JT Daniels enters transfer portal: Five potential destinations as USC quarterback explores options

Quarterback JT Daniels immediately became the most intriguing name on the transfer market Thursday when USC announced that he had entered the transfer portal. Daniels began the 2019 season as USC’s starter before tearing both his ACL and meniscus in the season-opener against Fresno State. The injury opened the door for freshman Kedon Slovis to take the reins of the offense, and his success ultimately left Daniels’ role with the Trojans in doubt entering 2020.

Some of that doubt has been removed because while Daniels may decide to stay at USC, he’s going to be a popular person in the portal. Daniels is a former five-star recruit who was considered the No. 3 QB in the 2018 class. It’s important to remember, though, that the two players rated higher than him were Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Daniels was the kind of talent that would be the No. 1 QB recruit in a lot of classes, and he showed flashes of that ability as USC’s starter during the 2018 season, which should have been his senior season of high school (he reclassified and left school early).

So which teams would like to add a talent like that to their QB rooms? Plenty, but some make more sense than others, and these are five possible destinations that would make sense for both sides.

LSU: Ed Orgeron has done nothing but profess his confidence in Myles Brennan, the presumptive replacement for Joe Burrow in Baton Rouge. Brennan himself was a four-star recruit in the 2017 class who has bided his time behind Burrow the last two seasons. That didn’t stop LSU from at least sniffing around the transfer QB market earlier this offseason, but there weren’t any potential targets available with the ceiling of Daniels. Furthermore, Orgeron has a relationship with Daniels already as LSU was one of the many schools to offer Daniels a scholarship out of high school. I wouldn’t be surprised if LSU tries to recruit him to Death Valley one more time.

Michigan: Shea Patterson transferred to Michigan from Ole Miss and didn’t have to sit out a season. Could history repeat itself? With Patterson’s eligibility exhausted, Michigan enters 2020 with a quarterback battle between Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton. Michigan’s coaches are high on both, but Daniels has the potential to be an upgrade over each of the two options. Michigan was also one of the schools that recruited Daniels out of high school, and he seriously considered becoming a Wolverine before committing to USC. Maybe Michigan looks at Daniels and still sees him as the guy who can help get the Wolverines over the hump. The hump being Ohio State, of course.

Penn State: Speaking of teams having trouble getting past Ohio State, Daniels could be an exciting option for the Nittany Lions as well. My co-hosts and I on the Cover 3 Podcast have often talked about how we believe Penn State is a team that is a stud quarterback away from being a legitimate College Football Playoff contender, and Daniels could be that quarterback. Sean Clifford started 12 games for the Nittany Lions last season, and while he didn’t play poorly, he doesn’t have the overall skill set to match what Daniels could bring to Beaver Stadium.

Tennessee: Tennessee might not have been the first school that jumped to mind when you thought about where Daniels could end up, but it’s a move that wouldn’t be much of a surprise if it happened. Jarrett Guarantano enters the 2020 season as the likely starter in Knoxville, but it’s not like he has the spot on lockdown. He wasn’t able to build on the potential he showed in 2018 and regressed a bit last season. That leaves the possibility open for Daniels, who is already familiar with Tennessee assistant head coach Tee Martin, who was the co-offensive coordinator at USC during Daniels’ freshman season. That connection could help lure Daniels to Tennessee, where he could be the guy to help the Vols take that next step back to national relevance.

Washington: USC coach Clay Helton deserves a lot of credit and praise for the way he’s handling Daniels’ decision to enter the transfer portal. He’s putting the needs of his player before his own, and a lot of coaches have not shown a willingness to do the same in recent years. But you have to wonder if Helton could live to regret being so accommodating if Daniels stays in the Pac-12 and joins a program that could contend for a Pac-12 title opposite the Trojans. Washington is a program that fits that bill. Jimmy Lake enters his first season as coach with a vacancy at QB. Jacob Sirmon and Dylan Morris are competing for the job now, but adding Daniels to the mix would be an interesting move for the Huskies. Washington was also one of the teams recruiting Daniels out of high school, and Washington, like Michigan, was a school he seriously considered before choosing USC.

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