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ASU football OC Rob Likens awaits debut of freshman QB Jayden Daniels

Team Ballaholics quarterback Jayden Daniels (8) during player introductions before the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game between Team Ballaholics and Team Flash on January 03, 2019 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Preseason practices help get young players prepared for life as a college athlete.

But what those practices don’t give is a real good look as to what those individuals are going to do when the bright lights are on and there’s a new opponent lining up on the opposite side.

So with the season opener just over a week out, the excitement in the Arizona State Sun Devils football program is growing. Especially when talking about true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels.

“When you’re in practice, you never want to see your quarterback get hurt, so you have quick whistles and the defensive line knows ‘I’m going to get annihilated by the coaches if I get anywhere near the quarterback,’” Likens said. “So you never see the realistic sacks and you never see what the quarterback can do with his feet when he gets out and breaks contains.”

While Daniels has impressed coaches with his abilities in the pocket, earning the starting role this preseason, Likens hasn’t seen a whole lot on the ground from a QB who put up more than 3,600 yards and 41 rushing touchdowns in his high school career.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, as Daniels is making quick decisions and getting rid of the football when a breakdown does occur.

“He doesn’t really feel and see the rush,” Likens said. “And that’s just a special quality of quarterbacks. You either have it or you don’t.”

Thursday’s matchup with Kent State undoubtedly provides the first real look as to what type of signal caller the Sun Devils have leading the charge.

“I think it’s going to come natural with him,” Likens said when asked if Daniels was more of a playmaker or a game manager. “He’s just a natural playmaker … he hangs in there, makes throws, always thinks he can make every throw.

“I’m anxious to see – because I haven’t seen it – what he’s going to look like when the play breaks down, so I think we’ll naturally see some plays being made.

“He has a lot of confidence,” Likens added. “He feels like he can see the blitz coming and he can the throw in the teeth of the blitz so it’s going to be fun to watch and see what happens.”

And though the talk around campus, and across the Valley, is focused in on the freshman, it’s business as usual for Daniels — something that speaks volumes to Likens on what kind of player he is.

“He doesn’t have those emotional ups and downs, and I like that within a quarterback,” Likens said. “Because that tells me that the media’s perspective, the fans’ perspective, the coach’s perspective, that doesn’t change him.

“He’s very comfortable with who he is and what he does and so he doesn’t have that roller coaster emotion, up and down, and worrying about the image, the swagger, all of that stuff. That’s what I love most about the kid is just he’s so even-keel.”

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