CFB Spring Game Shocker: Arch Manning Dazzles

Texas Longhorns quarter backs Arch Manning during spring practice at the Frank Denius practice fields in Austin, Tuesday, March 19, 2024.
Texas Longhorns quarter backs Arch Manning during spring practice at the Frank Denius practice fields in Austin, Tuesday, March 19, 2024.

As we head down the final stretch to the 2024 NFL Draft's first round picks Thursday, let's take a peek at pro prospects further down the road. 


College football spring games took a little of the spotlight at Texas, USC and Oklahoma, among others.


Texas grabbed attention with at least two quarterbacks with well-known names — returning starter Quinn Ewers, whom many thought would jump to the NFL this year, and Arch Manniing, the heir-apparent. Yes, from THAT Manning family. His grandfather is former New Orleans Saints prisoner, Archie, and his uncles were Super Bowl winners, Peyton and Eli.


Ewers was the No. 1 ranked prep quarterback in 2021 and stopped at Ohio State, where he took two snaps before NIL money rumored to be close to $1 million lured him to Texas. He looked good to great the last two seasons at Texas. Arch Manning was the No. 1 ranked prep quarterback in 2022 and chose Texas, where he sat last year behind Ewers. 


In Saturday's Texas spring game, Orange quarterback Trey Owens threw the first touchdown of the game to Thatcher Milton, before Manning responded with a 75-yard touchdown to DeAndre Moore Jr. It was the first touchdown of the day for the White team, which had been down 14-0.


It was the first snap of the day for the former five-star recruit with the famous uncles, as he hasn't thrown many passes during his time on the 40-acres, due to Ewers' stranglehold on the starting job. Ewers had a rocky first couple of passes in the game, with his second pass of the day being tipped by Ethan Burke and returned by Alfred Collins for a touchdown.


The second touchdown for the white team also belonged to Manning, as he led the team down the field and ended the drive with a 29-yard dime to running back Jaydon Blue.


Manning threw for 190 yards while completing 11 of 13 passes in the first half. To cap his afternoon, Manning threw another 75-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. That ball was caught by Alabama transfer Isaiah Bond.


Regardless, Steve Sarkisian has made it clear that Ewers will be the starter for Texas' 2024-25 season. Last year, Ewers led the Longhorns to a 12-2 record and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, Manning made just enough appearances to keep his redshirt, and both have impressed their coach during spring training.


“Both guys are doing really well,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “I think you can feel year-three Quinn, you can feel year-two Arch. For both guys, their command is going to be really important. It's not just what they know. It's not just their ability to function. It's making sure the guys around them are in the right frame of mind and have the have the right knowledge to perform with them.”


USC's replacement for Caleb Williams?


Transitioning from projected No. 1 draft pick Caleb Williams was never going to be easy for USC, but Lincoln Riley's signature-position group looked lackluster in their first public action. 


All three quarterbacks appeared threw at least one interception, while projected starter Miller Moss threw a pair. The headliner was an intercepted tipped ball returned for a 100-yard touchdown. 


After the game, Riley clarified that Moss would start for the Trojans if the season started today because of his experience in the program. In the Holiday Bowl against Louisville, Moss threw six touchdown passes and stole the show. He did not look like the same player on Saturday in Los Angeles. 


Granted, USC's much-maligned defense also looked seriously improved under first-year defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn. The defensive backs were in the right position and seemed to understand the system much more consistently. The Trojans even played without defensive tackle Bear Alexander, who is working through a hamstring injury. 


Of course, if USC's offense has taken such a step back, the defense has no choice but to improve if the Trojans have any plans of competing for a CFP slot. Here's how some of the other top programs in the country fared during their spring games on Saturday. 


Oklahoma has WR1


Wide receiver Deion Burks was a solid player at Purdue, but looks like a potential breakout star after transferring to play in Seth Littrell's offense at Oklahoma. In the first half of Saturday's spring game, Burks caught five passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went for more than 50 yards. He quickly ate up yards and changed the geometry of the field. 


While Oklahoma was one of the top passing offenses in college last season, the Sooners lacked consistent downfield weapons, especially in the slot. Between Burks and the emergence of underclassman Nic Anderson in the second half of the year as an outside option, first-year starting quarterback Jackson Arnold has some dynamic options.


Oklahoma's offensive line — which replaces all five primary starters — put together an encouraging performance against a talented defensive line. Protecting Arnold will only help matters. 


Notre Dame QB picture crowded


While Notre Dame's projected starter Riley Leonard missed the spring with lower-body surgery, the backups did an admirable job of stepping up in the highest-scoring spring game of the Marcus Freeman era. Primary backup Steve Angeli built on his promising Sun Bowl, throwing for 228 yards and two touchdowns. He found both receivers and tight ends across the field in the win.


Of course, blue-chip recruit CJ Carr — the grandson of famed Michigan coach Lloyd Carr — also made his name heard. Carr played for both teams at various points and threw for 165 yards on 23 pass attempts. Overall, Notre Dame's three quarterbacks completed 66 percent of their passes for 516 yards and five touchdowns. 


Leonard should step into the fold and add a new ceiling to the program, but he has struggled with injuries over his collegiate career. Promising performances from Angeli and Carr add some much-needed insurance for a program that has not produced a first-round NFL quarterback since 2007. 


Texas A&M's sackmaster


Edge Nic Scourton didn't get much love as the Big Ten's sack leader because of Purdue's lackluster season, but he could become a household name in the SEC with Texas A&M.


After posting 10 sacks for the Boilermakers last year, Scourton eviscerated the Aggies' offensive line in Saturday's spring game, posting 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Granted, the unit is without a few key contributors, but the effort stood apart just the same. 


While Texas A&M recruited the defensive line exceptionally well, the program has not produced a game-changing pass rusher in several years. With his 6-foot-4, 280-pound frame, Scourton presents a terror off the edge and should rank among the SEC's elite. Texas A&M coach Mike Elko does an exceptional job of getting playmakers into winning positions; Scourton gives him a new toy with which to play. 


—Internet and wire sources contributed to this story.


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