TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Arizona State has their quarterback.
Following Monday's practice, ASU head coach Herm Edwards announced that true freshman Jayden Daniels would start Aug. 29's season opener against Kent State.
"Jayden Daniels is the starting quarterback," Edwards said after Monday's practice. "It says a lot about him and his ability, right now, to do some things we feel real good about."
It will be the first time in Sun Devil history a true freshman quarterback started a season opener.
"Going in, I just wanted to play college football," Daniels said after the announcement. "I earned the starting spot. I'm grateful for the opportunity, and I'm ready to win football games."
Daniels won the four-man competition that began during spring practices in February. He was able to beat out redshirt junior Dillon Sterling-Cole and fellow true freshmen Joey Yellen and Ethan Long in the race to take over for three-year starter Manny Wilkins, now with the Green Bay Packers.
"He's special," said ASU offensive coordinator Rob Likens of Daniels.
Edwards also announced that Yellen will be the No. 2 quarterback ahead of Sterling-Cole, who is battling a shoulder issue.
Since signing with the Sun Devils in December, many around the program had viewed the highly-touted Daniels as the favorite to win the job. His performance on the practice field did not disappoint.
"I think that he sees the field as a passer," Likens said. "He’s beyond his years. He sees the field like a junior. It’s really amazing. And then on top, he’s a passing quarterback. He is a legit drop back passing quarterback."
As an early enrollee—along with Yellen and Long—Daniels impressed during spring practices with his consistency, poise, ability to avoid mistakes.
"You saw flashes of his greatness in the spring," Likens said, "but you wanted to see how he did in the summer."
After a spring and summer spent in the weight room added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame (he's now listed at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds), his diligent study habits helped further his command of the ASU offense.
"He manages the game really well," Edwards said. "He doesn't make a lot of bad throws. He doesn't turn the ball over. He has a lot of poise."
His growth over the summer was also evident to his teammates.
"He came in nervous, like every freshman," said junior wide receiver Frank Darby. "He didn’t want to mess up, and he’s going against three other quarterbacks. I think he had to find the little things other quarterbacks couldn’t do. He did that. He was always making good passes. I’ve never seen a wobbly ball come out of his hand. This boy is sharp! I’m really looking forward to what he’s going to do this years with us.”
“He’s poised," said senior wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. "He has a great arm and can make every throw. I love being on the field with him.”
During the first half of fall camp, Daniels received the majority of the first team reps during scrimmage sessions. By the end of the first week of fall camp, it was clear to Likes that Daniels was his man.
“He doesn’t put the ball in jeopardy and he sees the field," Likens said. "For his age, he hasn’t had a lot of experience like in college football except for spring practice. His ability to make quick decisions with the speed that’s going on around him and his ability to adjust from the high school speed to the college speed was, I’ve never seen that before. So it’s pretty amazing."
A consensus four-star recruit, Daniels was among the nation's elite quarterback prospects in the 2019 class. Both Rivals and 247 ranked Daniels as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the class, and each service had him rated among the nation's top 60 players, regardless of position. His production at Cajon High School was off the charts, as he threw for 14,007 yards and 170 touchdowns and added 3,645 yards and 41 scores rushing.
Those lofty accomplishments helped fuel fan expectations throughout the competition, and Daniels' coaches are making sure to keep things in check.
"He's not the savior," Edwards said. "He's a freshman quarterback like all freshman are. He's going to do a lot of good things, and sometimes, he's going to make some errors. That's part of it."
"I see some of the things he can do," said Likens. "We can't put too many expectations on him and think he's the savior. He might be in two years, I don't know. But we cant put that on him right now."
Throughout camp, Likens has had Daniels focus on making short, high-percentage throws to get the ball to the skill position players as quickly as possible. Over time, as he becomes more experienced, the longer shots downfield should become more frequent, but for now, Likens will ease his quarterback along.
"I'm not here to do a lot," Daniels said. "That's not what they're trying to put on my plate. Just go out there and help the team win. Make the right reads and get the playmakers the ball."
While there is concern about any true freshman taking over an offense, Daniels already has earned the confidence of his peers.
"That true freshman thing, that don’t mean nothing," Darby said. "He’s tough. He’s ready. He’s just going to show y’all”
Now officially holding the reins, Daniels will continue preparing for ASU's season opener on Aug. 29.
"As a freshman, I'm going to have butterflies," Daniels said of that initial game. "But once that first snap goes, the nerves calm down. I'll just go out there and play."