MORGANTOWN — The only negative WVU head coach Neal Brown had to say about quarterback JT Daniels’ debut with the Mountaineers last week at Pitt was some foul language in his postgame news conference at Acrisure Stadium.
“I loved the interview that he did after the game,” Brown said. “I can do without the language, but just talking about his teammates, his belief — I thought that was powerful stuff — but I thought he threw the ball really well.”
Daniels finished 23 of 40 for 214 yards and two touchdowns, and while Daniels did nothing but praise his teammates after the game, there were six dropped passes that may have accounted for about 100 yards. One of those drops was Bryce Ford-Wheaton’s in the closing minutes, which led to a pick-6 and go-ahead score for Pitt.
“If you take out those drops, you’re looking at one of those ‘Wow’ type games,” Brown said.
Daniels, now in his fifth season of college football at his third school, knows exactly what it takes to be a leader. His demeanor, which offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said hasn’t changed since they were together at USC in 2019, is even-keeled.
While Daniels agrees his performance was up to par with that the coaches thought he’d bring to the team when he transferred in, he knows there’s a few things that need to improve ahead of this week’s home-opener against Kansas.
“Going through it all, I was happy with it. Coach Graham was definitely very happy with it,” Daniels said. “Overall, as an offense, I was really happy with us. There was a few small things and I talked about it — execution is something you can clean up. In general, though, I think we did great up front, a lot of great things in the receiver room and a lot of great things in the running back room. All around I think we played a good game. There’s just a few small things to clean up and the score looks different if you clean them up.”
The reason Daniels is at his third school in four seasons is due to his injury history, losing his starting job because the backup performed well in Daniels’ absence. He admitted this summer his top goal was to simply stay healthy.
Against Pitt, Daniels was hit a bunch, including being sacked twice on WVU’s final possession, but he got right back up every time.
“One of the things I was most proud of was he played mostly tough,” Harrell said. “I like to define the word tough as overcoming adversity with great attitude and great effort. He did a great job of that, took some shots and kept playing. I’m sure he didn’t feel great but he kept playing, stood in there and overcame it.
“He never blinked, never shied away from a hit.”
And like Daniels has proven, this is a team effort. If he gets hit, it’s not all on his offensive line.
“You don’t realize. I’ve played a lot of football over the years and things move a little too fast,” Daniels said. “If I’m going through pre-snap and during snap recognition reads in the process of doing my job, I don’t even think about it. I never once found myself thinking I got to be ready to leave or ready to move.”