By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Writer
Last September, Nick Saban joined Peyton and Eli Manning for a chat during Monday Night Football. While watching former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts play against the Dallas Cowboys, Saban took the opportunity to make a subtle recruiting pitch on air.
“I wish I was coaching at Alabama when Peyton and Eli Manning were recruits, so you guys could’ve played for the Tide,” Saban said. “I’d love to coach a member of the Manning family.”
For anyone who has been living under a rock, Peyton and Eli are uncles to New Orleans high school quarterback Arch Manning, the No. 1 player in the class of 2023 and the most prized recruit of the past two recruiting cycles.
Manning has the abilities Saban has come to covet in the latter half of his tenure at Alabama: He’s accurate, mobile, intelligent and humble. It also bears mentioning that Arch, who could make millions in licensing his Name, Image and Likeness, has said he doesn’t want any part of marketing himself for money in college. He just wants to play.
And, boy, can he play.
After Saban watched Heisman winner Johnny Manziel dance all over the Crimson Tide defense in 2012, the Bama coach decided he wanted a quarterback who could do that, too.
His offensive coordinator at the time, Lane Kiffin, began recruiting elite, athletic QBs. Since then, we’ve seen Blake Sims, Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Bryce Young all demonstrate how dangerous the Tide can be offensively even when the play breaks down because the quarterback is a threat to run.
Saban also pivoted to a style of offense that was less about ball control and more about running up the score. Over the past five seasons, Alabama averaging more than 40 points per game has become an expectation, and the QB no longer manages but actually features in the offense.
Reigning Heisman winner Young is the latest personification of Saban’s offense, and Manning’s skill set is similar. In fact, until earlier this month, it would’ve been fair to say that Saban had the best chance of landing Manning.
Then Saban took a QB in the 2023 class: Louisiana native Eli Holstein is an outstanding prospect in his own right, and he can more than play the position in Tuscaloosa if given the chance.
With another QB in his class already committed to the Tide, Manning might not think he would get the de facto nod the way Young did in 2021. Only recently have we seen programs become comfortable with taking more than one quarterback in a recruiting class, but that also speaks to how some players feel about not the program but about one another.
Mac Jones got the ticket and took the ride behind Tagovailoa, even though they were in the same signing class. It worked out for both, but there was also no pressure for Jones to play right away.
Before the 2020 season, most believed Young would be the Week 1 starter as a true freshman. Instead, Jones led Alabama to a 13-0 record and its sixth national title in 12 years.
If you’re Manning, though, why take the chance that you might not play in Tuscaloosa? Why wait your turn if you don’t have to?
Is Alabama a good fit for Arch Manning?
RJ Young discusses Alabama’s recruitment of the No. 1 overall prospect in the country, Arch Manning. RJ explains why Alabama might not be the best fit for Manning if he wants to play as early as possible.
Too often, fans want to accuse players of being afraid of competition rather than discussing a player’s decision to commit or not, to transfer or not, as a business decision. If you can be the best somewhere with less competition and still achieve your goal — first-round selection, win a national title — then why pick the path of more resistance?
There’s an argument to be made that picking Alabama is best for Manning because the Tide have proven over the past 15 years that the best NFL Draft prospects come out of Tuscaloosa. Then there’s an argument that might appeal to Arch more: Does he want to be the latest in a string of outstanding players to come out Alabama and be on a team that has won a national title ring for every player who has signed with the Tide since 2007?
Or does he want to become a legend?
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.
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