Quarterback JT Daniels’ meandering college career has turned into a country road.
Daniels told ESPN he was moving to West Virginia and called coach Neal Brown and informed him of the decision on Wednesday morning.
Daniels was the most notable player remaining in the NCAA transfer portal. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound quarterback was 7-0 as a starter the past two seasons at Georgia.
“Going up and down the list, I feel like they have some really, really good bits all over the place,” Daniels told ESPN in a phone interview. “That seems like a good fit for quarterback. I feel like there’s a really, really, really good team that I’m going to come into and do my bit to contribute.”
Daniels transferred to Georgia after playing the 2018 and 2019 seasons at USC. He’s a former ESPN 300 freshman from Mater Dei High School (Orange County, Calif.) — one of the most prolific quarterback incubators in the nation.
He chose West Virginia over Missouri and Oregon State after visiting all three in recent weeks. The confluence of a strong roster of five returning offensive linemen with 107 combined career starts, experienced players, and the impression left by Brown led Daniels to pick the Mountaineers.
The move to Morgantown also reunites Daniels with Graham Harrell, another big factor in his decision. Harrell is West Virginia’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Harrell rode Daniels as an offensive coordinator at USC in 2019.
Daniels said familiarity with the Air Raid system that Harrell ran at USC will help ease the transition, as the offense is essentially one he learned in 2019.
“It definitely helped knowing that Graham was getting into it and having a really good relationship with him,” Daniels said. “Knowing that I trust this offense and this system, and I believe in it. I also feel very comfortable with Coach Brown and the ideas he has and the way he runs a program. “
Daniels also liked Morgantown and said he felt comfortable there.
“I loved it,” he said. “It’s very Athens, which is a university city par excellence [and] where I really, really loved living.”
Daniels is a pure pocket passer who flashed at times during a college career that was undermined by injuries. He completed 69.5 percent of his passes and averaged 9.7 yards per attempt over two seasons at Georgia, which is the most of any Bulldogs quarterback with over 200 attempts.
After being named just the second true freshman quarterback in USC history to start an opener in 2018, Daniels made a promise by starting 11 games and throwing for 14 touchdowns.
From there, injuries defined his next three seasons. As a sophomore, an ACL injury sustained in Game 1 of 2019 cleared up this season and led to his move from USC to Georgia.
His recovery dragged into the 2020 season with the Bulldogs, preventing him from starting early this season. He started the last four games that year, including a Peach Bowl win over Cincinnati that included three fourth-quarter drives and 392 total passing yards.
Daniels entered 2021 as a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and a top NFL draft prospect. He started three games in Georgia’s 2021 championship season, including the season opener against Clemson. Both an oblique issue and a lat muscle injury plagued Daniels, who also won September starts against South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He only played one quarter against Vandy and left the game due to the late injury after starting 9 out of 10 assists.
Daniels stressed that he did not feel bitten by the injuries, saying he took “personal responsibility”.
“The #1 Thing [that I need to prove] is that I can stay healthy,” Daniels said. “If there’s one thing I haven’t proven, that’s it. I missed 35 games in three years.”
When he arrives in West Virginia, he will enter a quarterback competition defined by a lack of experience. None of the current quarterbacks have started a game for the Mountaineers.
Returning stock quarterbacks Garrett Greene and Will Crowder bring little experience, as they combined for 175 passing yards last season. Incoming freshman Nicco Marchiol is an ESPN 300 rookie in the Class of 2022. Jarret Doege, who started the last two seasons, transferred to Western Kentucky.
If Daniels wins the job, he’ll play behind an offensive line that includes all five returning starters. That includes center Zach Frazier, who is expected to be among the best in the country at his position, and tackle Wyatt Milum, who was considered one of the best freshman tackles in the country last season.
West Virginia has gone 6-7, 6-4 the past two seasons under Brown, and there’s potential for an experienced starter at quarterback to make a difference by helping the program turn the corner.
Daniels brings the most experience and the best skills to the group, and his arm talent could pair well with experienced returning receivers Sam James and Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who have combined for 2,676 career receiving yards.
“They’ve got a lot of talented guys,” Daniels said. “There’s no doubt about it. And they’ve been a [top-ranked] defense for the past five years. It’s a very good all-round team that I want to be part of.”
Daniels is in the process of completing his courses to graduate from Georgia and will be immediately eligible for WVU as a graduate transfer. He highlighted how much he enjoyed his experience with the program and winning the national title last season.
“I love Georgia and Georgia has always loved me since I’ve been here,” Daniels said. “It’s a really, really good and supportive fan base. I’m very, very grateful. I had no problem adjusting. I wouldn’t even consider it an adjustment. Everyone here has been good, honest and good.”
West Virginia opens the 2022 season at rival Pittsburgh on September 1. The game known as Backyard Brawl might have a Southern California flair, as former USC quarterback Kedon Slovis moved to Pittsburgh this offseason.