The next great QB prospect might just be J.T. Daniels

Courtesy of Mater Dei

Ask Bruce Rollinson about his quarterback. The excited tone in his voice indicates that Rollinson would rather not tell you about J.T. Daniels. He'd prefer to show you.

"If you and I went to his locker right now," said Rollinson, who has coached for 28 years at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California), "we would find six huge notebooks, completely full. He does not come into a meeting without taking copious notes."

Daniels is just the latest at Mater Dei, following in the steps of Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley. In two years, Daniels has shattered the career yardage and touchdown records of every passer to attend high school in the QB haven of Orange County.

As college programs wrapped the Class of 2017 last week and attention in recruiting moved swiftly forward, this 6-foot-1, 210-pound QB in the Class of 2019 already has captured the attention of recruiters -- as much for his attitude toward the game as his nearly unfathomable numbers.

He won't be on a college campus for two more years, but his name is worth knowing now. Talk persists in the recruiting community that Daniels might rate not only as the best quarterback in his class, but also as the top QB prospect in several years.

"The game of football excites him," Rollinson said. "The mental aspect of football excites him. He loves the strategy within the game. That's what separates him from some of your other star high school quarterbacks. Barkley and Leinart, they were that way as seniors."

Daniels, 16, received his first scholarship offer -- from Cal -- in October 2015 as a freshman. Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona State and UCLA followed that year. Since, Michigan, USC, Alabama and others have offered.

While calling his own plays as a sophomore for a team that won 13 of 14 games and reached the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division I championship, Daniels threw for 4,849 yards and 67 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He completed 74.5 percent of his passes, and through seven games, had thrown for more touchdowns (40) than incompletions (38).

Daniels' 7,891 yards and 100 touchdowns in two seasons set Orange County records, surpassing the career marks of Leinart, Barkley, Sam Darnold, Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, Steve Beuerlein and countless other stars.

At his sophomore pace, Daniels would eclipse Jake Browning's national high school record of 229 touchdown passes.

But Daniels said he's not motivated by personal achievements.

"I think it all depends on what you play for," Daniels said. "I love the game of football. And I love the leadership and team aspect of it. That's why I play football. Personal success never really meant all that much. It's a great honor, but it hasn't been my main focus. It's not going to take over my life."

Daniels' path in life, though, has pointed him to this place.

Steve Daniels, a Detroit-bred former prep QB and linebacker, coached his son from a young age. When J.T. was 9, he said he pegged himself as a quarterback. Soon after, living in Irvine, California, he saw a television program on the Mater Dei-Anaheim Servite rivalry.

In it, Leinart caught the kid's attention.

"From then on out, I went to every single Mater Dei camp that I could," Daniels said.

By the time Daniels led his 2012 Pee Wee team to an Orange County Junior All-American Super Bowl title, Rollinson and Mater Dei offensive coordinator Dave Money knew him well.

So in the second week of the 2015 season, when junior QB Matthew McDonald suffered an arm injury, the Mater Dei coaches did not hesitate to hand control to a freshman. Four months later, McDonald, a solid prospect himself, transferred to Mission Viejo High School.

Clearly, Daniels required minimal time to acclimate. But 100 touchdown passes in his first two seasons?

Daniels said he's not as surprised as others.

"I'm going to assume you know my receiving corps and how stacked it is," he said.

Mater Dei returns 10 of 11 offensive starters, losing wideout Osiris St. Brown, a Stanford signee who ranked 213th in the ESPN 300. Back next season at receiver are Amon-Ra St. Brown, No. 72 in the ESPN Junior 300, fellow 2018 prospects Nikko Remigio and C.J. Parks and 2019 prospects Bru McCoy, who received an offer last week from Alabama, and Shakobe Harper.

Much like his personal accomplishments, Daniels said, he won't let recruiting take over his life.

A year ago, as Rollinson and Money handed playcalling responsibility to Daniels, the head coach sat down with J.T. and his parents, Steve and Alison.

Rollinson knew of the furious time ahead and laid out a plan to "protect" the young QB.

"I need to know who wants to talk to him, who's pestering him," Rollinson said he told the family. "It's not that I want to pry. It's not that I don't trust him. Unfortunately, there are people out there who want to use him to capitalize on whatever scam is next in line.

"It absolutely fascinated me with Barkley and Leinart, and it'll start now with J.T. If there were two scams when Leinart was going through it, there are 200 now. Fortunately, you've got a kid with a good head on his shoulders. And the parents are wonderful."

Daniels said he watched older players at Mater Dei like Osiris St. Brown handle the recruiting process with a plan.

"I've learned to do it the right way," Daniels said. "Those guys handle their business off the field. They keep it simple. They know what they want."

Despite the complexities of recruiting, many perhaps unpredictable, Daniels said he's confident he can manage it well. He said he wants to identify his desires in a college program before recruiters attempt to dictate what he's seeking.

"If you know five things that you want from a college," Daniels said, "I believe from there on out, it's a simple process."

The college coaches to whom Daniels has spoken, he said, "have a very confident and commanding presence about them."

He knows it'll be difficult to reject some of them. But Daniels enters the next phase of high school with his eyes open. He has yet to visit a college campus.

"I definitely will not be committing anytime soon," he said.

He has other priorities, after all, which don't necessarily include the breaking of more records. At Daniels' pace, that'll happen naturally.