Can LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels make a Joe Burrow jump?

THE FACT THAT Jayden Daniels wasn’t worn out by the stifling humidity of Thibodaux, Louisiana, in late June is an efficient signal he is acclimated to residing within the South. He is all smiles and constructive power as he works campers on the Manning Passing Academy and rubs shoulders with the primary household of quarterbacks: Peyton, Eli and Archie.

Speaking to reporters throughout a lunch break, the California native retains coming again to a phrase he would not have used a 12 months in the past: comfy.

Daniels wasn’t a counselor right here final summer time. That is as a result of he was nonetheless unpacking his issues after transferring from Arizona State to LSU, the place he was nonetheless competing for the beginning job and nonetheless looking for his means round campus.

He discovered his means round an unforgiving SEC schedule simply effective in his first 12 months with the Tigers. The sport towards Florida was wild and Auburn was so loud he says he could not hear himself suppose. However he survived, main LSU to wins in each video games, to not point out the most important sport of all of them — dwelling towards No. 6 Alabama when he ran for a 25-yard landing in additional time after which accomplished a make-or-break, 2-point conversion for the walk-off win. The season was a trial by hearth that he is on the opposite facet of now, searching for what’s subsequent.

Daniels would not flinch when a neighborhood reporter nonchalantly compares his first season to that of Joe Burrow’s — the implication being he can also make a jet-fueled leap in 12 months 2 a la the previous LSU legend who went from merely being environment friendly in 2018 to easily profitable the Heisman Trophy and a nationwide championship in 2019.

Is that an excessive amount of to ask? Nicely, LSU is No. 4 workforce in ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index, and Daniels is tied for the second-best odds to win the Heisman, in line with Caesars Sportsbook, trailing solely final season’s winner, USC’s Caleb Williams. So possibly it isn’t that far-fetched. Daniels steers away from the hype. He says he is been working arduous this offseason and has a agency grasp on the playbook. Teammates say they’ve seen a change in him, too — extra assertive, extra himself. Coaches hope that interprets to a extra explosive passing sport.

Daniels says he is taken cost of the offense. Then he reconsiders and takes cost of offense, protection and particular groups.

“That is my workforce,” he says. “That is how we’ll run issues. That is the usual we’ll maintain ourselves to if we need to accomplish our targets.”

In rhetoric and in apply, how far LSU goes is as much as him.



LSU QB Jayden Daniels appears to be like forward to 12 months 2 within the SEC

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels particulars what his first 12 months within the SEC was like and the workforce dynamic heading into the 2023 season.

DANIELS WASN’T THE solely fish out of water in Baton Rouge final 12 months. Who can neglect Brian Kelly’s first try at a Southern accent the night time he was launched as coach at LSU? Household’s an enormous deal amongst Irish Catholics like Kelly, however fam-uh-lee? That was, uh, completely different.

A 12 months later, Kelly laughs off his early snafu.

“I feel my accent is fairly good and has gotten higher all through the recruiting course of,” he says. “It is determined by if I am in northern Louisiana or southern Louisiana. Generally I recover from to Lake Charles, it is obtained to vary slightly bit.”

The truth that he can differentiate between areas is an efficient signal he is catching on. However, actually, the explanation he has gained over LSU followers so shortly has nothing to do along with his diction and the whole lot to do with these 10 victories final season — none extra vital than towards rival Alabama.

Gamers say Kelly introduced an consideration to element and self-discipline that was missing underneath the earlier employees. And he shortly instilled a way of self-belief, which paid off in large video games.

Requested what’s one factor individuals ought to find out about LSU this season, operating again Josh Williams and defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo say the identical factor: “We’re coming.”

However Kelly is a realist when he sits with ESPN in his workplace in June.

“Look, Alabama has been a mannequin of consistency 12 months in and 12 months out. Georgia has been a mannequin of consistency 12 months in and 12 months out,” Kelly says. “We won’t hold that moniker but. We went from final to first — that is not constant. So what does that go away us? The power to win and be the very best workforce that day. That is it. So should you’re measuring that, can we be the very best workforce on that individual day and beat anyone? Completely. However can we be constant? That is what we’ll attempt to show.”

