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ASU Football: Jayden Daniels named starting quarterback

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The man under center is official

Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

The whispers came true on Monday night. Head coach Herm Edwards decided to end the speculation about the quarterback battle. Freshman Jayden Daniels will be the starting play-caller for ASU’s season opener on Aug. 29 against Kent State.

Here is the video of Edwards’ announcement:

Daniels will be the first true freshman quarterback to start a Sun Devil season-opener. The former four-star recruit was ASU’s highest ever at the position, and since he’s put on Maroon and Gold, he’s left no doubt that he can run with the opportunity.

“Jayden Daniels is the starting quarterback. That says a lot about him and his ability right now to do some things that we feel really good about,” Edwards said. “When you think about the history of ASU, he’s the first freshman to ever start. That says a lot about him.”

When the Sun Devils made a late push for Daniels in his recruitment, many believed he was headed to Utah. Instead, he signed with ASU because he knew he had the chance to play early on in his career. For a guy who set records in California, he knew he had to earn it when he arrived in Tempe in the spring.

True to his word about playing young players, Edwards gave the nod to the young man from San Bernardino. Going back to the beginning of fall camp, it appeared the head coach hinted at what was to come through this quote:

“It’s no different in pro football. I used to tell veterans who had been around four or five years, and I’d ask them to take the hat of a coach. I said, ‘If you were the coach and I told you that you have a rookie coming in with no experience and you are a five-year veteran, and it’s even in training camp, what would you do? What’s the logical thing to do?’ He’d say, ‘Well coach, if it’s even, I’d probably play the young guy,’ ” said Edwards detailing the exemplary anecdote.

“Don’t make it even. It should not be even. If you are a senior or a junior, and a freshman comes in here with probably 20 practices, and it’s even...Somebody has got a problem, and it ain’t the freshman.”

Sure enough, the younger player in Daniels has sealed the starting job at this juncture in the season. It’s a role he is excited to take on, and that he has been working towards since the moment he arrived on campus in the spring.

“The mindset that I brought into it is to come out and compete no matter what,” Daniels said. “No matter where I went in the country, it’s all about competition and that was the mindset.”

As for Daniels’ intangibles, the reason for his ability to be No. 1 came from his ability to manage the game. Hardly ever through fall camp has he made a risky throw, and the coaches had nothing but high praise, putting him in the limelight as someone who plays wise beyond his years.

Offensive coordinator Rob Likens noted the separation gap between Daniels and his counterparts came early on in the first few days of camp.

“One of the things that you have to look at is, ‘What does the offense do while he is in the game?’ We watched, and he moves the ball while he is in there,” Likens said. “Positive things happen...When he was in there, most of the time positive things happened to our offense.”

Listed at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, a lot of discussions have swirled about Daniels’ size at the Division I level as well, with possible concern lingering. Likens paid no mind to that, drawing a comparison of Daniels’ size to former Cal, and current Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff when Likens used to work as an assistant for the Golden Bears in 2013-14.

“Jared was kind of skinny his freshman year, and I was really worried about him making it through the season,” he said. “He made it...Jayden is very similar to his body stature, and one thing about the kid is he is shifty...I am not concerned about it.”

Through spring ball and early fall practices, Daniels beat out redshirt junior Dillon Sterling-Cole, who had the advantage of knowing the offense, and two high recruits, Joey Yellen and Ethan Long.

And with the announcement, the other question that came forth besides if Daniels will play well as a starter, is what happens to Yellen and Sterling-Cole? Long has already established he’ll play any position given the chance and the hearts of the ASU coaching staff have loved what they’ve seen from the first-year player from Oregon.

Sterling-Cole, who was out of Monday’s practice due to shoulder fatigue, was put in the No. 3 quarterback slot. Yellen is No. 2 on the depth chart for now. The placement of the three gunslingers created a tough part of the job for Likens, who had to share the news to each player over the last week.

“I’ve talked with every one of them and it was a tough day, with tough conversations,” Likens said. “But they are just amazing kids and they all took it as well as they could. They are all ASU Sun Devils for life. They all just want to play and they all want to be here.”

With the verdict, there’s something rare occurring in Tempe. Two freshman quarterbacks, one as a starter, and one as a backup.

“That’s my first time in 30 years,” said Likens of having two freshmen as No. 1 and 2.

For now, barring anything crazy, Daniels is the man running the offense for the Arizona State Sun Devils. If anything changes, it’ll be after Aug. 29. One thing is certain, however. Daniels is ready to go.

“As a freshman, I am going to have butterflies but once that first snap happens, and once that play is over, the nerves are going to calm down and I am just going to go out there and play,” Daniels said.

His coaches can’t wait to see what happens when the lights come on at Sun Devil Stadium, too.

“He doesn’t put the ball into jeopardy and he sees the field. Those were the two main things,” said Likens. “His ability to make quick decisions with the speed that’s going on around him and his speed from the high school to the college speed was-I’ve never seen it before. It was pretty amazing.”

Sun Devil fans, your new starting quarterback has arrived.