Written by Chris Kubala
We’re closing in on the proposed start of the college football season. There’s just three months until the scheduled start to the season. While there is plenty of uncertainty going on regarding what schools will and won’t be ready to go, whether or not we’ll have fans in attendance and a slew of other things, there are plenty of stories to keep an eye on at this point in time. We’ve seen a lot go down in the transfer portal and seeing guys leave school to go to the NFL in an effort to further their careers. On Thursday, we saw another piece on the board change directions, and coasts, in an effort to jumpstart their career.
JT Daniels, former starting quarterback at USC, made the announcement Thursday that he was transferring to Georgia. He will have two years of eligibility left once he’s ready to play, whether he gets an approved waiver this season or not. That would merely affect when he would be able to take the field. With a waiver, he would be able to play in 2020, while without it, he would be out until 2021 at best.
It was time for a change for Daniels, who won the starting job as a freshman and put together a solid enough campaign. He completed 216 of 363 pass attempts for 2,672 yards with 14 touchdowns passes and 10 interceptions. The problem for USC was that the team sputtered, especially in close games. USC started the year 4-2 but dropped five of their final six games to end up 5-7 overall, 4-5 in the Pac-12. The Trojans were just 2-4 in games decided by seven points or less, including three straight one-possession losses to close the season, including defeats to lowly Cal and UCLA. That set the competition open again in the 2019 season for the Trojans’ starting QB role.
As it turned out, Daniels did enough to win the starting job again as a sophomore. Unfortunately, his success was short-lived. He lasted just about a half in the season opener before tearing his ACL and ending his season. Daniels was 25 of 34 for 215 yards with a touchdown and an interception before going down with his injury. In his stead, freshman Kedon Slovis stepped in and took over the job. He had success, hitting 282 of 392 passes for 3,502 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
With spring practice canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it likely was going to be an uphill climb for Daniels to compete for, much less win, his job back this season. Slovis proved to be an excellent game manager last season and led USC to an 8-5 record. While it didn’t set the world on fire, it was a step up from the 5-7 mark in 2018 that they had under Daniels. As a result, Daniels became the second quarterback to transfer from USC this offseason, joining Jack Sears. Daniels beat Sears out for the starting job in 2018 and, after playing second fiddle to Slovis after the Daniels injury, Sears made the decision to make the move to Boise State. That leaves Matt Fink and Mo Hasan, formerly of Vanderbilt, on the depth chart behind Slovis.
For Daniels, he likely wouldn’t get the starting job in 2020 even if he were to receive a waiver. Former Wake Forest signal caller Jamie Newman is coming to Athens as a grad transfer after throwing for 2,868 yards and 26 scores a season ago. In addition, Newman added 574 yards and six scores on the ground as well, helping the Demon Deacons to an 8-5 record, despite a 27-21 loss to Michigan State in the Pinstripe Bowl. Daniels would prove to be a solid transitional quarterback after Newman leaves, giving Kirby Smart time to get Daniels up to speed and acclimated to the system. That would set him up in 2021 for optimal success.
Is it the best decision for Daniels at this stage of his career? It’s hard to say. Obviously, he wasn’t going to get the chance to start at USC. Staying at a high-profile Power Five program is going to keep him in the minds of potential draftniks and gives him a chance to rejuvenate his career down the line. He’ll have an opportunity to make something of his once-promising career. That chance won’t come in the garnet and gold as he once expected but rather in the black and red in the rugged SEC.