Whereas the offense was stable general, Kelly says, “There have been some ups and downs.”

As he studied the movie from a season in the past, Kelly noticed the great and the dangerous from his quarterback. And he was reminded how early on they hadn’t precisely given Daniels “the keys to the automobile.” Kelly says there have been quite a lot of parameters on what Daniels may and could not do. So, after all, after they unfold the sphere, backed him up within the shotgun and instructed him to drive, he wasn’t prepared.

“He needed to learn to do all these issues,” Kelly says, “and by the tip of the season he obtained fairly good at it.”

Daniels did not need to do a lot in a 63-7 Cheez-It Citrus Bowl win over Purdue, finishing 12 of 17 passes for 132 yards and a landing. However Kelly thought he was “excellent.” Kelly may really feel Daniels’ confidence. He liked seeing Daniels match the ball into tight home windows and push the offense vertically — “all of the issues we might have liked to have seen in Sport 1, however it was a course of.”

Daniels completed with 2,913 yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. Whereas he threw essentially the most catchable ball within the nation (83% catchable move fee), he hardly ever took photographs downfield, rating 103rd within the fee of move makes an attempt 20-plus yards downfield (10.6%).

Kelly says we have been watching a younger QB develop up. All Daniels must do is, “Let it go.”

The query, although, is how a lot Kelly desires him to pack up and run, scrambling for additional yards. As a result of he did that loads final season. He had 885 dashing yards and had extra carries than LSU’s prime two operating backs mixed (186 to 173). Josh Williams, who ran for 552 yards, would not thoughts. “If the protection provides Jayden an open lane each time,” he says, “I hope Jayden goes for 1,000 yards.”

However Kelly would not have a precise quantity in thoughts. It is not so simple as saying Daniels ought to have 10 or 11 or 12 carries per sport, he says. What he is searching for is whether or not Daniels is nervous within the pocket — “Is he getting out of pocket simply to run? Or is {that a} compressed pocket and a collapsing pocket that he is making a play out of?”

If Daniels — a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior — desires to turn out to be a first-round decide within the NFL draft, Kelly says the very first thing he must do is enhance his pocket presence. That and making higher anticipatory throws, letting the receiver run into area or throwing away from defenders.

Whereas Daniels hasn’t made “a ton” of these throws, Kelly says, “He began making them later within the season.”

Jim Nagy, a former NFL scout who runs the Senior Bowl, agrees. He was at LSU’s 2022 season-opener towards Florida State and will see simply how “discombobulated” the offense was and the way uncomfortable Daniels was operating it. Nagy says Daniels appeared “frenetic” at occasions.

However Nagy was there once more in-person for the win over Ole Miss and adopted alongside by the remainder of the season, and what he noticed led him to name Daniels essentially the most improved participant within the nation. He wasn’t good, Nagy says, however he caught along with his reads longer and match the ball into tighter home windows.

Nagy loves Daniels’ composure, which teammates rave about. “Fourth quarter, 2 seconds left,” Williams says, “he’ll be the calmest man you’ve got ever met.”

Nagy additionally says Daniels is extra athletic than he will get credit score for. He was on the Manning Passing Academy and says there’s “little doubt” Daniels has an NFL-caliber arm.

So is the Joe Burrow comparability truthful? Whereas Nagy’s hesitant to pin these expectations on anybody, he would not dismiss it out of hand.

“I will begin by saying this: we now have Jayden on the similar spot on the board proper now that we had Joe going into his senior 12 months,” Nagy says. “It is primarily like a fringe Day 2-3 grade, form of a fringe top-100 grade. And, man, that was a magical 12 months for Joe. Joe’s a fairly particular man on the subject of how he is wired as a competitor and chief. However he is in the identical spot. And really related — they did not ask an excessive amount of of Jayden final 12 months, identical to they did not ask quite a lot of Joe his first 12 months there.

“Joe answered the bell and we’ll see if Jayden can try this.”

