It is an incontrovertible truth that, chronologically speaking, J.T. Daniels should be the starting quarterback at Mater Dei High in Southern California right now. It is also an incontrovertible truth that he is instead preparing to be under center for USC when the season kicks off against UNLV on Saturday.
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Reconciling those two facts is a difficult process, albeit one that now must be bridged, because Daniels has progressed from achieving the seemingly impossible in high school to doing the same in college.
First off, a reminder: Daniels isn’t just a true freshman at USC. He’s a 17-year-old true freshman, a student athlete who graduated from high school in just three years so he could reclassify and enroll early at USC. Now Daniels is under center for the first snap of the season in one of the most prestigious college programs, not just a blue ribbon high school.
Daniels’ success could predicate any number of structural shifts to the high school system. To this point, few players have tried to get around the traditional four-year high school career to get to the NCAA and (conceivably) the NFL early. If Daniels is able to accomplish just that at the most important position in the game at one of the nation’s signature programs, that could change on a dime.
Of course, Daniels’ premature departure has also opened the door for the likes of Bryce Young, Daniels’ successor at Mater Dei who has also committed to follow Daniels’ footsteps at USC. Young has excelled in the season’s opening two weeks, particularly Friday against traditional power Bishop Gorman; against the Gaels, Young was 10-13 for 254 yards and four touchdowns in Las Vegas.
Among Young’s highlight passes was this connection with running back Shakobe Harper:
Keep in mind: If Daniels is still at Mater Dei, there’s no way Young is on the field. And while Daniels might be just as successful as Young has been, Young’s transition has been seamless and guarantees another two years of elite stability under center for the Monarchs (barring injury of course).
If that sounds like Daniels’ early progression on to USC is a win-win-win-win, for both players and both schools, maybe it is. Other schools may not be capable of so seamlessly replacing one five-star recruit with another, but Mater Dei and USC, via Daniels and Young, might have just shown the way forward for future elite quarterbacks to make an impact and reach their ultimate goal of the NFL a bit sooner.