For West Virginia QB JT Daniels, staying healthy is key


West Virginia knew what it got in transfer JT Daniels: a quarterback who went undefeated as a starter at Georgia – and has sat out more games than he’s played in throughout his career.

Daniels understands the way to helping the Mountaineers become relevant in the Big 12 this season is by staying healthy for a full season.

“It’s an old saying, but availability is your best ability,” Daniels said. “And I’ve missed 28-30 games over the last three years from injury.”

Coach Neal Brown named Daniels the starter for the season opener at No. 17 Pittsburgh, a move that was anticipated. The renewal of the Backyard Brawl for the first time in 11 years will feature Daniels against his former backup at Southern Cal, Kedon Slovis, who took over after Daniels was injured in the 2019 season opener.

Their offensive coordinator at the time was Graham Harrell, who was hired at West Virginia in January. Daniels, who played just nine games over the past two seasons at Georgia, followed Harrell to West Virginia in April.

“I know him. I trust him,” Daniels said.

Without the benefit of playing spring ball, Daniels has had to do some quick learning, although he’s familiar with Harrell’s Air Raid style. Daniels’ time spent at Georgia actually helped his growth, Harrell said.

“He’s a really intelligent kid that can handle a lot of information,” Harrell said. “At the quarterback position, you can overload them with information. He can process information quickly.”

Daniels was the second true freshman to start a season opener at Southern Cal in 2018. He started 11 games, missing one in midseason with a concussion. In 2019, when Harrell was hired to run the Trojan offense, Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.

Daniels missed much of 2020 at Georgia while awaiting medical clearance on his knee. Last year he missed several games with two upper-body muscle strains, then was relegated to a backup role as Stetson Bennett led the Bulldogs to the national championship.

Coach Brown describes Daniels, who went 7-0 as a starter at Georgia, as “weathered.”

“He’s really even-keeled,” Brown said. “He doesn’t get too high or two low, not rattled easily. He’s been successful. He’s been on some good teams, too. The fact that he’s played in big games, I think, helps too. He arrived here as a really mature player and one that is really hungry.”

This is the 10th straight season that West Virginia has used a transfer as its starting quarterback.

The streak started with Clint Trickett from Florida State in 2013 and 2014. In 2016, junior college transfer Skyler Howard led the Mountaineers to a 10-win season. Will Grier arrived from Florida to provide a spark in 2017 and 2018. Austin Kendall followed from Oklahoma and Jarret Doege came from Bowling Green with lackluster results in the past three seasons.

Like Grier, who was shielded from media interviews until after the 2017 season opener, Daniels has yet to be made available since the start of fall practice. He told reporters in June after a youth football camp that Morgantown wasn’t a huge adjustment from Athens, Georgia.

While Daniels’ ability to stay healthy remains to be seen, he brings a reputation for a strong arm. He has six 300-yard passing games and has thrown at least three touchdowns five times. In the Peach Bowl following the 2020 season, he rallied Georgia from a 21-10 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Cincinnati 24-21.

How well Daniels can contribute to the Mountaineers also depends on who he’ll throw to. Three of the team’s top five wide receivers entered the transfer portal in January. West Virginia is counting on Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James to boost their production after combining for 1,080 receiving yards and eight touchdowns a year ago.

Brown said he believes Daniels fits in with his teammates because “we have a lot of hungry guys who are eager to prove.”

“He’s prepared with a chip on his shoulder. I like where he’s at mentally and physically heading into this opener.”

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

Mickey Welsh / Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.