Texas signs Dia Bell a few cycles after Arch Manning and this is “sandwich QB” recruitment at its finest

The problem with signing a player the caliber of Trevor Lawrence or Caleb Williams is finding the next quarterback – and even coping with the loss of the player who came before him.

Quarterback management is an art, not a science. It's great to have Lawrence on the roster, but how do you manage the room behind him? We saw that at Clemson, where Lawrence's arrival in 2018 quickly sent Hunter Johnson (himself a former five-star) and Kelly Bryant into the portal.

To combat the Lawrence recruiting problem, Clemson simply did not sign a quarterback in the 2019 class. It was not until 2020, with DJ Uiagalelei – the second-best player in the country – that Clemson was able to expand the roster again and put some breathing room between the two five-star passers. The Tigers followed up with a mediocre haul in 2021.

This is what I would call “sandwich recruiting” for quarterbacks. It doesn't always mean skipping a quarterback cycle, but often it means signing a lesser recruit – either a four-star or a three-star prospect – to fill the gap between the elite upper-tier quarterbacks.

We saw another classic example for this Monday when Texas acquired 247Sports Composite five-star Dia Bell for the Class of 2026 from American Heritage High School in Florida.

Texas' quarterback roster is loaded. Quinn Ewers is the frontrunner and Arch Manning is the future. It's nice to have the succession plan in place, but that kind of security also creates a problem in recruiting.

How could a quarterback newly signed in 2024 or 2025 realistically expect to be able to play fast with Manning on the roster? There's no way. Ewers will start this season. Manning will be the starter in 2025 and, if his family history is any indication, maybe into 2026.

Therefore, after signing Manning in 2023, Texas was not really in the running for the heavyweight recruits in the 2024 and 2025 cycles.

The Longhorns followed Manning in the 2024 class with in-state QB Trey Owens, who received a 90 rating from 247Sports. Owens, 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, comes to Austin with tremendous potential but was by no means a national recruit when he chose Texas over in-state programs like Baylor and Houston.

Texas followed the same game plan in the 2025 cycle with Alabama native KJ Lacey, ranked as the No. 179 player in the country. Lacey could have a nice future in Austin (Texas has outperformed Auburn in the state). But Lacey, as the No. 13 QB in the country, is not one of the warhorses of the 2025 cycle like Ewers or Manning have been in the past.

This brings us to Bell.

Current quarterback recruitment in Texas

2023 Arch Manning 5 1
2024 Trey Owens 4 16
2025 KJ Lacey 4 13
2026 Dia Bell 5 4

When Bell arrives on campus in 2026, Manning will either be in his fourth year of college or playing in the NFL, meaning Bell's path to the field will be blocked by at most one year.

In other words, Texas has built in a couple of potential beachheads between its undoubted future star (Manning) and a high-profile newcomer (Bell) that the Longhorns and many others believe could be the difference-maker as the starting quarterback in college.

This is old-school recruiting in an era when transfer portals are more common than ever.

And yes, if you asked Steve Sarkisian publicly, he would deny that theory. Sarkisian will vehemently defend Owen and Lacey's ability to become Texas' quarterback of the future. And who's to say they won't make it? Remember, three-star Mac Jones, the second quarterback in a class with Tua Tagovailoa, was a Heisman finalist under Sarkisian at Alabama in 2020 — beating out a top-tier freshman quarterback, Bryce Young.

Bell, too, would likely dispute that Texas' QB spot was even a factor. But players and coaches are smart. They look at the rankings and can spot roadblocks. For 2024 and even 2025 players, Manning was like a big red light for a player's early career. And as Texas coaches know, a top-tier 2024 QB who doesn't want to sit on the bench has every opportunity to transfer.

This is where the sandwich QB method comes into play.

If Bell maintains his five-star status and signs with Texas in 2026, the Longhorns will have signed a five-star passer in three (2022, 2023, 2026) of the last five cycles. At some point, you have to fill the rest of the room with quality depth, or at least players who have a different development timeline than the predetermined quarterback of the future.

Texas did that in the 2024 and 2025 cycles. Now, with some wiggle room after signing Manning, the Longhorns have landed another big fish in the quarterback market. Don't be surprised if Texas creates some breathing room behind Bell in 2027. The sandwich-making never really stops.

More Texas Longhorns coverage from 247Sports – the industry leader!

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