MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – “A very catchable deep ball.”
That sentence was used by both offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton when asked about JT Daniels’s biggest strength. Daniels was officially announced as West Virginia’s week one starting quarterback on Monday.
“He puts it in a place where you have a chance to make a play on it every time,” Ford-Wheaton said.
The Georgia transfer arrived in Morgantown in May. Ford-Wheaton said he and the other WVU receivers “cut their May break short” to come back and start catching passes from Daniels.
As Harrell noted, the ability to throw the deep ball is something plenty of quarterbacks have. What separates Daniels from the rest is his accuracy in a short amount of time of working with a new set of pass catchers.
“That’s a throw that can take reps to get used to with new receivers but he’s done a good job with that. I think he has a knack for it,” Harrell said. “He does a good job of putting the right amount of air on it and putting it in a position where his guys can catch it.
An accurate deep ball is just one way Daniels set himself apart from the other three competitors this preseason. Just ask a Mountaineer who tries his best every practice to break up those deep passes.
”He’s very accurate. He can squeeze the ball in 50-60 yards downfield between two opponents,” cornerback Charles Woods said.
His decision-making, ability to not get rattled in adverse situations and his experience as a collegiate starter all played a part in earning him the starting spot. He’s started 21 games between his stops at USC and Georgia.
“If you look at his career, he’s had some really high highs and some really low lows. I think when he arrived here, he arrived as a really mature player and one that is really hungry. I think he fits the rest of the team, too, because we have a lot of hungry guys that are eager to prove,” head coach Neal Brown said.
“He’s prepared with a chip on his shoulder. I like where he is mentally and physically heading into this opener.”
Comfort and consistency are two things Daniels has built over the past few weeks. Having Harrell as the play caller in Morgantown surely has helped with both.
Harrell was the OC at USC during Daniels’s second season with the program. They had the spring season, fall camp, and just one half of an actual game together before Daniels suffered a season-ending injury.
It may have just been a few months of familiarity, but Harrell said Daniels hasn’t changed much from what he remembers.
He’s just as “stoic” and “intelligent” as he was when they first crossed paths.
“We had a big half together before he went down, hopefully, we can reproduce it,” Harrell said.
Brown said that the backup quarterback is still to be determined and will likely be a game-by-game decision. Garrett Greene held that spot last year.
“Garrett played in every game last year. Some he played in more. There were stretches in the middle of the season he played quite a bit. He’s a really good athlete but I think going into each game is going to be a little different for him,” Browns said. “The flow of the game will determine that, as well.”
Daniels earned his spot as the week one starter with every preseason rep. His reaction to all the game can throw at a player at that position has already “set the standard” for the WVU offense.