Now does Daniels benefit from a Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson to throw to? In all probability not. That workforce was loaded, producing 30 whole NFL draft picks from 2020-22.

However Nagy says he believes Daniels may have higher safety this season, which may go a great distance in his growth.

If he can persistently navigate the pocket and make the anticipatory throws Kelly talked about, Nagy says, “Then now we’re cooking.”

ABOUT A MONTH after spending the week with the Mannings in Thibodaux, Daniels trades in shorts and a T-shirt for a pointy black swimsuit and crisp white button-up shirt. At SEC media days in Nashville, Tennessee, he is prepared for his close-up, sporting a recent haircut, a blinding diamond-encrusted chain and chunky diamond stud earrings that catch the sunshine of each digicam pointed in his course.

Requested in regards to the stress to proceed the championship run on campus began by the baseball and ladies’s basketball groups, Daniels provides these gamers their props and says, “Hopefully we are able to comply with up with one.”

However that is so far as he is keen to go. “We have now to take it daily and actually simply benefit from the course of,” he says in pitch-perfect coachspeak.

Throughout a day of probing questions from a whole lot of sound-bite-hungry reporters, Daniels exhibits his trademarked fourth-quarter poise. That’s, till a reporter asks him about his possibilities of profitable the Heisman.

“I imply …” he says earlier than pausing a beat to compose himself.

He smirks and laughs nervously.

“I do not actually have a look at that stuff like that,” he says. “I am blessed and honored to be a part of a prestigious award like that. Hopefully once I win soccer video games, hopefully my odds go up, however my primary factor is admittedly simply specializing in serving to the workforce win soccer video games. If particular person success comes with it, then it comes with it.”

Disaster averted.

Daniels is way more comfy speaking in regards to the workforce and the work they’ve put on this offseason. He picks aside his first season at LSU with ease, saying the way it was a “night time and day” distinction from Arizona State — the place he threw 32 landing passes in 29 video games over three seasons — and the way they realized as a bunch throughout that late droop towards Arkansas and Texas A&M, “You’ll be able to’t simply go on the market and suppose you are going to roll previous a workforce with document.”

On the one hand, he says he desires the operating backs to have extra dashing yards than him this season. However alternatively, “I’d simply say that is in all probability the dynamic of my sport that makes me that rather more harmful.”

“So I do not need to take that from my sport,” he provides, “however I need to continue to grow as a quarterback and as a passer.”

And the place precisely does he suppose he can get higher?

“The deep ball,” he says. “Simply letting it go and giving my guys an opportunity to go on the market and make a play. I felt that in all probability the most important leap that I took as a quarterback this offseason is constructing that timing with these guys and realizing how they run routes and giving them alternatives to go make performs downfield, which I do know they’ll do at a excessive stage.”

Daniels calls Malik Nabers, who broke out with a mixed 291 yards and two touchdowns towards Georgia and Purdue, a “go-to” receiver with the kind of energy and velocity you possibly can’t educate. Nabers, Kyren Lacy and Brian Thomas have all “stepped up and confirmed out” this summer time, Daniels says.

And he is assured within the progress of the road, too, which he says gelled down the stretch. Final season, coaches tried to cowl up for freshmen tackles Will Campbell and Emery Jones. “It will be much less about that and extra about exerting our will towards individuals,” Kelly says, including that they are recruiting as if Campbell and Jones may obtain first-round grades after their junior seasons.

“I really feel like we are able to have a prime offense within the nation,” Daniels says in certainly one of his boldest statements of the day.

Not like Williams and Wingo, Daniels would not say of LSU this season, “We’re coming.” It is simply one thing a few of the guys say, he explains, quite than a mantra or workforce motto.

“We simply know what we’re able to,” he says. “If we deal with our enterprise, we’ll in all probability be there.”

There, as in, with a shot at enjoying for a nationwide championship.

Would not that be a helluva leap for a quarterback and a coach to make after just one 12 months in Baton Rouge?

Daniels is not backing away from these lofty expectations. And he ought to know higher than anybody what they’re able to.

That is his workforce in any case.

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