ESPN’s Tom Luginbill explains Arch Manning’s fall from the top spot in the recruiting rankings

Arch Manning falling from the top spot in ESPN’s Class of 2023 recruiting rankings last week was one of the most surprising recruiting developments in quite some time.

The most recognizable name in high school football and the nephew of Super Bowl winners Peyton and Eli Manning, senior Isidore Newman has been the perennial No. 1 overall prospect in all national service rankings for his class for years.

Manning remains the top overall pick in 2023 in three of the four recruiting spots, but ESPN moved USC commit and California commit Malachi Nelson to No. 1 over Manning.

Isidore Newman School quarterback Arch Manning (16) reacts after a 12-7 loss to St.  Charles Catholic at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La., Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. Photo by Matthew Hinton

Isidore Newman School quarterback Arch Manning (16) reacts after a 12-7 loss to St. Charles Catholic at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La., Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. Photo by Matthew Hinton

Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s national director of recruiting, explained the slide from Manning to The Daily Advertisersaying Manning’s drop to No. 2 had to do with seeing more and more other talented quarterbacks in the 2023 class in recent months.

“When we came into this class and looked at them as inferior, they were in the middle of a pandemic. In Louisiana, as far as Arch is concerned, Arch’s season and rating was not affected because he didn’t miss time and had three years as a starter,” Luginbill said. “Other kids’ seasons were affected by the pandemic.

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“Eli Holstein, Malachi Nelson, Dante Moore, Jaden Rashada, Nicholaus Iamaleava, we didn’t have a good sample size. We realized we needed larger sample sizes of other guys, and that only comes in full seasons. This would have been normal information we would have had two years ago. But this was mostly a class that missed a camp and combine track.”

It’s a long process for Luginbill and his staff at ESPN. As they gathered more information, observing and evaluating other top quarterbacks in the 2023 class in camps and skill presentations (which Manning chose not to attend this cycle), the small gap closed in ESPN’s ratings.

“We were in no rush to change for the sake of change. It wasn’t about that. This was more about information gathering. Whether it was the Elite 11 series or the Under Armor Camp series, we saw so many guys in action that we haven’t seen in two years because of the pandemic,” Luginbill said.

“Not hitting the Arch. We went back and studied the seasons of the other prospects. But we were able to see them and Arch chose not to participate in them. But really, Arch started with college camps early in his freshman and sophomore years, and has played three full seasons. What came out for us was that the level of competition that Arch is playing is not the same in comparison.”

One of the most widely followed recruits in a while with offers from all major college football programs including Alabama, Georgia, LSU among others, Manning committed to Texas in June.

During his junior season in 2021, Manning threw for 1,913 yards with 26 touchdowns while also rushing for six scores and 381 yards for Isidore Newman, which lost to Lafayette Christian by six touchdowns in the state semifinals.

Former Rivals recruiting director Mike Farrell said that if not for his last name, Manning would be a highly rated three-star quarterback, that he hasn’t “stepped up” since his freshman year and that he hasn’t struggled against better competition.

Luginbill reiterated that Manning has underperformed against quality competition, but still sees him as one of the top quarterbacks in his class, just not the top right now.

“Competition level,” Luginbill said. “That would be a big part of it between Arch and Malachi. Returning last spring, Malachi appeared at every event he could. There was more to see against his peers and we’re taking that into account,” Luginbill said. “It would have helped Arch Manning if he had gone to every camp he could.

“All the hype and exposure, but also because of the name, it’s going to get a lot of doubt and negativity. If he had gone out and done those things, I think he wouldn’t have limited that scrutiny. That has to come into the equation.”

ESPN will update its 2023 recruiting rankings again before they are finalized, and there will be a chance for Manning to re-claim the No. 1 spot, Luginbill said.

“I’ve got to see what Arch does in the playoffs, how he plays against teams that are better than what he’s on,” Luginbill said. “He has to lift his team. … A player of his stature, the level of expectation he’s never going to escape, but he needs to play his best games against the best teams in his program.”

Cory Diaz covers the LSU Tigers and Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns for The Daily Advertiser as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow Tigers and Cajuns coverage on Twitter: @ByCoryDiaz. Have questions about LSU/UL athletics? Send them to Cory Diaz at bdiaz@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared in the Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Why ESPN dropped Arch Manning from No. 1 recruiting ranking

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