When JT Daniels announced that he'd be transferring to West Virginia, Mountaineer fans were immediately excited, and understandably so. After all, Daniels was a former 5-star #1 overall recruit who'd won all of his starts at Georgia, and even though we aren't quite Georgia, the last time we had a QB transfer in with that type of pedigree (Willie G) it worked out pretty well. It was about the time that we'd started asking ourselves what getting Daniels actually meant for us that word started to trickle out about why he'd picked us over Missouri and Oregon State, and we first heard about that "analytics dude" from JT's dad:
"He felt there was plenty of talent there to win. They took him in, they have this analytics dude. They have all these ratings for all the players. They said that JT comes in and is among the best QBs in the Big 12. It takes them from roughly 6 wins to 10 wins at minimum. That was big. He wants to win a championship and now they know the Big 12 title is now attainable."
That quote took Mountaineer Nation from six to midnight and sent the hype train careening down the tracks. 10 wins? Big 12 title?? Attainable?!? It was a lot to process with the aftertaste of Ahkeem Mesidor's transfer still lingering. Is it actually possible? Only time will tell, but with Daniels' signing "officially" announced earlier this week I figured it was the perfect time to take a closer look at what it is that Daniels does that supposedly makes us a Big 12 Contender.
JT the Passer
Let's start with a quick look at some raw numbers:
On the surface things look solid. He took the statistical step forward you'd hope for after a productive but not overly efficient true freshman campaign, and then completed 69.5% of his passes at 9.1 yards per pop with a 17:5 touchdown to interception ratio across 10 games and 2 seasons at Georgia. Hard to poke too many holes there, so let's go a bit deeper:
The things that jump out here are Daniels' willingness to push the ball down the field (almost 1 out of every 5 attempts travels more than 20 yards) and his efficiency when he does so, especially during the two years at Georgia. Those 10-20 yard throws in particular are some of the most difficult to complete, so the fact that Daniels was able to connect on 71% of them (34/48) against SEC defensive backs (yea, yea, I know) tells me that the guy has some pretty high-level timing and accuracy. On paper those traits should align nicely with what Graham Harrell's offense will require of him. One other throwaway observation here is that Daniels appears to favor the right side of the field over the left, which feels worth noting in light of Wyatt Milum's move to left tackle - with Milum protecting his blind side Daniels should feel extra comfortable stepping into those throws.
The one spot of concern for Daniels in the passing game, and apologies if this triggers anybody, is his performance against pressure. The dropoff isn't quite as significant as you know who, but even in his best season against pressure Daniels still only graded out in the middle of the pack in P5. I'm not saying that it's going be the same debilitating issue that it's been over the past two seasons, but if there's one red flag to keep an eye on this year this is it. Speaking of which...
JT the Runner
This is where things get interesting. There’s been a bunch of talk this spring about the three quarterbacks on campus all being athletic enough to start integrating that position a bit more into the running game, and that held true in the spring game with both Will Crowder and especially Nicco Marchiol showing off some impressive mobility. All of that goes away with Daniels, whose legs weren't much of a threat even before he tore his ACL in 2019. PFF reports just one forced missed tackle in 4 years, and overall Daniels has just 10 designed runs and 11 scrambles to his name, with all but 5 of those attempts coming in 2018 before his injury. The concern here again is basically what we've been subjected to for the last two seasons - play calls involving QB run options rendered ineffective, and increased pressure on the offensive line to keep defenders away from a QB who may not be able to consistently buy his own time.
So can JT really win us 10?
Here's how I'm looking at it. Shortcomings aside, Daniels is definitely the best quarterback we've had here in the Neal Brown era, and with the number of guys we have returning the question we have to ask ourselves is relatively simple - was last year's squad a good QB away from winning 9 or 10 games? I would argue yes. Maryland, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech were all right there for the taking in spite of poor quarterback play, so why wouldn't 10 wins be on the table this year with JT at the wheel?