggest change for him,” Texas offensive coordinator Kyle Flood said Friday in the first time he has addressed the personnel change.

“We’ve got a ton of confidence in Arch,” Flood continued. “I think his progression throughout the year has been excellent. He’s a real student of the game, and he’s approached it like that from the very beginning. So I think probably the best thing for him and for us as a team was that, when that happened, it was very easy for him to just continue to do what he was doing, because he never approached it like he was the third quarterback or the backup quarterback. He approaches everything like he’s the starting quarterback. I think that’s the key when you’re in a reserve role of being ready when you’re called upon.”

Manning also happens to be preparing for a game in his native New Orleans. Manning played at Isidore Newman High School and is the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning. His father, Cooper Manning, played wide receiver at Ole Miss.

Arch Manning was the No. 2 overall prospect in the ESPN 300 Class of 2023 and arrived as an early enrollee in January. Although there were expectations placed on Manning right from the start, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian announced after the spring game that Ewers would be the starter for this season. When Ewers hurt his right shoulder against Houston in October, it was Murphy who started in his place the next two games before Ewers returned.

Still, coaches and teammates said Manning kept growing and getting better as he watched from the sideline. He played in one game this season, the regular-season finale against Texas Tech, going 2-of-5 for 30 yards with 7 yards rushing.

“You can just tell that he wants to learn as much as he can,” Ewers said. “He’s always asking questions, just trying to do his best. I think he understands the opportunity he has in front of him, and he’s definitely not going to waste it.”

Whether Manning gets into another game this season or not, there already are questions about what the quarterback room will look like at Texas headed into 2024. Ewers reiterated Friday that he has not made a decision about whether he will return for a fourth season or enter the NFL draft. He has until Jan. 15 to make a decision.

“Just trying to win a national championship right now, not really thinking about that,” Ewers said.

Behind Ewers, himself one of the top quarterback prospects out of high school, Texas has reached its first CFP. But the last time Texas played for a national championship, in January 2010 against Alabama, starter Colt McCoy got hurt on the second series and backup Garrett Gilbert played the rest of the game. Alabama won 37-21.

Although nobody expects Ewers to go down, there is a reason the backup quarterback has to always be ready. Texas tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders said if Manning was pressed into action in the playoff, it would take a collective effort to help him get comfortable.

“I think it would take him a little bit to get settled in,” Sanders said. “First start, and then in a College Football Playoff game. There’s so much on the line. I definitely think, as a team, we would just have to implement the confidence in him, tell him we got you, just go and throw it. So I think if he was to play in the game, he would be ready.”

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