Jayden Daniels and firsts will be paired together till his freshman campaign ends. Of course, many circled the visit to East Lansing as the test gauge for the level the Sun Devils are at. The outcome will have many factors as any game does, but for Arizona State to upset No. 18 Michigan State on Saturday, Daniels will need to showcase his playmaking ability.
Daniels doesn’t consider himself a freshman anymore, although in a tough environment it’s likely he’ll make freshman mistakes. The idea of his first time outside of Sun Devil Stadium is bigger to the outside noise than Daniels himself.
Noise will be a big factor, Spartan Stadium holds around 20,000 more people than the Sun Devils’ home. And most of that crowd won’t be wearing maroon and gold.
“It’s just a road game,” Daniels said. “I understand that it’s a big stadium, prestigious stadium, so it’s going to be loud there. But we know what we did here, and what we could do and what we could accomplish.”
Coaches constantly state the biggest transition for freshman from high school to collegiate play is adapting to the speed at the next level. Daniels believes he’s caught up the quickness after two games, that may be true, it may not. Kent State, a lower tier team in the MAC, and Sacramento State, a FCS foe, aren’t quite a Big Ten competitor.
To Daniels, it doesn’t matter who he and the Sun Devils have played, just who is better on the field the next game.
“It’s basically whose athletes are better,” he said. “I know what the receiver group could do. I just got to get them the ball, let them make plays...Michigan State has phenomenal athletes. Just go out there and see athlete for athlete and see them make plays.”
Arizona State’s highest rated quarterback signee is far from your typical idea of the superstar in high school. Humble might be an understatement to describe Daniels. Offensive coordinator Rob Likens runs through the story after Eno Benjamin’s 72-yard touchdown reception to put away the Sac State win.
“He gets on the phone and calls me up and I go, ‘What does he want?’ Likens said. “He said, ‘Hey coach,’ and I go, ‘Yeah?’’ He goes, ‘Man, that was a really good call,’ and I was like ‘Thanks, I appreciate it. And then he goes, ‘Ok, I just wanted to tell you that.’ He’s got that mindset. He doesn’t get rattled. The moment is not too big for him. He’s just so much fun to coach.”
Daniels is different. There’s a reason he earned the starting gig in Tempe. But can he be different against Michigan State? The last two times Michigan State has played significant time against true freshman quarterbacks, the defense has made them look bad.
In 2018, Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez completed less than half his 37 passing attempts for only 145 yards. Rutgers quarterback Johnathan Lewis took over at the position early in the 2017 matchup with the Spartans. He went 6-for-16 with a pair of interceptions and 98 yards, which 42 of them came from his lone touchdown pass.
Likens certainly has the confidence in Daniels to make the difference on the road.
“I love his attitude, his mentality. He never gets rattled,” Likens said. “You know, today we had a great talk after practice walking off the practice field. I thought maybe he was a little down. He was like, ‘coach, it’s a long season, man, we gotta just get better,’ you know, and I was like, hold on, who’s coaching who? Just like his mindset is amazing. He’s very mature. He has a realistic outlook on what’s going on and that’s what I love about him. That’s why he doesn’t panic because he has a great perception of what’s going on.”