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Grading Jayden Daniels' First SEC Start

Daniels showed his elite athleticism at times, confidence never wavered despite sluggish start
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Jayden Daniels’ first SEC start may not have began as planned, but the seasoned signal-caller put it all together in the second half to get things right. Daniels, the heartbeat of this squad, earned the game ball Saturday night after leading LSU to a crucial conference win over Mississippi State.

Yes, it may not have been perfect, but the Arizona State transfer didn’t allow his early struggles to waver his confidence.

We took a dive into Daniels’ first conference showdown in Death Valley:

Athleticism

It’s safe to say Daniels has wheels. When in space, he’s just about as athletic as anyone in the SEC and he proved that against Mississippi State Saturday night. When the Tigers were in dire need of a score before halftime, Daniels ran the two-minute drill to perfection to shift the momentum LSU’s way.

That drive not only showed his calm, cool demeanor to keep this offense in check, but he also gave the Bulldogs’ defense fits. Using his legs to keep the chains moving while also connecting with his receivers had the Mississippi State defense all over the place.

READ MORE: Jayden Daniels, Malik Nabers Show Promising Duo in First SEC Matchup  

His athleticism was on full display, but the offensive line Saturday night was a huge piece to Daniels’ success. With more time in the pocket in the second half, it allowed Daniels to get the ball to his playmakers, specifically Malik Nabers, but even when his receivers couldn’t get open, their blocking allowed him to use his legs to extend drives.

Missed Opportunities

It wasn’t a flawless showing by any means and Daniels will be the first one to tell you that. Yes, he made exceptional plays and showcased his dynamic game, but missed throws in the red zone resulted in LSU settling for a field goal.

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With a few passes behind his defenders, it certainly caused some drives to stall, but gaining more continuity with his receivers in an in-game situation is a piece that will improve as time goes on in conference play.

READ MORE: Grading Jayden Daniels' First Start for LSU

Specifically on a third-and-long situation, Daniels had both Nabers and Kayshon Boutte open, but elected to tuck it and run, resulting in a lost drive. His athleticism at times can be his worst nightmare, but it’s all correctable things for the seasoned quarterback as he continues getting more acclimated with both the new system and different level of competition.

Never Rattled

Daniels’ poise is a piece of his game that Brian Kelly has harped on since the day he arrived on campus. Whether it’s a one-score game or winning is out of reach, Daniels never allows his confidence to waver, and it showed in the second half Saturday night.

Heading into the fourth quarter, LSU was 0-for-8 on third-down attempts. That number shifted significantly in the final frame where Daniels led the Tigers to go 6-for-7 on their attempts while holding the ball for over 11 minutes to seal the victory.

READ MORE: Jay Ward Named SEC Defensive Player of the Week 

We’ve seen Daniels lead this team in two-minute drills, specifically against Florida State before the missed extra point, and he did the same against Mississippi State. Closing the game on a 31-3 run, with help from his defense, the veteran quarterback turned things around in the second half to earn his first SEC victory.

Final Thoughts

It wasn’t a perfect showing by any means. There were times where Daniels held the ball too long in the pocket or made the wrong read, but rebounding from his mistakes is what has made him so effective.

As conference play ramps up, continuing to be safe with the football while keeping his eyes down field is what will have him see more success. Only three games in, LSU fans have gotten a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly, but in-game adjustments by both Daniels and this LSU coaching staff has put this team in a good place as the schedule heats up.