TOP 10 TIGERS OF 2022: #1 JAYDEN DANIELS
Welcome to our 4th ever season-ending top 10 performers list, with links right here to our past 2019, 2020, and 2021 top 10's (links in purple), we now hit our 2022 final season ending calibrations.
With a new Head Coach in Brian Kelly and his entirely revamped staff, wildly different approach or philosophy compared to prior head man Ed Orgeron, while nearly 25% of their teammates and 2021 coaches exited amid Kelly's transition, it's a major sense of pride to see so many Tigers excel in 2022....in fact, we were forced to leave off 3 Tigers who could've easily fit on this list.
We will list those three when the top 10 countdown concludes....but for now, get into this, get yourself relaxed, drink something warm, eat something good, jive on our vibe and dive into the ultimate 2022 breakdown:
#1 JAYDEN DANIELS
2,913 Passing Yards
17 TD Passes
1,079 Rushing Yards
-678 After Contact
11 Rushing TDs
-54 Missed Tackles Forced
-45 Runs of 10+ Yards
-59 First Down Rushes
It is simply astounding how Jayden Daniels remained poised throughout such a testing, triumphant and at times turbulent debut season at his new school, arriving in early 2022 through the transfer portal smack dab in the middle of a raging political war over LSU's quarterback position.
The Southern California native traded Arizona State for LSU on the back of ASU's athletic department scandal quelling roster unrest, symbolized by the shocking scenes where former teammates trashed Daniels' locker before his departure.
But when he arrived in Baton Rouge, his first season in the SEC wearing the purple and gold, never-ending debate about his qualities or lack thereof, and plenty of division within the fanbase concerning LSU's quarterback job followed his every move....from then until this very day.
Once LSU experienced the high profile departures of Myles Brennan (and later 5 star freshman Walker Howard), in large part due to Brian Kelly's unwavering belief in Daniels, the Arizona State transfer seized control of LSU's offense, pulling off undeniable clutch plays throughout the year, incredibly knocking off a host of power programs en route to winning the SEC West.
Daniels put on a clinic with his rushing abilities, navigating through defenses like a speed merchant, while showing plenty of toughness and strength as he absorbed a ridiculous number of hits, pressures and sacks behind a young, inexperienced and at times injured offensive line.
While he left much to be desired when throwing the football, or simply choosing not to throw it, Daniels still made enough elite level passes to deliver a slew of impressive victories:
As LSU's starter, Daniels pulled off big time wins on the road at Auburn & Florida (becoming the first LSU team in history to win on the road in both Auburn & Gainesville during the same season), before taking down top 10 ranked Alabama & Ole Miss.
Daniels wasn't without his faults, missing wide open receivers in space down the field, opting instead for "easier" gains via his feverish, at times unstoppable pace in the open field.
When Daniels could only muster 80 and 86 yards passing vs Auburn & Arkansas (games LSU won largely due to their defense), he left his receiving corps and LSU's tribalist fanbase frustrated, some factions calling for change.
Inside the locker room, Head Coach Brian Kelly remained steadfast in defense of his quarterback, understanding Jayden had limitations alongside the undeniable fact he was by far and away LSU's best chance to win.
The results speak for themselves:
Daniels led LSU to 4 incredible comebacks down 10+ points (3 ending in victories), was immaculate vs Ole Miss, Florida and Alabama, threw the ball for nearly 300 yards in a single half (while dealing with an ankle injury) vs Georgia, rushed for over 84 yards against 6 teams (A&M, Alabama, Ole Miss, Miss State, UAB and Florida State), eclipsing 100 yards on 3 occasions as he burned SEC and non conference opponents to a crisp.....leaving their ashes floating in suspended animation.
What Jayden Daniels was able to do with his legs reminded me of what Allen Iverson did with a basketball....carrying the team on his back as he flew full throttle, head-first into the ethereal unknown, dancing out of the grasp of defenders, spinning away from sacks, hitting ultimate elevation when he turned on the afterburners, accelerating at a ridiculous, 25 mph on field pace.
While he was as athletic as any quarterback has ever been at LSU, his heart and perseverance through utmost adversity still belies belief:
In the eyes of many loud-mouthed fans on social media or message boards, Daniels was the scapegoat for losses to Florida State and Tennessee, despite leading a 4th quarter, last second comeback in Week 1 with an untimed down touchdown pass to Jaray Jenkins, only to be let down by an unthinkable blocked extra point...but after LSU were throttled by Tennessee at home, Daniels' 300 yard game did little to calm the political firestorm surrounding LSU's quarterback position.
Forgetting the comebacks vs FSU, Auburn, Miss State or his ratings landing him squarely at or near the top of the SEC in passing, rushing and overall quarterback efficiency, the missed reads were glaring for all to see.
At the same time, LSU's receiving corps dropped 22 on target passes from Daniels, an alarming number that points to why there may have been a lack of trust.
Regardless of LSU's obvious need for passing game improvement, ahead of the Florida game, Head Coach Brian Kelly publicly reiterated his confidence in Daniels and was paid off by an insatiable, glory-bound outing by his quarterback.
Daniels sliced and diced the Gators for 393 total yards and 6 touchdowns, 3 through the air and 3 on the ground.
Suddenly, with a pair of top 10 opponents (Ole Miss and Alabama) coming to town, things were looking up offensively right on cue.
Yet the criticism didn't stop until after Daniels melted both Rebels and Tide defenders for a historic duo of performances, 646 total yards, 8 combined TDs capped off by an unforgettable 4th quarter / overtime against Saban's Alabama, sealing the Tigers' SEC West crown, stamping a big exclamation mark on Brian Kelly's new era at LSU, and paving the way for the Tigers' improbable 10 win campaign).
Truth be told, QB politics, favorites, passing prowess, and unrealistic expectations aside, without Jayden Daniels in 2022, LSU would've been adrift.
Fronted by a young, injured, and inexperienced offensive line shuffling personnel for much of the year, Daniels' instinctive, evasive rushing abilities proved invaluable: keeping drives alive, saving himself from taking repeated nasty hits in the pocket, continuously moving the chains (183 total first downs earned), while showcasing a finishing touch inside the red zone.
Despite his unparalleled escapability, Daniels was still sacked 45 times, forced into 70 official scramble attempts, while pressured on an outrageous 146 plays.
That line is clear for all to digest....without Daniels' legs, Brian Kelly's 2022 debut campaign would have been very different.
Another facet of Daniels' brilliance in 2022?
The art of sustaining long drives.
Not only using his legs, the former Arizona State transfer completed 37 third down conversions through the air, leading LSU on 35 touchdown drives of 70+ yards.
To illustrate, the Tigers' lead-taking drive against Mississippi State featured a trio of 3rd down completion conversions as well as another on 4th down, all caught by 2023's #1 WR Malik Nabers.
5 games of 40+ points....leading routine, spirited comebacks, giving LSU a chance to compete for a College Football Playoff spot alongside a trip to the SEC Championship Game.....in 2022, with the roster situation & massive transition phase LSU were experiencing, the weight of Daniels' contributions cannot be overstated.
Outside of Joe Burrow's 2019, can you name a more electrifying season from an LSU quarterback???
2022 Jayden Daniels wasn't just impressive....he produced historic results at a time when LSU football desperately needed a steady hand when the shit hit the fan.
Within the first Saturday of his career wearing purple and gold, Jayden proved he had the minerals to lead LSU through the storm, not just the offense or the locker room...but the program itself, showing what is capable in a Tigers uniform for young quarterbacks like himself.
Returning for a second and final collegiate season this fall, Daniels is poised to compete for everything on the shelf....from a Heisman to a National Championship.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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