Daniels showing athleticism at LB
Arizona Western sophomore has made move from defensive end
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.