LSU coach Brian Kelly says QB Jayden Daniels has ‘not been tapped into’

Mar 23, 2022, 11:31 AM | Updated: 11:42 am
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 01: Brian Kelly speaks after being introduced as the head footbal...
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 01: Brian Kelly speaks after being introduced as the head football coach of the LSU Tigers during a news conference at Tiger Stadium on December 01, 2021 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

First-year LSU Tigers head coach Brian Kelly begins his tenure with a quarterback question on his hands.

While he said all starting jobs are open competitions, Kelly will have a choice between two seniors: Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels and returning senior Myles Brennan, the latter of whom has thrown 131 passes over four years but missed 2021 due to a preseason injury.

Daniels surprised Sun Devil fans by announcing his return to Tempe in December only to announce that he would transfer in February. And in describing why he probably has the best shot at landing the starting job for the Tigers, Kelly may have incidentally thrown a jab ASU’s way.

“I think he brings more than extending plays, actually,” Kelly told reporters on Wednesday. “He was in an offensive structure and system which was really built towards ball control this past year, playing to a very good defense. We think that there’s a lot that has not been tapped into with his ability to be a dual-threat quarterback. He’s got arm talent, he’s got a high I.Q. and he can run the football. He’s a talented runner of the football.

“He wasn’t asked to do that (at Arizona State). He was more of an extender of plays. We think there is much more to that than what he’s brought over the last couple of years.”

Daniels completed 65% of his passes for 2,380 yards, 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2021 as a junior. It was far from his performance as a freshman.

With a more talented offensive skill group led by NFL players like receiver Brandon Aiyuk and running back Eno Benjamin in 2019, Daniels threw 17 touchdowns to two interceptions playing under a different offensive coordinator, Rob Likens.

Why Daniels regressed in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and this past year under since-fired offensive coordinator Zak Hill might be a matter of who you ask.

Indeed, the green receiver group that was so young in 2020 didn’t develop much further in 2021.

Daniels fled the pocket at about the same rate in 2021 as his freshman year but gained 710 yards on the ground to 355 in 2019. His desire to leave the pocket was — in some combination — due to receivers not getting open downfield, Daniels not trusting his wideouts, Daniels not seeing the field or the play design not working rather than ASU scripting more quarterback runs.

Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards made clear after Daniels rushed 13 times for 125 yards in the third game of the year at BYU that the volume was a little much for his liking.

Edwards lightly expressed his desire for the quarterback to use his legs to extend passing plays instead of taking off downfield, as Kelly mentioned.

“You like the quarterback, obviously, to sit in the pocket as long as they can, and they’re going to have to make some plays off-schedule,” Edwards told Bickley & Marotta two days later. “That’s part of football. … That becomes very, very cumbersome to (a) defense.

“They run around, run around, all of a sudden they find someone down the field, make big plays. Jayden has that capability, and I think if he can do more of that, we can get more explosive in the passing game.”

And so Kelly’s comments about allowing Daniels to be a more intentional dual-threat quarterback for a premier college football program might give one reason why Daniels opted out of returning for the Sun Devils.

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