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Arch Manning is one of the most polarizing athletes in the SI99 rankings

Some college football players are sometimes considered to be the most-known players.

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Some of the most prominent college football recruits for the class of 2023 are ranked differently by different recruiting services.

Each week, John Garcia Jr. of Sports Illustrated answers one fan question about college football recruiting that he receives via Twitter (@JohnGarcia Jr. and @SIAllAmerican).

Any writer can expect an instant response to their work, whether it’s a simple list from a Twitter fan or something that took an entire year to complete, like the Preseason SI99.

Fans, player parents, and even coworkers under The Arena Group umbrella have been flooding SI with feedback ever since the release of the top prospects in the country. While specific conversations will remain private, there are recurring themes among the numerous inquiries. Topics, in the sense of potential outcomes that are the subject of a range of opinions.

Here are the top three rumors making the rounds right now.

Quarterback Arch Manning

Put an end to me if you’ve heard this one before! You can do better than Arch Manning. To which I respond, “how could he not be?” considering that he chose Texas over the last two national champions when making his college commitment. Any change in the phenom recruit’s name or ranking becomes a “hot take” because he is not ranked highly enough to warrant the type of expectations programs and people have placed on the teenager.

The beauty of SI releasing its rankings before these prospects’ senior seasons is that it gives them time for their initial excitement to die down. As a courtesy, we wait until after the junior season to release rankings so that more tape can be compiled and/or disseminated. We don’t do it in the spring because, like college coaches, we still value our time on the road to get firsthand looks at standout players from the previous season. Also, we don’t go until later in the summer so that camps and other offseason activities don’t sway the thinking right before assigning jersey numbers.

Instead, it debuts during the offseason so that all relevant data can be analyzed beforehand. For Manning, who only plays for the New Orleans (La.) Isidore Newman, this was of utmost importance. That rules out the Elite 11, club 7-on-7s, and the Under Armour circuit. During his offseason, he participated in spring ball at Newman, which SI covered, and then went to college team camps, including one at LSU. Since he has become such a traffic driver in the football world, we have seen Manning at work for years. With that groundwork, he entered the league in the top 10 overall and as the 5th best passer.

The Newman offense could be Manning’s most effective yet in 2022, as it provides more opportunities for him to thrive. When you consider his potential for continued physical development—he currently weighs in at around 220 pounds—hard it’s to imagine more than a handful of quarterbacks being ranked higher by January’s postseason SI99.

NFL quarterback Jackson Arnold

After SI selected Moore as the Elite 11 MVP based on his performance at camp, the Oklahoma quarterback commitment’s fans became regulars in my inbox and on Twitter. Using a combination of camp performance, high school tape, and other factors, the Elite 11 staff quickly afterward declared Arnold the class’s best quarterback. Despite clearly outlining their methodology and even ranking each passer on each workout day, SI was accused of bias, among other less safe-for-work judgments.

The trend has continued into the SI99 edition, with Moore remaining at the top and Arnold being the final name to make the cut at number 99. SB Live’s recruiting editor, Andrew Nemec, argued that Arnold should be ranked higher than SI’s current 11th spot, where he is listed (in a loaded year at the position, no less). Though the primary criteria for the rankings have been explained at each stage, many have questioned whether or not SI gave the offseason camping events too much weight in comparison to the 99. (Friday night lights is where it begins).

Arnold probably wouldn’t have been considered at all if the camps had more say in the rankings, much to the dismay of Sooner fans. Despite the high quality of the competition, his output, height, and strong arm were ultimately what won him the job.

IDL David Hicks

Predicting where teams will end up in the rankings for the 2023 cycle was, once again, an arduous task. There’s more than meets the eye when discussing the decisions that were particularly challenging or close to the wire this week. The worth of David Hicks’s floor is obvious. He’s a force to be reckoned with on the other side of the line of scrimmage on a Friday night football game. The ceiling raises more questions during the assessment.

It gets more complicated when trying to project that at the collegiate level, which is essentially the point of the SI99 rankings. Hicks is a massive 270 pounds and towers over everyone thanks to his incredible physique and demeanor. The tape we saw of him, and the information he gave us in person on multiple occasions this offseason, all pointed to a more comfortable outside-in prospect. It’s been done before, even at that size (the current NFL defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker is a good example), but it takes the right fit and buy-in from the prospect to succeed at the next level. The long-term projection would have him gaining mass and moving closer to the center.

For this reason, some have criticized SI’s No. 56 overall ranking of Hicks, which was released this week. None of the four major recruiting websites (ESPN, On3, Rivals, or 247Sports) have him ranked lower than 17th in the class. It’s not that being the fourth best interior defensive lineman is a bad thing, but it’s not even close to being the best. Hicks is currently enrolled at Katy (Texas) Paetow, his third high school in as many years, and he is expected to once again be the most dominant player on the field on Friday nights.

Are you curious about the hiring process? Get in touch with @SIAllAmerican and/or @JohnGarcia Jr to have yours considered for inclusion in a future mailbag.

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