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Five plays from Jayden Daniels that stole Florida's soul


Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters gave a colorful description of Jayden Daniels' skill set when asked why the team chose to take him with the No. 2 overall pick.

"The way he kind of takes your soul as a defense," Peters said.

So, what exactly does that look like? Well, Daniels has an answer.

"[The] 2023 Florida game," Daniels said during his introductory press conference. "Just turn on the tape and watch that game."

Daniels did plenty of soul snatching during his college career, collecting more than 15,000 total yards and ending his time at LSU with a Heisman Trophy, but Florida was the team that suffered the most from Daniels' talents. He essentially was the Tigers' offense in that game, accounting for 606 of their 701 total yards. There were moments in the 52-35 LSU victory where Florida tried to gain some momentum, but those were the moments when Daniels...well, you know.

As Daniels suggested, turned on the film to watch that performance, and while it's hard to pick "the best" plays from that game, here are five plays where Daniels stole Florida's soul.

1. Daniels breaks loose to put LSU in scoring position.

Daniels was one of the most dangerous mobile quarterbacks in college football last year, earning the best run grade from Pro Football Focus in 2023 (92.4) and third most yards after contact for non-running backs.

Florida got several reminders of that.

It took until the second quarter for Daniels to break off his first explosive run of the night. It was 2nd-and-10 at Florida's 49 yards. Daniels, lined up in the shotgun, bounced in the pocket for five seconds before both Gators' defensive ends began to crash the pocket. Daniels, feeling pressure from both sides, tucked the ball and ran up the middle of the field.

Daniels didn't participate in the athletic drills during the combine or his pro day, so we don't have an official 40 time for him. But plays like his 38-yard run show that he has plenty of speed. He breezed past a defensive tackle and split two defenders before making his way to the sideline, crossing the Gators' 20-yard line before sidestepping out of bounds at the 11-yard line.

LSU didn't get in the end zone on that drive, but they did secure a 28-yard field goal to go up 10-7. The Tigers were in control for most of the game after that.

2. Daniels evades defenders on the way to an 85-yard score.

The Commanders liked everything about Daniels' skill set, but Peters specifically highlighted his ability to attack the edges of defenses, saying that there are times when players think they have a good angle on him but end up seeing him run past them.

Perhaps the best example of Daniels attacking the edge came later in the second quarter, when the Tigers set up shop at their own 15-yard line.

The play design was obvious from the moment the ball was snapped back to Daniels. It was a read option, and Daniels, seeing that the entire Florida defensive front had bitten on the read, pulled the ball and sprinted for the sideline.

It looked like safety Bryce Thornton was going to catch up to Daniels, despite needing to adjust his angle at the 20-yard line. But Thornton ran into a block by Malik Nabers, and Daniels never broke his stride as he crossed the 40-yard line.

Florida safety Jordan Castell was the next player to try and catch Daniels, but the quarterback already had a step on him. Castell made a last-ditch effort at a shoestring tackle near the 5-yard line, but it wasn't enough to stop Daniels from crossing the end zone and giving the Tigers a 17-7 lead.

3. Daniels leaves defenders reeling on lead-changing touchdown.

Daniels gets a lot of justifiable criticism for taking too many unnecessary hits, but the 2023 Heisman was one of best at forcing missed tackles, ranking second among non-running backs with 47. With the Tigers down by four in the third quarter, Daniels came up big when his team needed him, leaving several Florida defenders in his wake.

The Tigers needed a response after Florida took their first lead of the night with a one-yard run from Graham Mertz. The LSU offense began picking up yards in chunks through the air with Daniels completing a pair of 12-yard passes.

It looked like Daniels was going to dump off his third completion of the drive to running back Josh Williams as he dropped back at the Tigers' 49, but he pumped faked instead and ran straight up the center of the Gators' pass rush.

Daniels got into the second level of Florida's defense with ease. He started to run to his right but saw a sliver of open space between edge defender Kelby Collins and safety Miguel Mitchell. Daniels quickly cut upfield, causing Mitchell to whiff on his attempted tackle. From there, Daniels weaved through three defenders and looked back as he crossed the 5-yard line and jogged into the end zone.

The 51-yard run put LSU back up by three points, and the Tigers didn't trail for the rest of the game.

4. Daniels delivers a dime to Brian Thomas Jr.

Most Commanders fans are enamored with what Daniels can do as a runner (and there are plenty of reasons to be excited about that), but Peters also praised the young quarterback for how impressive he is as a passer. Sure, he had a pair of first-round picks to throw to, but Daniels also knew how to deliver the ball to them so they could make plays.

Florida still wasn't out of the game as the minutes waned in the third quarter, and LSU needed to build on the three-point lead Daniels had just given them. With the Tigers facing 2nd-and-2 at their own 38-yard line, Daniels dropped back a couple of steps, bounced in the pocket and launched a pass in Thomas' direction.

Daniels' pass traveled 32 yards through the air towards Thomas, who had a few feet of separation between him and two Florida defensive backs. Thomas didn't need to slow up as he hauled in the ball. He ran for another 19 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the Gators' 10-yard line, setting up a six-yard touchdown pass from Daniels to Noah Cain three plays later.

Daniels showed multiple times during his college career that he could deliver as a passer in clutch moments. He had 29 big-time throws in 2023, tied for fourth among all FBS quarterbacks, and completed the fourth-most passes on throws of at least 20 yards.

5. Daniels gives LSU a double-digit lead with a touchdown connection to Thomas.

Speaking of explosive plays, no quarterback had more touchdowns on deep passes than Daniels, as his 22 scores on throws of at least 20 yards led all FBS quarterbacks. Daniels second passing touchdown of the night was the play that effectively put Florida away for good.

The Tigers were in Florida territory again with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter. Daniels, lined up in the backfield with a running back to his right, dropped back to the 45-yard line to survey his options. It only took a second for Daniels to see Thomas breaking open near the end zone, and just as Thomas began running towards the middle of the end zone, Daniels launched a pass 37 yards downfield.

The catch was easy work for Thomas, who plucked the ball out of the air before stumbling to the ground. The play put LSU up by 10 points, and while Florida got the ball two more times, both attempts at cutting what eventually ballooned into a 17-point lead ended with a turnover on downs.

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