Wasserman: Eli Holstein’s Alabama commitment is a big deal for the Longhorns

Wasserman: Eli Holstein’s Alabama commitment is a big deal for the Longhorns

Four-star quarterback Eli Holstein of Zachary (La.) High committed to Alabama on Tuesday afternoon.

What a day for the Longhorns.

On this day, Texas moved another step closer to landing the most influential prospect in recruiting history. That’s the real story here.

During any other recruiting cycle, a top-100 quarterback committing to Alabama would be a footnote. An elite-level QB committing to play for Nick Saban? What else is new? Yawn. But this class is different. This class includes five-star Arch Manning of New Orleans Isidore Newman, and every domino that impacts Manning’s ultimate destination ends up being big news.

Holstein is a great get for Alabama. Some would argue that his high school tape is more impressive than Manning’s. And if things go according to plan — or the way things typically go for stars who sign with Alabama — he’ll be the starting quarterback for a College Football Playoff team sometime in the next four years. Maybe he’ll win a Heisman Trophy. This isn’t to diminish who Holstein is or what he brings to the table, but Alabama getting another high-level commitment is just par for the course. It doesn’t move the needle.

Texas is the biggest winner because the Longhorns, more than any other program that’s still alive in the Manning sweepstakes, would benefit the most from landing the all-world quarterback. And now you’re telling Steve Sarkisian that Alabama is either out of the hunt or sliding back? Talk about a major obstacle that has been cleared.

Manning had been planning to take official visits to Georgia, Texas and Alabama this summer. Don’t be shocked if he still goes to Tuscaloosa. This is, after all, Alabama. But Alabama’s decision to accept Holstein’s commitment sends a message that the Crimson Tide aren’t going to sit back for anyone, even Manning. And with a quarterback as good as Holstein willing to jump in? Well, that’s how the Tide rolls.

Almost every top program has an elite quarterback prospect on its roster. Texas, specifically, has Quinn Ewers on campus, and it wasn’t long ago that the Southlake, Texas, native was rated the No. 1 overall player in the 2022 class before he reclassified to 2021 and signed with Ohio State. He’s now back in his home state and is seen as the program savior by many Longhorns fans.

But Manning’s commitment is worth so much more than just how good of a quarterback he is. He could make a statement that would send shockwaves through college football.

What would a commitment say about Texas? Exactly what Texas needs it to say — that the Longhorns are a viable destination for top-tier players, especially on the offensive side of the ball. If Manning thinks it’s the place for him, nobody is too good for Texas.

Texas has been absolutely horrid when it comes to developing its top-tier offensive recruits into NFL Draft picks. The Longhorns haven’t had an offensive player selected in the first round of the draft since Vince Young in 2006. Think about how staggeringly bad that is for a program that regularly signs top-level classes. To not even luck yourself into one offensive player being a first-rounder in more than 15 years? That’s enough to make any recruit’s stomach turn.

Manning could look past that and inspire others to believe in Sarkisian. And though Manning doesn’t speak to the media often, he’s still an influential player who is active in group texts with other top-tier prospects in the 2023 class. Depending on when Manning commits, it would be foolish to think that others won’t follow.

But we can’t get carried away — it’s not like Texas landed Manning on Tuesday. There are still more than six months before the early signing period begins, and in recruiting time, that may as well be an eternity. Also, Georgia is the second-best recruiting outfit in college football, so pretending like the Bulldogs don’t present a major challenge to Texas would not be wise.

But if Saban and Alabama are either out of the picture or fading into the background? That is a significant checkpoint for Texas to clear. Now Sarkisian has to hit it out of the park when Manning next visits Austin, and he needs to sell the vision that Texas fans are so eager to want to believe — that it’s only a matter of time before Texas is back.

People said Texas was back when Ewers transferred to the program. And it’s still within the realm of possibility that Ewers starts for the Longhorns this fall and orchestrates a magical season.

But Manning is different. He’s in the first family of football.

If Texas gets him? That makes Texas different.

The Longhorns took a step closer to that dream Tuesday, even if it was Alabama simply doing what Alabama does.

(Photo by Tim Warner / Getty Images)


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