The former Southern California starting quarterback only got to play in one game in 2019 before suffering a season-ending torn ACL injury. Before that, the Santa Ana, Calif. native had himself a helluva freshman season in Los Angeles.
Despite the Trojans’ 5-7 record, Daniels was a big play waiting to happen under center. The 6’3, 210-pounder threw for 2,672 yards and 14 touchdowns as an 18-year old true freshman who graduated high school a whole year early. The former five-star prospect threw for 200+ seven times in 2018 and eclipsed 300 yards three times.
Now that he has entered the transfer portal, several suitors are in play for the former 2017 Gatorade National Player of the Year.
Regardless of who is in play here, new Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin is familiar with the California college football landscape and recruited Daniels while he was the offensive coordinator at Alabama. So why not bring him to Oxford?
Let’s take a look at some reasons why it should be a no-brainer.
The championship pedigree is there.
The aforementioned national player of the year in high school did nothing but impress during his time at Mater Dei High School.
- MaxPreps National Player of the Year
- National High School Coaches Association Player of the Year
- USA Today All-USA first team
- PrepStar Dream Team
- Orange County Register Fab 15 first team
- Tacoma News Tribune Western 100
- Gatorade California Player of the Year
- USA Today All-California Player of the Year
- Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year
- Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team
- MaxPreps Junior All-American first team
- All-CIF Division 1 Offensive Player of the Year
- Los Angeles Times All-Area Player of the Year
- Orange County Register All-Orange County Offensive Player of the Year
And those are just the accolades from his junior year before graduating early and leaving for USC.
In 2017, he completed a measly 72 percent of his passes for 4,123 yards, 52(!) touchdowns, and just four interceptions. He also ran for 561 yards and nine touchdowns, leading the Monarchs to a 15-0 season and a California CIF Division 1 title, California State Open Division crown, and a national championship.
As a sophomore, the former No. 4 overall player in the 2018 class threw for an Orange County record 4,849 yards with an Orange County record 67(!!) touchdowns. Sure Mater Dei went 13-1 and were the CIF Division 1 runner-up, but the point remains, the dude can sling it like no other and has been doing so his entire life.
If Kiffin were to bring Daniels in to compete for Ole Miss’ quarterback position, he would be getting someone who has competed at the highest level in California and, in case you missed it, shredded said competition. In just three years, the Mater Dei Hall of Famer threw for 12,014 yards, 152 passing touchdowns, and ran for 13 more.
He has been there done that at the Power 5 level.
Matt Corral has shown flashes during his first two seasons in Oxford. John Rhys Plumlee was a gamebreaker last season for the Rebels but that was in a completely different scheme and offense altogether. And lastly, you have Grant Tisdale who is the ultimate wildcard with a ton of unknowns.
All three are immensely talented.
But those three haven’t dropped 349 yards on a top-five team’s head like Daniels. The returning Rebel signal callers haven’t gone toe-to-toe with Mike Leach in a shootout and won. And those three haven’t thrown for 283 yards and three touchdowns against a top-25 team with a salty defense.
JT Daniels produced 22 big-time throws during his freshman campaign. Can he put it all together in year two? pic.twitter.com/8LNI17NMiv— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) June 11, 2019
I think you get it, the guy has been around the block despite just turning 20-years old earlier this year.
Sure, Corral or Plumlee or Tisdale could be the guy, but why wait and see when there’s a five-star guy out there who has already proven he’s more than worthy?
The arm talent is salivating.
In 2018, Daniels was fourth in the country in big-time throws per Pro Football Focus with 22. As a freshman at USC, he was part of an explosive offense that regularly featured his deep ball accuracy, stretching the defense vertically, and making every single throw look easy.
Here, we see Daniels operating out of the shotgun in a two-minute drill against Leach and the Cougars. After receiving the snap, we see JT quickly uncork a rocket at the top of his three-step drop and fit the football comfortably in between the corner and the safety for a first down.
The throw was impressive in that it was the perfect pace without being too tough to handle. There was zero hesitation from him after his third step, he knew where he needed to put the ball for his receiver to be the only one with a chance to haul it in, and the velocity was in rhythm without being too hot.
In another three-step drop, Daniels and the Trojans attack Stanford here with a go route against man coverage. He never looks off his target here but it doesn’t matter because he drops the football in the bucket, completing it for a huge chunk.
Again, the ability to effortlessly fit it in a small window against good coverage is what jumps out here.
This time, we see Daniels sprinting to his right in a two-point conversion situation. Daniels initial read in the flat was covered, but instead of panicking or forcing a throw, he just kept drifting to his right, bought some time, and threw an incredible ball to the back of the end zone to extend USC’s lead to three.
This throw takes a lot of trust and a great relationship with your receivers to know that you can put it up there and not only perfectly place it over the extended arms of the defenders, but the touch makes it a catchable ball for the receiver.
Now we get to see him really unleash one.
A half-rollout to the right helps the receiver get behind the defense here and Daniels puts it on the money with a simple flick of the wrist. He not only put the ball right where it needed to be, but he did it with pressure in his face.
The deep ball accuracy is uncanny.
Did I mention deep ball accuracy?
This is just unfair. Outside shoulder. Perfect throw. Six points.
It’s the one throw that, if you can make it, is an absolute weapon for your offense. Daniels takes the snap, turns and fires to a spot and lets his receiver go get it. There was literally nothing the defensive back could do.
These types of throws and and the ability to do so is something that can’t exactly be taught or developed over an off-season training regiment. It’s god-given.
Look, I know there are several dudes in the room right now. Corral could be the guy that Kiffin needs to run his offense. Plumlee is one of the best athletes to wear an Ole Miss uniform and is a game changer. And Tisdale is still lingering. But, Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby have their choice to work with what they have or go get someone on their own.
I’ve said it before and I will reiterate here, you must sign elite players to compete with the best in the SEC. Daniels is an elite player and if you have a chance to sign him, you do it. No question.
If Daniels can become immediately eligible with the NCAA’s newly-adjusted transfer policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then I think you try to make him your quarterback. Kiffin wants to bring Ole Miss back to the forefront of the SEC and the nation and no better way to do that than bring in an uber-talented quarterback who can efficiently run your offense.