This weekend, quarterback Jayden Daniels will observe the one-year anniversary of his tour of Utah’s campus. The visit seemingly went perfectly from the Utes’ perspective as they impressed Daniels with their offensive performance in a convincing win over USC in mid-October.
Two months later, though, Daniels signed with Arizona State. His reunion with No. 13 Utah’s football program will come Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in a meeting of top 20 teams.
“For a true freshman, he’s doing an exceptional job of running the offense,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday during his weekly news conference.
Utah's coaching staff, then with Troy Taylor as offensive coordinator, liked Daniels' passing and running ability in high school in San Bernardino, Calif. The Utes targeted him as their preferred quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class and didn't end up taking another player at the position.
NO. 17 ARIZONA STATE AT NO. 13 UTAH
Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
If he had chosen Utah, Daniels may have redshirted this season or played occasionally as a backup to senior Tyler Huntley, and then competed for the starting job in 2020. By going to ASU, he accelerated that timetable. Daniels has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 1,610 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception for the No. 17 Sun Devils (5-1). He has rushed for 198 yards and two scores, including a 17-yard scramble for the winning touchdown in Saturday’s 38-34 defeat of Washington State.
Daniels also led a winning drive at Michigan State in September. He will face a Ute defense that has shut down two capable quarterbacks, Washington State’s Anthony Gordon and Oregon State’s Jake Luton, in the past two games.
WSU scored a touchdown late in the first quarter of a 38-13 loss at Utah. From that point, the Utes went nearly seven quarters without allowing a touchdown, until OSU scored in the last minute of a 52-7 defeat Saturday in Corvallis, Ore.
So the Utes and their fans are used to a big buildup of opponents who ended up struggling against Utah’s defense — although USC’s trio of receivers did live up to the advertising. In any case, ASU has succeeded in replacing quarterback Manny Wilkins and receiver N’Keal Harry, who led an offense that scored 30-plus points against Utah in victories in 2017 and ’18, and will create some challenges for the Utes.
ASU’s Brandon Aiyuk caught seven passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns against Washington State, becoming the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, and Daniels has posted three 300-yard passing games.
In recruiting Daniels, “We thought we had a pretty good chance, up until we didn’t,” Whittingham said. “It was disappointing, but he chose what he thought was the best fit, and it’s working out for him.”
Daniels committed to ASU shortly before Taylor became Sacramento State's head coach. Andy Ludwig replaced Taylor at Utah and has teamed well with Huntley, who's performing as one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and beyond. Huntley has passed for 1,393 yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions, while completing 75.6 percent of his passes.
Daniels’ visit to Utah last October came right after quarterback Jack Tuttle left the Ute program, eventually transferring to Indiana. Cameron Rising transferred from Texas to Utah in January and, by NCAA rule, is sitting out this season. Rising will compete for Huntley’s vacated job in 2020, when Jason Shelley will be a junior and Drew Lisk will be a senior.
The Utes have a commitment in the Class of 2020 from Katravis Marsh, a quarterback from the Miami area.
UTE BASKETBALL EVENT
Utah’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will stage the Night with the Utes on Tuesday at the Huntsman Center. The event includes a 5:30 p.m. autograph session, followed at 7 p.m. by a 3-point shooting competition and a scrimmage for each team. Admission is free.