'This has been a great run': Steve Sarkisian on Texas' recruiting revival

by Ricardo Gutierrez - Steve Sarkisian can't technically talk about Arch Manning. But he can talk about what the commitment of a hypothetical No. 1 QB recruit can do for a class. He breaks that down and more in his first extended comments since Manning's announcement.

Steve Sarkisian talks Texas football, recruiting momentum in wake of Arch Manning commitment play Why did Arch Manning select Texas? (2:13) Greg McElroy explains what Arch Manning's commitment means for the Longhorns. (2:13) 9:00 PM ET Pete ThamelESPN AUSTIN, Texas -- In the wake of the commitment of one of the most decorated football recruits in school history, Texas is in the midst of one of the most impressive recruiting flurries in the sport. Coach Steve Sarkisian can't specifically talk about Arch Manning's verbal pledge to Texas because of NCAA rules, but the halogen grin at his desk in his office Monday afternoon could have yielded a secondary violation from NCAA enforcement. Texas earned a commitment Thursday from Manning, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2023 and the highest-rated recruit in school history per ESPN's recruiting rankings. That was followed by a run of seven verbal commitments over the weekend, giving Texas a recruiting tear that matches Sarkisian's "All Gas, No Brakes" mantra and projects toward a Top 5 class. "This has been a great run," Sarkisian told ESPN on Monday. "Hopefully it's not over. I don't think it is. We may have a few more to go here this week. Hopefully we can continue to capture some of the momentum that has been created." Manning's decision to pick Texas over Georgia and Alabama clearly kick-started the momentum. And while Sarkisian can't say the words "Arch Manning" because of NCAA recruiting rules, he was able to offer some context on what a commitment from a top quarterback can do for a coach attempting to build a program. Manning's commitment brings rare credibility, as his famous last name -- he's the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning -- inherently gives Texas football the blessing of America's First Family of Football. That helped take a huge college football story Thursday and turn it into one of the biggest headlines in all of sports, an irresistible collision of pedigree and possibility. Editor's Picks QB Arch Manning brings family legacy to Texas 1d Pete Thamel 2 Related Harking back to his days as an assistant on Pete Carroll's first staff at USC , Sarkisian recalled how important it was to get a commitment from Matt Leinart of Mater Dei in Orange County. And he saw last year the recruiting magnetism of the transfer of Quinn Ewers from Ohio State , as Ewers had been regarded as the top quarterback in the Class of 2022 before skipping his senior year to enroll at Ohio State. "Last year, getting Quinn on board, even though he was a transfer, he was the No. 1 player in that class prior to him reclassifying," Sarkisian said. "A lot those kids knew who Quinn Ewers was. It's always helpful when it's the quarterback that is the big fish. I think this [2023] class is very similar, it's just different timing." Ewers committed to transfer to Texas in mid-December, which limited the amount of recruiting he could do for the school. Manning will have six months to recruit players to sign this December, meaning the latest "big fish" will allow Texas half a year to leverage the positive vibes from his commitment. Manning has been actively texting recruits to try to get them to join him in Austin, and his commitment is indicative of how the recruiting calendar in college sports has sped up. "It used to be getting hot in November and December is what you wanted to do," Sarkisian said. "Nowadays, it feels like June or July is a really good time." The football future in Texas includes quarterback Arch Manning and a move to the SEC. Scott Clause/USA TODAY Network Texas rocketed up to No. 10 in ESPN's 2023 recruiting class rankings with Manning's commitment. Since then, the seven players the Longhorns have landed include two ESPN 300 prospects in safety Derek Williams (No. 76) and receiver Jonah Wilson (No. 278). Sarkisian's squad has seven ESPN 300 recruits, trailing only Georgia, Ohio State and Notre Dame (all of which have nine). One of the buzzy names on the Texas target list is Johntay Cook II , a receiver from DeSoto High School who is ESPN's No. 43 overall recruit and has all the blue-blood offers. Texas' current class comes on the heels of an incoming class of 35 players -- seven of whom are transfers -- that ranked No. 5 in ESPN's recruiting rankings last season. Most critical, Sarkisian pointed out, was that Texas landed 15 linemen -- seven offensive and eight defensive -- to help build the program for the long term and potentially reverse a trend of undistinguished line play on both sides of the ball. Since the recruiting conversation had to remain general, Sarkisian touched on a few compelling macro philosophical recruiting topics. The first was that he told his team he viewed the first full class the staff was able to sign in 2022 as one that will help make Texas a great team. The 2023 class will signify something different. "We are going to become a great program because we're going to sign a great class in 2023," Sarkisian said. "That's what great programs do. They stack recruiting classes on top of one another. This class is a really key one, just like the 2024 class will be a year from now. "The ability to stack classes on top of one another, that's how you build a competitive roster. It brings out the best in every guy on your team." Texas currently has 58 scholarship freshmen and sophomores on the roster. Sarkisian predicts Texas will be among the youngest programs in the Power 5 next season. But he's also quick to point out that should be a cause of optimism in upcoming years as the younger players grow up. The roots are planted. The players entering now will be seniors when the school enters the SEC in 2025. Manning would be a junior or redshirt sophomore. Sarkisian said Texas is simultaneously building for the next three seasons while also keeping an eye on the SEC. Sarkisian pointed to three areas where he saw the SEC as different from his time at Alabama -- "big humans" on the offensive and defensive line, speed everywhere and length at defensive back. Those traits are Texas priorities going forward, as he said the big linemen still have to be able to move and "there's not a lot of room for small corners." Steve Sarkisian could benefit from the ripple effect of Arch Manning's commitment to play for the Longhorns. Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire Sarkisian said he praised his staff in a meeting for how they've handled the month of June, after an exhausting month of spring recruiting that features the coaches juggling current players, unofficial and official visits, recruiting camps, youth camps and the strategy of when to bring in recruits. "June has become, some would argue, the toughest month of the year for us," he said. Texas has a 15-member recruiting department led by director of player personnel Billy Glasscock. Sarkisian worried about singling out individuals on staff for Texas' dynamic recruiting, but did mention special teams coordinator Jeff Banks for his collective knowledge of the state, director of recruiting Brandon Harris for connecting with recruits and director of high school relations Chris Gilbert for his contacts. He predicts the momentum will continue, in part because Texas recruits in a way in which the players and their families interact with each other -- 24 families visited officially the past two weekends -- and that intimacy builds familiarity. And with spots filling up, it also creates pressure and leverage for other high-profile players to jump aboard. "As a couple of those guys start to jump in the boat, they develop real relationships with the other recruits," he said. "Inevitably, the momentum is really the wave of others jumping onboard with it. It continues the momentum and continues to build. A lot of it is who is tied to who. You have to be strategic when the wave is happening. Spots are limited. You have to be honest with recruits." And few could have honestly predicted Texas to be in this position after a season in which the Longhorns lost at home to Kansas , got blown out at Arkansas and had the school's longest losing streak -- six games -- since 1956. Sarkisian stressed that he's building Texas on a simple philosophy: "My goal isn't to win a signing day championship. My goal is to win a national championship." And that has led him to remain calm at a school where overreactions, coordinator firings and knee-jerk decisions have become part of the satire as the team has sputtered with no league titles since 2009. Since that season, there have been few stretches of optimism as glaring as this week. And Sarkisian's smile shows that there was a reason to stay calm through the chaos of last year. "There isn't panic," he said. "We're on the right path and doing the right things. Would we have liked a few different results? Of course. But we can't let a few games knock us off the path that we're on for where we're trying to take this program."