SANTA ANA, Calif. —California coaching legend Bruce Rollinson had just one question for JT Daniels when he announced he was transferring to Georgia: “Will they allow you to use that God-given brain in your head and get into a system?”
Daniels and the Bulldogs answered that question the final four games of the 2020 season.
A former Gatorade National Player of the Year in Rollinson’s quarterback factory, Daniels synced with former NFL offensive coordinator Todd Monken at UGA. Daniels posted the top rating the final four games of last season among the nation’s returning quarterbacks.
Daniels has been back in California this month working with Jordan Palmer and investing more time off on the side to throw with Georgia teammates before the Bulldogs report back to campus for offseason work on June 4.
Rollinson, who is entering his 33rd season at Mater Dei searching for a fifth high school national title, isn’t surprised to see Daniels pulling double-duty.
“JT has this ability as a born leader,” Rollinson said. “Teammates gravitate to him, and they have always gravitated to him.”
Rollinson ranks Daniels among the greatest quarterbacks he has coached, and those words do not come cheap.
Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart ranks among the greatest of the Monarchs’ quarterbacks, along with Matt Barkley and the late Colt Brennan, and most recently projected Alabama starter Bryce Young.
But a rocky freshman season and season-ending knee injury in the first game of Daniels’ sophomore campaign put USC’s can’t-miss-kid in the NCAA transfer portal amid the COVID-19 pandemic last spring.
“JT had hit a crossroads,” Rollinson said. “I knew he’d come out on top.
“I liked his choice a lot because I watched enough Georgia football, and I knew that was the type of offense he would thrive in.”
It was just a matter of how much control of the offense Daniels would be granted in Monken’s Pro Style spread attack.
“I used to kid JT, because we’re grinding until 8, 9, or 10 o’clock at night on school nights, and there were times I’d look down and see lights on in the conference office,” Rollinson said. “I’d say, ‘who’s here?’ And it would be JT in front of the projector.”
Daniels’ football knowledge is and was such that Mater Dei essentially turned over play-calling duties.
“In his junior year, which was his final year, we might give him a formation, and then we’d just point at him,” Rollinson said. “JT would take it from there. Our offensive coordinator was wearing a helmet, and life was good.”
Daniels led the 2017 Mater Dei team to a perfect 15-0 record that included a 35-21 win over defending national champion Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and a 62-14 triumph over New Jersey state champion and Northeast powerhouse Bergan Catholic.
Daniels capped his career beating Concord De Le Salle in a wind storm for the state title, marking the first time Rollinson had toppled the northern California powerhouse program after four previous losses.
“We had tremendous talent around JT …. and he would be the first to tell you that,” Rollinson said. “But you’ve still got to have a trigger guy, and we’ve had them here, and JT was one of the greats.”