A showdown between former USC quarterbacks is afoot in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Just days after Pitt announced USC transfer Kedon Slovis will start against West Virginia in the season-opening Backyard Brawl, WVU retaliated by naming its own former Trojan, JT Daniels, as its starting quarterback. Both enter the game with a wealth of college experience as they are set to debut for their new respective teams.
While WVU’s coaching staff took its time to name its signal-caller, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi made no mistake in declaring Daniels the starter.
“JT Daniels will be the starting quarterback,” he said Monday, shortly before Neal Brown dropped the news. “If they haven’t made that announcement, I’ll make it for them. He will be the starting quarterback.”
After all, Daniels is the passer for which Pitt has prepared this offseason. Narduzzi said he watched a lot of tape on the former USC and Georgia star, totaling around 238 throws.
“He’s very, very capable. I can see why he’s the starter,” Narduzzi said. “He can make every throw. He’s really, really talented. We’ll have our hands [full] on that end.”
Daniels has had plenty of time on the college field, throwing a total of 610 pass attempts and notching 4,840 yards. Narduzzi got to watch just over a third of those passes on film and was blown away by what he saw.
“I think it was on play, I don’t know, 128. Probably on play 120 as I’m going through it,” he recounted. “I’m like, ‘Is this guy ever going to throw an incomplete pass?'”
As it turned out, quality control coach Phil DeCapito had the plays sorted by completed passes, so it was just a matter of time before he’d see a missed throw.
Regardless of the clip presentation, Narduzzi knew he couldn’t take the upcoming matchup with Daniels lightly.
“You know what, you don’t see him scramble very much. He can make every throw,” Narduzzi said. “He’s very cerebral, I think. He makes the right decisions.”
WVU’s coaching staff said Daniels set himself apart with his “even keel” demeanor and his ability to throw the deep ball. Narduzzi echoed that sentiment and said he is specifically preparing his corners for vertical route concepts for Thursday.
That, he said, is a favorite play call of WVU offensive coordinator Graham Harrell based on his time at USC. Pair that with Daniels’s arm, and Narduzzi expects to see a lot of deep balls.