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Where does Jayden Daniels stand among college football's best?

ASU's young quarterback has made a name for himself in Tempe

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ASU sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) looks to pass to graduate student wide receiver Frank Darby (84) in the first half against Florida State on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas.

For ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels, the moment it all clicked was during the biggest game of the season.

Oregon, then the No. 6 team in the nation, was in town and catching ASU amid a four-game losing streak. At (9-1) and (5-5) respectively, the Ducks hadn’t lost to a Pac-12 opponent all year while the Sun Devils had taken a hard tumble out of the AP Top 25 Poll.

The matchup — or mismatch in this case — was slated to be a primetime, nationally televised event. If lopsided enough, the defeat could have proved to be a damaging embarrassment to the team’s psyche.

Instead of falling to the Ducks, the Sun Devils found themselves on a roll; jumping out to a 24-7 lead in the fourth quarter. But after two quick Oregon touchdowns cut the lead to three, ASU needed to respond, and they did.

With less than four minutes remaining, the Sun Devils freshman gunslinger dropped back to pass on 3rd and 16 from his 19-yard line and found senior wideout Brandon Aiyuk open on the left sideline for an 81-yard touchdown. The throw was perfect, hitting Aiyuk in stride. 

Up 10 after the score, ASU pulled off the upset, winning by three over the Ducks — 31-28. 

Daniels finished the game with 408 passing yards and three touchdown throws. And in the process, out-dueling Ducks star senior quarterback Justin Herbert who finished the night with a pair of interceptions and 104 less passing yards.

It was the game where it all came together for Daniels. He had just defeated, and outplayed, a future top six NFL draft pick and his top 10 ranked team in front of the entire nation. For a freshman from San Bernardino, California, it can't get much better than that.

But the talent was always there.

"We named him first team quarterback for a reason — because we believe in him," former ASU offensive coordinator Rob Likens said in August.

Widely regarded as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the nation out of high school, Daniels’ decision to eventually sign with ASU came with plenty of pomp and circumstance. The California native became the first freshman quarterback in program history to be named starting quarterback as a true freshman in week one.

“He can make all the throws. He's obviously very athletic," ASU offensive coordinator Zak Hill said in February. "He throws the deep ball probably better than any quarterback that I've seen."

But as the year went on, the mistakes were seldom and the triumphs came in bunches. By the conclusion of his first season, Daniels had completed more than 50% of his passes in all but two games and no quarterback, who started in at least 9 games from a Power 5 conference, had fewer interceptions — he threw just two.

On a team level, Daniels helped lead ASU to a successful 8-5 season. All despite playing behind an offensive line that had been in constant flux throughout the season and the freshman's relative inexperience. 

His season wasn’t perfect, Daniels threw for just 25 total yards against Utah and struggled in his first bowl game against Florida State, but ASU fans couldn’t have asked for much more.

“He doesn't get flustered or anything, he just goes out and plays," former ASU center Cohl Cabral said of Daniels last September. "When he needs to he steps up."

Now heading into year two with the Sun Devils, Daniels stands as one of the most talented quarterbacks in the nation. Last week, Sporting News ranked Daniels as the No. 7 quarterback in the country returning to play in 2020, while 247Sports had him at No. 5 on their list. And with ASU potentially becoming a preseason top 25 team, it’s clear that Daniels’ name has begun to circulate as one of the top gunslingers in college football.

He may not be as accomplished as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence — who has lost just one game in his two-year college career — but Daniels has built himself a strong reputation. Among Power 5 conference quarterbacks returning for the 2020 season, Daniels finished fifth in passing yards per attempt, first in interceptions and 10th in passer rating in 2019.

Now, with a new offensive coordinator and some veteran additions to the offensive line, Daniels will lead a new-look offense that is deeper and reloaded with young talent.

Just more weapons for one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation.

Reach the reporter at and on Twitter @KokiRiley.

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