Entering the season, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels was deemed by many as a potential Heisman Trophy frontrunner and the best quarterback in the SEC over the likes of Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson, Mississippi State’s Will Rogers and Kentucky’s Devin Leary.
No doubt, the hype around Daniels was bolstered by LSU winning the SEC West last season thanks to a star turn in LSU’s 1-point win over then No. 5 Alabama on November 5. Not even two month later, Daniels led the Tigers to a 56-point annihilation of Purdue in the Citrus Bowl.
Still, former Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner had seen enough of the young leader in the intervening weeks to firmly reject all the hoopla around Jayden Daniels entering the season.
Doubting Jayden Daniels
On November 12, Stoerner’s doubt went to the next level when he watched Daniels from the sideline at the LSU vs Arkansas football game at Razorback Stadium.
“He was a non-factor,” Stoerner recalled on The Buzz 103.7 FM’s The Zone. “I mean, if the [Harold] Perkins kid hadn’t stepped up, he’d probably be the best player in college football at that point in time, they don’t win that ball game. They lose to an Arkansas football team that was reeling and had a terrible defense [especially passing defense] at that point in time.”
Indeed, even though LSU won by 3 points, Daniels had the worst game of his 5-year career so far. He completed only 8 of 15 passes along with an interception for a measly 10.1 QB rating.
Over the course of the next three games, he was also in check in losses to Texas A&M and Georgia.
It was enough for Stoerner, who now works as an NFL/college football analyst in the Houston area, to consider Daniels a net minus all things being equal.
“When there is a level playing field, when you got the same type of dudes across the field and it’s an even match, I think if Jayden Daniels in a position to be the difference, I think they’re going to lose more of those games than they win,” he told The Zone co-hosts Justin Acri and Wess Moore before the 2023 season opener.
“I think [Garrett Nussmeier] is a better quarterback for the LSU football team,” he added, referring to LSU’s backup quarterback.
LSU Football Gets Its Chance
In the season opener, Jaylen Daniels and LSU had a chance to make a big statement against a team that appeared to be its equal in terms of overall talent.
An offensive drought in the second half, however, led to a 45-24 loss at the hands of Florida State in Tallahassee.
While Daniels did pass for 347 yards, throwing for a lone touchdown alongside an interception simply wasn’t good enough.
“Everything falls on me….. Being the leader and the quarterback of the team, I’ve got to get the guys going. I’ve got to set the urgency. I’ve got to set the tempo,” Daniels said afterward. “I’ve got to go back to the drawing board as a leader and see what can I do better to get this team more prepared on a day-to-day basis.”
The big problem here is Jayden Daniels is now in his fifth season of going to the drawing board and it appears he’s failed to learn some critical lessons. Namely, how to consistenly make the right decisions when going through his pass progressions.
That cost LSU football big time in the first half when the Tigers failed to convert two fourth-down attempts.
Take the end of the opening drive, for instance. On third down, just a few yards from pay dirt, Daniels went through his progressions and decided to opt for an extremely tight window in the back of the end zone instead of passing to an open Malik Nabers as he slanted into the front of the end zone.
He did complete the pass, but the receiver was out of bounds.
“You throw this slant, it’s a touchdown on the first drive, this whole game goes different,” says the creator of DaBoot Tragedies below. “You can’t come off this first option that quick, especially when it’s a slow developing play like that.”
On fourth down, Daniels again failed to fire it off to the open target – this time Kyren Lacy.
Let’s just face it, they are running man to man” defense, says Mr. DaBoot. “You just have to pick somebody and let the damn ball go. Once again, this is on Jayden Daniels.”
Jayden Daniels Takeaway
If a senior in his fifth season and second school isn’t yet making the right decisions off his reads, when exactly will he start?
At this point, such an improvement seems highly unlikely. Stoerner does know that Daniels is an elite running threat when plays break down, but he just hasn’t seen enough progress over the last six games for him to consider buying stock in the dual-threat Tiger.
Against Florida State, “their best play was him taking off and running off script, off schedule, and then taking an absolute beating on the back end of it. And you’re not going to stay healthy, you’re not going to consistently win games, you’re not going to put a consistent offensive product on the football field if that’s the case.”
Razorback fans sure wouldn’t mind. Arkansas and LSU go at it in three weeks in Baton Rouge.
The last time Arkansas played there, it eked out a 3-point win over a Tigers squad led by Garrett Nussmeier. Don’t bet on Nussmeier getting the majority of snaps again, but if Daniels plays like he did last year against the Hogs or even like he did against FSU, this year’s Arkansas vs LSU game may leave no doubt as to who really is the SEC’s best quarterback.
Hear more of Stoerner’s take on Jayden Daniels at 11:37 below:
More on Jayden Daniels and KJ Jefferson:
More on LSU football from Arkansan Carter Bryant here: