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LSU QB Jayden Daniels arrives ahead of his senior season (2nd as a Tiger) poised to lead Brian Kelly's 2023 squad into SEC contention...perhaps beyond, while also aiming to collect college football's highest individual honors....but what obstacles remain in JD5's pathway to glory?
Despite the fact Daniels returns as the SEC's most experienced and pedigreed quarterback, winning 10 games for an LSU squad held together by freshmen bookend tackles, a rotating cast of transfers, hidden gems and walk-ons, there are still reservations regarding his ability to pass the football.

Rather than being cursed with a typical "gunslinging quarterback" issue, Jayden's past deficiencies have always been rooted in two key areas:

A. The conservative offenses, in which he's played most of his football, didn't run complex route concepts capable of beating collegiate DBs or feature top receiving talents. This unfamiliarity was a key reason why he wouldn't throw into tight windows or against congested coverage, often opting for the safest options possible (simply put: he didn't give his guys enough 50/50 chances last season).

The second?

B. Jayden's blood-oath belief in his own legs.

While some LSU fans clamor for another starter due to these key reasons, Daniels' safe mentality with the football and his legs were actually decisive for LSU's 2022 SEC West championship.

Plus, many Daniels detractors fail to recognize just how unfamiliar LSU's offensive personnel were with one another last fall: missing key blocks or assignments, Daniels failing to connect with his receivers due to a lack of timing & passing hesitancy on his part; At the same time, his skill position weapons dropped an inexplicable 22 total passes...coming up short just as much as their quarterback.

Due to these factors, as well as the security blankets of running backs Josh Williams, Noah Cain, Armoni Goodwin, and playmaking back John Emery Jr, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock opted to run the football during many key situations, specifically inside the red zone.

In 2023, when you look at LSU's endlessly stacked skill position talent, top shelf (though young) tight end room, versatile backfield, as well as an extra season of experience together, we should see LSU's offense become far more dynamic in an aerial sense.

Helping to aid that push for a more potent passing offense, Daniels underwent rigorous offseason quarterback training, working on his mechanics tirelessly among some of the top QB Gurus in the business.

He's bulked up, too, sporting a thicker, stronger upper body and core.

Taking a punishing record number of sacks last season (43), pressured relentlessly (146 times), before finally succumbing to injury during the A&M & Georgia contests, all as he attempted 186 rushes throughout 2022, Daniels has proven himself to be extremely durable.

Regardless of any grumbling concerning Daniels' gaudy rushing attempt count, his legs are, will & should continue to be a defining weapon of this offense:

Of those aforementioned 186 rushes, Daniels gained enough yardage for 59 first downs, broke 54 tackles, produced 45 separate runs of 10 or more yards, scoring 11 touchdowns while clocking 885 total yards on the ground.....

Most of all, JD5's dizzying, mazing runs kept dead-in-the-water drives alive, led LSU on 4 comebacks of 10+ points, beat Florida and Auburn on the road during the same season for the first time ever in program history, and of course, his legs scored the winning touchdown against Saban's Alabama in overtime....sending LSU to Atlanta.

Throughout the Tigers' rollercoaster 2022, the heavy pressure dropped upon JD5's shoulders became boulder-like....and still, he almost always had a response:

Proving he is made of the right minerals, Daniels led the Tigers on 35 separate touchdown drives of 70+ yards, constantly gutting out big plays (37 passing conversions on 3rd down) or tough yards behind a beat up, shuffling, freshman-dependent O-line, flanked by a debutant at tight end who'd become his 2nd favorite target (Mason Taylor) while a sophomore stepped up as his #1 trusted receiver (Malik Nabers)... the So Cal kid's first year as a student athlete in the state of Louisiana, arriving down South after a scandal-torn Arizona State locker room publicly turned on him, facing the oncoming, rampaging gauntlet that is 21st century SEC football for the first time, trying to ignore a barrage of criticism from segments of the Tigers' own fanbase, some wondering if his willingness to run the ball himself over passing to open teammates was a clear symptom of "hero ball".....the noise only seemed to weaken once Daniels consecutively toppled Florida, top 10 ranked Ole Miss, Alabama, and Arkansas in resounding style....showcasing what he can do using both his arm as well as his legs.

For his critics, consider this possibility:

Maybe it took JD5 that first cluster of games to really grasp the speed of SEC defenders, learn LSU's varied route concepts, and master the timing he was failing to hit with his receivers; Additionally, we know from players' interviews that following their defeat to Tennessee, Daniels and his receiving corps held a player's only meeting which increased trust between the struggling quarterback and his talented, yet starving wide outs.

Instead of the first half of 2022's tucking and running, by November (and even December's excellent 1st half passing display vs Georgia), we witnessed Daniels begin to keep his head locked downfield even after extending the play outside of the pocket.

Will his progress continue to build toward a triumphant 2023?

After watching Daniels up close and personal for Spring camp this past April, I was impressed with his physical development, the zip on his passes, a quicker release with a more level trajectory than last season; we witnessed Daniels combine beautifully with receivers Malik Nabers, Brian Thomas Jr and Kyren Lacy during Spring practices & the Spring Game itself.....all are great omens.

On the other side of the coin, the former Arizona State QB's inability or unwillingness to push the football downfield was a key factor why LSU had to dig themselves out of major holes in 2022, facing deficits of 13+ points against 7 different opponents (3-4 record):

Jayden's resistance to throw the football wasted countless drives (49), pinned Matt House's defense into compromising situations or simply wore them down from constant reps, throwing a litany of 3rd down incompletions, running himself into sacks, failing to identify open men, it was all a part of needing to grow accustomed to new teammates, coaches, a foreign offensive philosophy, a new playbook, offensive coordinator, and quarterbacks coach, all at a new school.

Considering the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between, Daniels' first season at LSU was a triumph, becoming the first LSU quarterback since Joe Burrow to lead the Tigers to an SEC title game, victories over Alabama, Florida, Arkansas & Auburn during the same year, as well as their first double-digit winning campaign since 2019.

It goes without saying, Jayden Daniels' 2022 far eclipses Burrow's 2018....and we know what that debut season set up for Joe and LSU....

I'm not expecting Daniels to throw 60 touchdowns and match Burrow's 2019, but if he can expand his passing talents, add to his arsenal of quarterbacking acumen, continue to produce decisive plays when LSU need it most, and of course, stay healthy, then I fully believe Daniels will not only become a Heisman candidate in 2023, he'll have little in his way of winning the trophy outright.
Now, following a relaxed, drama-free off-season finally holding the backing & belief of LSU's fanbase, Daniels is the unquestioned leader of a squad ready to explode in 2023 as legitimate contenders....




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2 commentaires

If Georgia could win it all with Steadman Bennett, we can win it all with Jayden. It will turn on the dominance of the O Line and Matt House’s defense.

Lonn Phillips Sullivan
Lonn Phillips Sullivan
23 juil. 2023
En réponse à

I like that you messed his name up, he deserves that 😄 Steadman Bennett Haha I love it Louis! That guy is a certified jerk.

He was pretty damn good for Georgia tho but oh well. He's history. I got to see him get destroyed by Harold Perkins live, he forced a fumble that Roy recovered. It was awesome to watch live.

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