Some people see Jayden Daniels‘ latest recognition as just the next step on the road to a Heisman Trophy.
Four days ago, Arizona State‘s sophomore quarterback was added to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, which is presented each year to the student-athlete who voters consider the most outstanding player in college football.
Two weeks ago, he was put on the watch list for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, the oldest and most prestigious national award for college quarterbacks.
Maybe dreams of a Heisman is getting ahead of the game, since the kid has just one season under his belt as a college quarterback. But that one season has raised a lot of eyebrows. He will be one of a select group of 30 athletes vying for the Davey O’Brien.
He didn’t commit to the Sun Devils until the end of his senior season at Cajon High School in San Bernadino, Calif. But once he got on board the Pac-12 program, he wasted no time taking command of the situation.
Daniels was one of four signal callers that were on coach Herm Edwards‘ short list during spring drills, but by the time fall camp opened he was the leading candidate for the starting job, which he got several weeks before the opener against Kent State.
And once on the field, the freshman looked like he’d been there all his life, calm and collected as he went about re-writing the school’s record books. He became the first true freshman to start a season opener for the Sun Devils, and just the third frosh to win his first career start. The 18-year-old dual quarterback completed 15 of his 24 passes for 284 yards against Kent State, and picked up one touchdown passing and another running.
He demolished the 19-year-old record for passing yards in a first career game, 160 yards, set by Jeff Krohn.
It seemed like he didn’t skip a beat in making the transition to college play from an impressive prep career when the 6’3″, 180-pound youngster posted 53 games as a starter at Cajon HS, finishing his four years with 14,007 yards passing and 3,645 yards rushing. He completed 66 percent of his pass attempts and set a state record as a junior when he piled up 6,431 yards of total offense.
A look at the stats from his college debut last season shows the promise Daniels holds for the future, and why Edwards is so high on his prospects after college. He finished the season with 2,943 yards passing, the 11th-most in school history, and 17 touchdowns while leading the Devils to a 5-0 start and overall 8-4 record.
And talk about composure for a freshman…he had just two interceptions all season. Those two picks are the fewest in school history by a quarterback throwing 300 or more passes.
His value really went through the roof as he led the Sun Devils to upset victories over three ranked teams, No. 6 Oregon, No. 15 California, and No. 18 Michigan State. They beat the Spartans, thanks to Daniels directing a game-winning drive in a game played in a hostile environment on the road. He looked like anything but a freshman, in just his third college start.
And now that he’s got a full season under his belt, he will be even more comfortable with his role as the face of the ASU football program. Big things will be expected of him in 2020.
Daniels has already been projected as an early-round draft selection. Along the way to the NFL, a Heisman would be a nice addition to his resume.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)