Daniels’ dominance demands change in Kelly’s approach

GUESS WHO?: As teammates applaud, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels gets the game ball from Tigers’ coach Brian Kelly after a spectacular performance Saturday against Florida. (Photo by GUS STARK, LSU Athletics)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – It has been Brian Kelly’s nature in his 34 seasons as a college head coach to not publicly lobby for one of his players to win the Heisman Trophy.

“I used to be low key about it,” said Kelly, LSU’s second-year head coach here Monday during his weekly in-season press conference previewing No. 15 Tigers (7-3) home game Saturday against Sun Belt Conference member Georgia State (6-4) Saturday at 7 p.m.

Until now. Because Kelly has never had a quarterback who has carried a football team with his arms and his legs for an entire season like LSU senior Jayden Daniels.

“It’s my responsibility when I have this opportunity in front of the media to talk about something that I haven’t seen happen in my three plus decades as a head football coach,” Kelly said, “somebody that has developed and has excelled at an elite level. He’s the most exciting football player individually in the country.”

Last Saturday night in LSU’s 52-35 victory over Florida, he broke the SEC single game total offense record with 606 yards including 372 passing yards and 3 TDs and 234 rushing yards and 2 TDs.  

He also became the first player in FBS (NCAA Division 1-A) history to pass for more than 350 yards and rush for more than 200 yards in a game. His rushing yards were the most ever by an SEC QB in a game.

After spending three days in concussion protocol after he was knocked out of the game the previous Saturday at Alabama, Daniels rebounded with the best individual performance ever witnessed in Tiger Stadium.   

He had TD runs of 95 and 51 yards, plus carries of 38 and 27 yards. He also completed passes of 52, 45, 44, 41, 38 and 37 yards (a fourth-quarter TD to Brian Thomas Jr.)   

Daniels won SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the fourth time this season after winning it once last year in his first season with the Tigers after transferring from Arizona State.   

He leads the nation in total offense (408.2), passing TDs (30) rushing yards by a QB (918) and pass efficiency (202. 12), and he’s No.2 in passing yards per game (316.4) and TDs accounted for (38).

Consider after his first five games as LSU’s starter last season, Daniels averaged just 10.3 yards per completion because of reluctance to throw downfield. His tendency was to make one read and if that receiver wasn’t open, he would bail from the pocket.   

This season, Daniels is averaging 16.2 yards per game. He has completed 57 passes for 20 yards or longer including 15 completions of 40 yards or longer.   

“I’d be hard pressed to think of a quarterback that has made the kind of leap that he has made to where now you’re looking at somebody that is clearly a front runner for the Heisman Trophy,” Kelly said. “I don’t know that I’ve had somebody make that kind of jump.  

“He has really improved throwing the deep ball with accuracy. His pocket progressions are equally as impressive in terms of his development.”  


LSU (7-3) vs. Georgia State (6-4), Tiger Stadium, Saturday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2) 

Last game for Georgia State: Lost at Appalachian State 42-14. 

Series record and last meeting: First game ever between LSU and Georgia State. 

Georgia State head coach: Shawn Elliott (41-47 in 8 seasons overall, 40-42 in seventh season at Georgia State) 


Appearance fee paid by LSU to Georgia State per game contract: $1.6 million and 400 complimentary tickets 

Early betting line: LSU favored by 31 points   

Number of Louisiana natives on Georgia State roster: 0 

Number of Georgia natives on LSU roster: 4 

Number of transfers on Georgia State roster from 4-year schools: 23 players from 19 schools including 7 players from 7 Power 5 Conference schools 


QB Darren Granger (176 of 271 for 1,986 passing yards, 14 TDs, 5 interceptions), RB Marcus Carroll (1,206 rushing yards, 12 TDs on 244 carries), WR Robert Lewis (52 catches for 727 receiving yards, 7 TDs), ILB Jontrey Hunter (79 tackles, 5½ TFL, 3 PBU, 2 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles), CB Gavin Pringle (34 tackles 4 TFL, 1½ sacks, 3 interceptions, 2 PBU), PK Liam Rickman (7 of 8 field goals (30 of 31 extra points), P Kade Loggins 48 for 41.9 ypp, 3 touchbacks, 11 fair catches, 13 punts inside the 20, 8 50 plus yards kicks), KO Braeden McAllister (34 for 63.4 ypko, 17 touchbacks), PR Jacari Carter (7 for 17 yards), KR Robert Lewis (8 for 163) 


  1. What famous rapper studied music management for a year at Georgia State?

         A. Eminem

         B. Ludacris

         C. Doug E. Not-So Fresh

         D. Puff Douggie

  1. Who was the first Georgia State player to play in the NFL?

         A. Will Rogers

         B. Wil Wonka

         C. Wil Lutz

         D. Calvin Klutz

  1. What former SEC head football coach served as Georgia State’s first HC when the program started in 2010?

         A. Terry Bowden

         B. Tommy Tuberville

         C. Jackie Sherrill

         D. Bill Curry

ANSWERS 1. B 2. C 3. D.

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com