The winding collegiate career of quarterback JT Daniels has turned into a country road.
Daniels told ESPN that he was moving to West Virginia and that he called coach Neil Brown and informed him of the decision Wednesday morning.
Daniels was the most famous player left in the NCAA transfer gate. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound quarterback has gone 7-0 as a starter over the past two seasons in Georgia.
“Going up and down the list, I feel like they have very, very good pieces all over,” Daniels told ESPN in a phone interview. “I feel like a very suitable quarterback. I feel like there’s a really, really, really good team that I’m going to get into and do my part to contribute.”
Daniels moved to Georgia after playing the 2018 and 2019 seasons at the University of Southern California. He’s a former ESPN 300 recruit from Mater Dei High School (Orange County, California) – one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country.
West Virginia chose Missouri and Oregon after making visits to all three in recent weeks. The confluence of a strong complement of a five-man returning offensive line with 107 joint career starts, players with experience, skill and the impression Brown made led to the selection of the Daniels Mountaineers.
Moving to Morgantown also brings Daniels together with Graham Harrell, another important factor in his decision. Harrell is the new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for West Virginia. Harrell overlapped with Daniels as an offensive coordinator at USC in 2019.
Familiarity with the Air Raid system that Harrell ran at USC would help ease the transition, Daniels said, as the offense is essentially the one he learned back in 2019.
“It definitely helped knowing Graham got into her and having a really good relationship with him,” Daniels said. “Knowing that I trust that attack and that system, and I believe in it. I also feel really comfortable with Coach Brown and the ideas he has and the way he’s running the programme.”
Daniels also enjoyed Morgantown and said he feels comfortable there.
“I loved him,” he said. “It feels like Athens, a perfect university city [and] Which I really enjoyed living in.”
Daniels is a pure passerby who flashes at times during his college career that has been undermined by injuries. He completed 69.5% of his passes and averaged 9.7 yards per attempt over two Georgia seasons, the most of any Bulldog quarterback with over 200 attempts.
Named the second true new player in USC history to start a game opener in 2018, Daniels promised while starting 11 games and throwing 14 touchdowns.
From there, injuries defined his next three seasons. As a sophomore, he suffered an ACL injury in the 2019 opener that overshadowed that season and led to his transfer from USC to Georgia.
His recovery continued into the 2020 season with the Bulldogs, which prevented him from starting early that season. He started the last four games that year, including a Peach Bowl win over Cincinnati, which included three fourth-quarter scoring times and 392 total yards.
Daniels entered 2021 as the favorite to win the Heisman Cup and a prospect for the top-ranked NFL draft. He started three games during Georgia’s 2021 championship season, including the opening win against Clemson. A skewed problem and a hamstring injury left Daniels, who also won at the start of September against South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He only played a quarter against Vandy and left the match due to injury after starting 9 for 10 assists.
Daniels stressed that he does not feel bitten by the injuries, saying he bears “personal responsibility” for them.
Thing number 1 [that I need to prove] “I can stay healthy,” Daniels said. “If there’s one thing I haven’t proven it’s this. I’ve missed 35 games in three years.”
Upon arriving in West Virginia, he will enter a quarterback competition determined by lack of experience. None of the current midfielders have started for the Mountaineers.
The return of quarterback scholarships Garrett Green and Will Crowder brings little experience, as they collected 175 yards last season. Upcoming freshman Nicco Marchiol is the ESPN 300 recruit in the 2022 class. Jarrett Dougie, who has started the past two seasons, has moved to Western Kentucky.
If Daniels wins the job, he will play behind an offensive line showing the return of all five starters. That includes center back Zack Frazier, who has to be among the best in the country in his position, and tackles White Millum, who was considered one of the country’s top new players last season.
West Virginia have gone 6-7, 6-4 in the past two seasons under Brown, and there is potential for an experienced quarterback to make a difference in helping the program get past the corner.
Daniels brings the most experience and the best skill set to the group, and his arm talent can pair well with experienced returning receivers Sam James and Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who collected 2,676 yards.
“They guys have a lot of skill,” Daniels said. “There is no doubt. They have been [top-ranked] defense in the past five years. It’s a really great feeling and a whole team that I want to be a part of.”
Daniels is in the midst of finishing his Georgia graduate courses and will be eligible immediately at WVU as a transfer graduate. He stressed how much he enjoyed his experience as part of the program and winning the national title last season.
“I love Georgia and Georgia has always loved me since I’ve been here,” Daniels said. “It’s been a really good and supportive fan base. I’m very, very grateful. I had no issues adjusting. I wouldn’t consider it an adjustment. Everyone here has been such good, honest and good people.”
West Virginia opens the season in 2022 against rival Pittsburgh on September 1. A game known as Backyard Brawl can have a Southern California flair, as former USC quarterback Kedon Slaves moved to Pittsburgh this off season.