Mailbag: J.T. Daniels and transfer quarterbacks

Mailbag: J.T. Daniels and transfer quarterbacks

April 18, 2020
J.T. Daniels (image via SI)

Hey, Magnus. I appreciate your comments here and over at MGo. I was wondering what you think about JT Daniels and if Michigan should go after him. I know Michigan recruited him back in high school, but Michigan hasn’t had luck with transfers in the past. Is it worth the risk of chasing off D-Caff, Milton, and potentially JJ McCarthy? I’ll hang up and listen.

Hit the jump for my response.

This has been a big discussion topic on message boards and WTKA for the past few days. First of all, it’s worth a discussion about who exactly J.T. Daniels is. Daniels was a 5-star, the #2 pro-style quarterback, and #16 overall in the 2018 class, which is the same class that Michigan landed Joe Milton. He went to California powerhouse program Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei, graduated high school a year early, and picked USC. He earned the starting gig for the Trojans immediately, going 216/363 (59.5%) for 2,672 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He’s not much of a runner (-149 yards and 0 touchdowns that year). He went 25/34 for 215 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception as a sophomore against Fresno State before a knee injury ended his season. Despite early reports that he would stay at USC even after his job was usurped, his name is now in the transfer portal.

Daniels is a better pure thrower of the football than Dylan McCaffrey or Joe Milton. I just want to get that out of the way up front. That doesn’t mean he’s a better runner (he’s not) or a better decision-maker (questionable), but when it comes to his drops, his release, his velocity, and his accuracy, he’s a superior thrower. McCaffrey has a longer release and throws kind of an ugly ball, if we’re being honest. Milton has a cannon for an arm, but his accuracy has always been a question, and so far he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.

I have suggested before – and some people have been upset about it, for multiple reasons – that McCaffrey was not capable in 2019 of handling the passing and RPO game. When people were calling for him to replace Patterson, I thought, “Be careful what you wish for.” It is my opinion that McCaffrey is not a good fit for the offense that Michigan has adopted under Josh Gattis. I would love for him to prove me wrong, and perhaps Gattis can adjust appropriately. But an RPO offense requires a quick release and the ability to throw off platform. The lanky, 6’5″ McCaffrey’s long release and long frame mean that going from a mesh with the running back to suddenly flipping his hips to throw a bubble or slant is a lot more difficult than it is for someone who’s more compact, either in body or delivery.

With a smaller Milton sample size, it’s probably fair to say that he was not ready in 2019, either. And while he does have a quicker release, I’m not sure he’s ready for the RPO game, either.

So barring an adjustment in philosophy, I’m not sure that Michigan has a capable 2020 starter on its roster.

Now comes the issue of whether Michigan should worry about scaring off McCaffrey and Milton, not to mention Cade McNamara and 2021 commit J.J. McCarthy:

Yes. This is a pretty simple question to answer. Competition comes from everywhere and at almost every other program. Of course, everyone knows that LSU won the national championship with a transfer (Joe Burrow), and Oklahoma has made a living from taking transfers in recent years (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts). The best players play at every level, regardless of their origin. Bringing in one transfer doesn’t mean every other quarterback in the pipeline would leave you with an empty cupboard. Yes, someone would probably leave, but not everyone.

Additionally, Daniels wouldn’t necessarily be a one-year rental like Jake Rudock was back in 2015. Daniels has three years of eligibility remaining, and with it sounding like the NCAA will approve one-time immediate eligibility transfers for 2020 (if there’s a 2020 season at all), Daniels could potentially be Michigan’s starter in 2020, 2021, and 2022. McCaffrey’s final season of eligibility is 2021, and Milton’s is 2022. Bringing Daniels in might block those guys from playing, but the effect on McCarthy would probably be minimal.

I believe Michigan should pursue Daniels. He’s a better fit for Michigan’s RPO offense under Josh Gattis, and he already has more playing experience than McCaffrey, Milton, McNamara, and McCarthy combined. Even if it would affect McCarthy’s commitment, the Wolverines have time to pursue other quarterbacks in the 2021 class and have already begun on the 2022 and 2023 prospects.


  1. Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Apr 18, 2020 at 11:38 AM

    You know how I feel about this, I wanted to kick the tires on kjcostello, and jt is a much, much better fit

    Sucks for our guys, but I just don’t think any of the three look like they’re going to step into a big-time college game and make a difference

    *oh, and for Lank, QBs transfer – a lot

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Apr 18, 2020 at 12:17 PM

      I don’t know that he’s reading these days after I called him out. Oh well.

      • Comments: 31
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Apr 18, 2020 at 1:45 PM

        “Oh well” is the perfect sentiment. 🙂

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Apr 21, 2020 at 2:59 PM

        LOL. Call out is what you call that name-calling hissy fit? Maybe if you hadn’t deleted the posts because you didn’t want anyone to read them.

        Oh well. Given the above I’m not commenting anymore but still reading. My reasons?

        1 Always fun to see how often JE want’s to talk about Lank and argue with things Lank didn’t say. Despite the above JE buddy youre doing much better in talkin-bout-lank-ratio than I thought. So proud of your growth.

        2 The much anticipated conclusion of the series about recruiting strategy that no is advocating for and no one thinks is a good idea will be…OK well its kind of interesting to look at in-state recruiting no matter how silly the framing.

        3 Habit, This is most of it TBH.

        4 Content.Thunder are still talking about Michigan football unlike other places and even if the season is probably not going to happen it’s interesting to read about. I like sports for analysis as much as anything (give me the NFL draft over the Super Bowl any day) so still appreciate many of the posts here especially with the uptick in content.

