JT Daniels and Gardner Minshew took vastly different paths to where they are now. Daniels was a consensus All-American who graduated a year early to play at USC. He’s only 18, and has all the talent in the world, though little experience. Minshew, on the other hand, started his college career at Troy, and then transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College where he played in junior college, albeit in the relatively intense MACJC. Ultimately, Minshew lead the Northwest Mississippi Rangers to a National Championship on the JuCo level.
Following his stint in Northwest Mississippi, Minshew took his talents to East Carolina, where he played with highly drafted receiver Zay Jones. In each of his stops, Northwest Mississippi, East Carolina, and now Washington State, Minshew has had to compete for the starting job.
He’s earned it every time.
Daniels is a freshman quarterback for one of the glamour programs in college football. Many have expected him to start before he even walked on campus. Minshew may as well have had the opposite experience. He wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school, and needed to compete for the starting job at each of his stops.
Last season, Minshew attempted only 30 or more passes once, until November. After November however, Minshew let go, attempting 68, 52, 45, and 54 passes in his final four games in East Carolina. For reference, in the average NFL game, each team only runs about 65 plays. Over those games, Minshew went 136 for 219 for a completion percentage of 62.1 percent. In just those four games, Minshew passed for 1,486 yards, for just under 11 yards per completed pass. It’s easy to see why air raid guru Mike Leach wanted him in his program. In Minshew, USC may be facing an unheralded quarterback who is just now hitting his stride.
So far this season, Minshew has followed up his electric performances from last season, passing for 1,203 yards while completing a crazy efficient 70.9 percent of his passes. And his last game was probably his best of the young season so far.
Just another day at the office for Gardner Minshew II.— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 17, 2018
The @WSUCougFB QB completed 45-of-57 passes for 470 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
He is your #Pac12FB Offensive Player of the Week: https://t.co/kPcWtFndUa pic.twitter.com/GfW1dzcucf
In stature, Minshew and Daniels are actually pretty similar. Minshew stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs in at 220 pounds, versus 6-foot-3, 201 pound Daniels. Minshew likely has more weight on him because he’s had more time to develop into his body. Other than that, both quarterbacks are physically similar. Both tend to be pro-style, opting to not run the ball as often. Though this isn’t to say Daniels doesn’t have the ability.
OH MY.. USC Bound Junior JT Daniels. Mater Dei High (CA) pic.twitter.com/g7JvMkP3xT— UnderTheRadar (@_UnderTheRadar_) August 26, 2017
Against Washington State, Daniels will try to revive a Trojan offense that has talent, but has been dormant against Texas and Stanford. Look for Daniels to gamble and throw the ball downfield to try to put energy and momentum in a USC team that has lacked life.
Minshew, on the other hand, will likely be playing the most talented defense that he’s ever played in his college career. Under Leach’s air raid offense however, he’ll look to gain chunk plays and stretch the Trojans vertically.
There’s an off chance that either quarterback will take over and dominate the game. Minshew has the experience to do so, and Daniels has the pedigree.