Oklahoma football: Is Texas’ stockpile of elite QBs bad news for OU?

DALLAS, TEXAS - OCTOBER 09: Danny Stutsman #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners sacks Casey Thompson #11 of the Texas Longhorns in the second half during the 2021 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 09, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TEXAS - OCTOBER 09: Danny Stutsman #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners sacks Casey Thompson #11 of the Texas Longhorns in the second half during the 2021 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 09, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

A year ago at this time, the Oklahoma football program had two quarterbacks on its roster that were rated as five-star prospects and the No. 1 QBs in there respective recruiting class.

That was supposed to be the Sooners’ ticket to a return to the top of the college football world. After all, OU had been to three consecutive College Football Playoffs before highly touted Spencer Rattler became the Sooner starter at quarterback in 2020 and Caleb Williams another national phenom arrived the following year. The Sooners also had the one of the country’s top-rated QB recruits committed for 2023.

None of the Sooner quarterbacks who preceded Rattler and Williams — Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts — were rated better than fifth-best in the class coming out of high school and before they arrived at OU. And  yet that all turned out pretty well for Oklahoma, despite the failure to make it out of the CFP semifinal round.

Oklahoma faced a quarterback dilemma last season, and we all know how that ultimately turned out. Neither Rattler nor Williams are still at OU, and the Sooners also lost the commitment of No. 2 QB recruit Malachi Nelson, who elected to decommit from Oklahoma when Lincoln Riley left for USC and follow the former Sooner head coach to his new destination. Frankly, it didn’t hurt that Nelson was a West Coast native.

Related Story. Former Sooner likes idea of Arch Manning as a Longhorn. light

It is also interesting to point out that Nelson ranks just behind Arch Manning, the No. 1-rated quarterback in the 2023 class. More on that later in this article.

Williams is now at USC with Riley, but Rattler chose to head in a different direction, transferring to South Carolina, where he was reunited with former OU special teams coach Shane Beamer.

The reason I bring all this up is because of the major news coming out of Austin, Texas, this week that Arch Manning has committed to play college football at Texas. The Longhorns already have the nation’s No. 1 QB prospect from the 2022 class, Quinn Evers, on their roster. Evers, who had originally committed to Ohio State, was ranked as the top-rated QB prospect and No, 1 national recruit by 247Sports.

Manning, the grandson and namesake of former NFL star Archie and nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning, won’t arrive at Texas for another season and, presumably will backup Evers in 2023.

There was a groundswell of concern throughout the Sooner Nation late last year when Texas was successful in luring Evers away from Ohio State. Texas now has its second top-rated quarterback committed in six months, beating out the likes of Nick Saban at Alabama, Kirby Smart at Georgia and grandfather Archie and Eli’s alma mater at Ole Miss (also where Arch’s father, Cooper, attended) for the services of the next generation of Manning quarterbacks.

It’s safe to assume that the Manning news this week has sparked a new round of raised eyebrows among the Sooner football faithful, wondering if this is the final piece of the puzzle in the Longhorns’ decade-long quest to return to relevancy and the upper echelon of the college football hierarchy. And, if so, what does it mean for Oklahoma football and the Sooners’ Big 12 dominance in recent seasons?

It’s worth noting that Oklahoma extended a scholarship offer to the Arch Manning prior to Lincoln Riley’s departure, and that offer was reaffirmed when new head coach Brent Venables came on board along with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, who was in the same position at Ole Miss before coming to OU and had an eye on Manning the whole time he was at Mississippi.

The fact that the young Manning picked Texas over a number of other high-profile programs shouldn’t be that shocking. Texas, with one of the biggest brands and biggest athletic budgets in college sports, has always done well in recruiting some of the nation’s top football talent.

The Longhorns football recruiting classes regularly have finished in the top 10 or 20 in the country. The problem is the Texas football program hasn’t had a lot to show for it on the field for more than a decade or so.

We all know that championship football begins with outstanding play and leadership at the quarterback position. That’s not to say you can’t win without a highly talented quarterback, but it’s pretty well documented that the very best teams every season are the ones with the best quarterbacks.

The Longhorns have had highly rated players at the quarterback position before, even the nation’s No. 1 QB recruits, but that hasn’t been without some unexpected bumps along the way. Chris Sims was the country’s No, 1 QB prospect coming out of his New Jersey high school in 1999. He played behind Major Applewhite his freshman year at UT, but ascended to the primary role in 2000.

The three seasons that Sims started at quarterback for Texas the Longhorns were 31-7 overall and 20-4 in the Big 12, but they never won the Big 12 and they never defeated the Sooners.

On his radio program on Sports Radio 1400 “The Ref” a week ago, former Sooner All-American Teddy Lehman said this about Sims when he was at Texas:

“He was great, except against OU, where he was god awful.”

The Sooners defeated Texas in the Red River Rivalry three consecutive years Sims was quarterback at Texas: 63-14 in 2000, 14-3 in 2001 and 35-24 in 2002

The Texas quarterback who followed Sims was a pretty good one, too. Vince Young was the country’s top-rated prospect at the position in 2002. He assumed the starter’s role in 2003 and did lead the Longhorns to a national championship in 2005, beating the defending national champion USC team that included Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.

Texas was 34-4 with Young as the starter and 22-2 in the Big 12. But, again, the Longhorns had their troubles against the Sooners. OU won two of the three Red River games when Young was the starter. The Sooners won 65-13 in 2003, in Young’s first season in the starting QB role, and 12-0 the following season. Jason White was the OU quarterback in both 2003 and 2004.

Texas finally prevailed over OU in 2005, 45-12, the year the Longhorns won the national title.

The six seasons that Sims and Young were at quarterback for the Longhorns, Oklahoma won the divisional championship four times and the conference championship three times.

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit called the future addition of Manning huge for Texas.

“It’s big because you not only get Arch Manning, but we all know how this is going to impact tight ends, receivers, running backs who are all going to want to play with him,” Herbstreit said this week on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

Herbstreit cautioned Longhorn fans and others, however, about hoisting the banner declaring “Texas is back” just yet. “Fans should hold back on this mindset for now,” he said. “Manning won’t start his college career until the fall of 2023, and it takes some time for a team to bond on the field.”

It’s the bonding part, including the relationship between the players and the coaches, that Texas seemingly has had a problem with, even with some quarterbacks believed to be some of the best in the game at the trigger point. And that especially has been the case this century when going up against the archrival Sooners.

Can it be repeated, or will history change course? We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out, but one thing is for certain. The Oklahoma defense under Brent Venables isn’t going to make it easy for anyone, whether it’s Texas or anyone else on the Sooners’ schedule.