        On that note. I’d love to see the McCaffrey breakdown but would suggest you focus on the meaningful competitive snaps. In other words, and maybe this will be a fitting way to close in the event this post is not deleted, I agree with JE.

        • Comments: 3845
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Apr 21, 2020 at 3:10 PM

          “Given the above I’m not commenting anymore but still reading.”

          Hmmm…it appears you *are* indeed commenting. Three times just today, actually. Will it be four or more? We’ll see…

    • Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Apr 21, 2020 at 3:07 PM

      @JE can you remind me where Milton transferred to? I remember you talking about his lack of patience and seeing him transferring if Patterson finished the 2019 season healthy.

  2. Comments: 40
    Joined: 9/24/2017
    Apr 18, 2020 at 12:30 PM

    Quarterback is such an important position. I think all possibilities should be explored seriously. Maybe the staff decides against pursuing Daniels for whatever reason, but it has to be considered.

  3. Comments: 6
    Joined: 1/29/2019
    Apr 19, 2020 at 11:13 AM

    I am going to disagree here Magnus. I think McCaffrey is athletic enough to run the offense. I also think he has better vision in how he sees the field as a passer than who just graduated. If he can learn not to take shots as a running qb it would help. Time will tell on this one.

    • Comments: 1863
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      Apr 19, 2020 at 11:31 AM

      Can he pass? I haven’t seen the arm talent to be confident enough. Thunder limits this observation to the RPO offense, but even with a prostyle, I’d be skeptical

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Apr 22, 2020 at 4:25 PM

      I’m not really concerned about his athleticism. I’m worried about the quickness of his release. There’s a reason that a lot of the guys who are really good at RPOs are not the 6’5″ and 6’6″ quarterbacks. They’re usually the shorter, more compact guys. McCaffrey is not an RPO guy, IMO.

      McCaffrey is more like Justin Herbert, who was more of a pro-style guy despite his ability to run. Michigan needs to be more play action and less RPO if McCaffrey is the QB.

  4. Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Apr 19, 2020 at 6:17 PM

    My understanding of the RPO game is that it requires a QB that can R as well as P.

    I don’t know, having not seen any of these guys practice, but it’s my opinion that in evaluating a QB for this offense it’s the comparative sum of R+P that determines your starting QB.

    If Daniels has limited R, I don’t see him winning the job, unless his P is way double good as compared with the guys we have.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Apr 22, 2020 at 4:26 PM

      I don’t think running is a huge component of Gattis’s offense. You have to be able to threaten the run, but you don’t need to be a gamebreaker. We saw that at Alabama with Tagovailoa, who’s not much of a runner.

  5. Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Apr 20, 2020 at 6:34 AM

    My admittedly incomplete understanding of an RPO approach to offense causes me to think that the selection process for the QB position revolves around the following equation R + P = X, where the guy with the highest score for R + P gets to be X.

    R and P can probably be expressed in yards, I’d probably go with points. In either event, the guy has to do both things … I think.

    If Daniels can’t run, that lowers his total score. If McCaffery or Milton pick up yards/points running the football that exceed Daniels advantage passing, they get the job … at least if I’m making the choice.

    Consequently, I don’t care if they chase him or not, I don’t think he has good enough wheels to be an improvement in this system. I think he’s a depth guy around here. I’m always up for depth guys, so … ok. But I’m doubtful he’s the answer at QB.

    As usual on this type of discussion, I wouldn’t mind being wrong.

    • Comments: 1863
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      Apr 20, 2020 at 2:51 PM

      Good points Roanman, but RPO doesn’t require elite running skills. Rudock, JOK & Shea were hardly quick-twitch, but could move around enough to maintain the threat. It’s the “P” where I’m most interested in Daniels – he can capitalize our strength at WR

      Dylan hasn’t shown he can run without getting destroyed, or pass well enough. Milton can’t read, which results in turnovers

      I think they should pursue

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Apr 21, 2020 at 3:09 PM

        JE says someone else can’t read. LOL.

  6. Comments: 111
    Joined: 10/14/2015
    Apr 20, 2020 at 7:20 AM

    Hi Thunder, I know this is slightly off topic. Switching from QB upgrade to Coaching Upgrade.

    What do you think of Bob Stoops as a coach?

    Do you think he is a coaching upgrade over Jim Harbaugh? I have been strongly in the camp of there is no available coach out there that is a clear upgrade over JH. Now that the XFL is over, what do you think of Stoops? He has a good track record and has stayed away from major controversies.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Apr 20, 2020 at 6:13 PM

      I like Stoops as a coach. I don’t necessarily think he’s an upgrade over Harbaugh, but I would put them on par with each other. Stoops is a little more offensive-minded and a little less defensive-minded, IMO. I could see the offense scoring more points but the defense giving up more points. So what’s the ultimate trade-off?

      But yeah, I think Stoops would be a good replacement for Harbaugh (from an ability standpoint), but I just don’t think he has an interest in going back to the grind of coaching major college football. So it’s probably a bit of a pipe dream for those wanting Harbaugh gone.

  7. Comments: 1
    Joined: 4/20/2020
    Apr 20, 2020 at 3:45 PM

    It seems to me we don’t put enough emphasis on decision making. This appears to be a critical part of the RPO. Who is the better decision maker?

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Apr 20, 2020 at 6:10 PM

      I’m one step ahead of you! Sort of. I just got a cut-up of McCaffrey’s plays over the past year or so, and I plan to break them down for that very reason.

      Unfortunately, there’s just not much evidence available for Milton. But I can at least evaluate McCaffrey.

      • Comments: 1863
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        Apr 20, 2020 at 11:38 PM

        YES PLEASE!

  8. Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Apr 22, 2020 at 12:04 AM

    Hooray for annual meltdowns

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