Daniels show­ing ath­leti­cism at LB

Ari­zona Western sopho­more has made move from de­fen­sive end

Yuma Sun - - SPORTS - BY GRADY GAR­RETT @GRADYGARRETT

Dur­ing the fourth quar­ter of this past weekend’s game against Pima in Tuc­son, Ari­zona Western sopho­more rover Mar’Quess Daniels dropped into the left flat and found the ball headed right for him.

Pima’s quar­ter­back, more than likely, hadn’t re­al­ized the Mata­dors were in a zone cov­er­age. Daniels picked off the pass and ran it back 35 yards the other way for a touch­down.

Daniels made the play look easy, and, well, it was — thanks to him be­ing in the right po­si­tion. And he looked like a nat­u­ral do­ing it.

Not bad for a player who a year ago was re­spon­si­ble for rush­ing the passer and never dropping into cov­er­age.

Daniels, one of the more cov­eted prospects on topranked Ari­zona Western’s de­fense, has made the tran­si­tion from de­fen­sive end last year to rover, which is ba­si­cally like an out­side line­backer in AWC’s sys­tem, this year.

“We had some of last year’s (lineback­ers) mov­ing on, and we didn’t have a lot com­ing in, and he was the log­i­cal choice to move (to line­backer),” AWC coach Tom Min­nick said. “He’s def­i­nitely ag­ile enough to be able to move to that spot. He’s a tall, lanky kid that can run.”

He’s recorded eight tack­les (1.5 for loss) through two games this sea­son, with his

big­gest high­light be­ing the pick­six against Pima, which helped the Mata­dors se­cure a 34-17 vic­tory.

Last year, as a start­ing de­fen­sive end for one of the top-rated de­fenses in the NJCAA, Daniels posted 40 tack­les and seven sacks. He’s one of four re­turn­ing starters back from that unit, and one of two of those four who has mul­ti­ple

ma­jor Di­vi­sion I offers.

Daniels, who grew up in At­lanta but moved to Con­necti­cut for his fi­nal three years of high school, had a few looks but no offers out of high school due to poor grades, and was given the op­por­tu­nity to come to Ari­zona Western.

Min­nick was in­trigued by Daniels’ frame and ath­leti­cism, not­ing that in high school he played a va­ri­ety of po­si­tions — from run­ning back to re­ceiver to tight end on of­fense, to de­fen­sive end and

line­backer on de­fense, and even re­turned kicks.

“We took him be­cause he’s tall and lanky and can do some things,” Min­nick said.

It was that ath­leti­cism that made the tran­si­tion from de­fen­sive end to rover easy.

“My ath­leti­cism car­ried me a long ways with that tran­si­tion,” Daniels said. “You’ve got to have ath­leti­cism to make a tran­si­tion like that. Coach (Jerry Dominguez) worked with me a lot, and I

felt very com­fort­able at that po­si­tion. I think great things can hap­pen for me right there.”

At the next level, Daniels said he’s open to play­ing ei­ther de­fen­sive end or out­side backer — but that he’d pre­fer the lat­ter.

Daniels said that he has been of­fered by Ari­zona State, Univer­sity of Ari­zona, Arkansas State, Kansas, Toledo and Wash­ing­ton State, but that he has no in­ten­tions of com­mit­ting anywhere in the near fu­ture.

“I’m not too wor­ried about that be­cause I feel like if I keep do­ing what I’m do­ing, that’ll take care of it­self,” Daniels said.

He added that in ideal world, he’d like to see a few SEC schools come call­ing. But again, he re­it­er­ated that’s not where his mind is at the mo­ment.

“I don’t care about the offers dur­ing the sea­son, I just want to win a cham­pi­onship with my team, es­pe­cially with the guys I came here with,” he said.

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