Time was running out for LSU on January 4, 2022, in the Tax Act Texas Bowl.
The shorthanded Tigers had looked like a team missing half its starters for most of the game against Kansas State, a solid program hungry for a bowl win against a marquee team, and there was little that could be done to change it as the Wildcats were up 42-14.
Jontre Kirklin, a wide receiver who played quarterback in high school, dropped back to pass and hit Chris Hilton for an 87-yard touchdown to cut the score to 42-20 as time expired.
It was a beautiful play, especially given how decimated LSU’s roster was, but it provided no answers for the Tigers’ future.
A thousand questions hung over the program’s head, and none seemed more important than the one posed by the fact that Kirklin was chucking bombs against K-State: Who would be LSU’s quarterback in Brian Kelly’s first season as head coach in Death Valley?
Fast-forward to March 6, and many of the questions surrounding the 2022 roster have been runoff like clouds in the Arizona sun.
The addition of QB Jayden Daniels from Arizona State via the transfer portal gave LSU’s quarterback room a whole new feel, and suddenly the entire roster is looking more and more like a team that might push for a spot at or near the top of the SEC West standings.
No, the addition of Daniels does not mean that Alabama and A&M are simply going away, and neither is Ole Miss for that matter. But there is no chance of competing in the SEC West without a high-caliber playmaker at QB, and that is exactly what Daniels provides.
Daniels hasn’t sealed the deal on the starting job yet, and he’ll get plenty of push from 5th-year senior Myles Brennan, but that’s exactly the way Coach Kelly and the LSU faithful want it.
Nonetheless, Daniels has to be considered the odds-on favorite to be the starter this fall.
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier and freshman Walker Howard can hit the weights and learn the offense in preparation for the battle for the 2023 starting job.
Many LSU fans probably have not had much opportunity to watch Daniels play, but there is no doubt that he is an elite playmaker.
Daniels has a big arm with a nice touch, and he is hell on wheels with the ball in his hands as he has the kind of moves that would make him a force at wide receiver if he weren’t so good at quarterback.
All told, Daniels threw for 6,024 yards and 32 touchdowns over the course of three seasons at Arizona State, including the shortened 2020 season.
He tacked another 1,288 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns in that time, including 710 yards and six TDs last season.
With that kind of weapon at Kelly’s disposal, LSU has given all the nay-sayers something to think about in the run-up to the 2022 season.