Daniels completed 22-of-37 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown Saturday against Mississippi State while also rushing 16 times for 93 yards and another score in the 31-16 win.
Daniels has been dynamic both through the air and on the ground through three games, tossing six touchdown passes over that span while also rushing for over 200 yards. A cupcake matchup with New Mexico should only further serve to pad the stat column for Daniels.
But that moment symbolizes one of Kelly’s favorite elements to coach Daniels during a game and for his senior quarterback to take his instruction and apply it. Quarterbacks coach Joe Sloan operates as the conceptual voice in Daniels’ ears throughout a game, while Kelly has elected to be more of the tactical voice.
“I love coaching somebody who is open to the dialogue during the game. You can have conversations with him during the game and he can make the corrections. Some can’t so you don’t try to do those things. Coach [Joe] Sloan is talking much more conceptual, I’m trying to deal with some technical things on the sideline. He’s handling both ends of that. I’m really trying to focus on some specific things and he handles both of those conversations really well.”
Daniels has been electric through three games, but those moments have also come with spouts of inaccuracy or missing open receivers in his progression. Daniels has rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns in these three games, far on pace to surpass his previous rushing total in a season of 710 just last year.
He’s also completed 69.5% of his passes for 556 yards and six touchdowns to open the year and has looked comfortable when electing to pass.
LSU wants Daniels to run. His mobility makes him one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the SEC, as seen for most of the second half against the Bulldogs on Saturday and even in his performance against Florida State. When he’s most needed to come through, he’s done an excellent job responding in those moments.
Kelly and the coaching staff are continuing to work with Daniels on striking that balance of when to run downfield and when to escape the pocket but keep his eyes downfield for a pass.
“When we evaluate when he runs, we want to see if it was within the progression and it was really good coverage, or maybe that play wasn’t great against this coverage. Or we got beat at a particular position and he got flushed versus you turn down a potential high-low read and you took off. That’s what we’re trying to evaluate so it’s a little bit of both,” Kelly said.
“I think there’s still growth there where he can stay a little bit more patient and locked in on the progression and there are those dynamic runs where there wasn’t anything there. You want to be careful where you go ‘Hey, you’re running too much’ and then when he needs to be dynamic, he’s not.”
It’s only natural for a quarterback with Daniels’ supreme athleticism to want to tuck and run at the first sign of trouble, and for the most part, he’s been able to have success doing that. But if LSU can hone in on the three to five times a game where it would be better for Daniels to deliver an accurate ball downfield, the Tigers’ quarterback would be virtually unstoppable.
“We have to be really careful and along the way keep coaching him to really do a great job of reading his progression and seeing the things necessary that allows us to be balanced in both,” Kelly said.