LSU QB Jayden Daniels continues to show growth heading into Citrus Bowl

Athletic ability has never been an issue Louisiana State University quarterback Jayden Daniels.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound man has displayed a perfect combination of speed and elusiveness with a strong and accurate arm throughout his football career. He carried those tools with him through his first three seasons at ASU and brought them to LSU in a February transfer.

Daniels was starting quarterback when LSU took over Florida During the season opener on Sept. 4 at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. While the Tigers lost that game, the junior nearly revived his team with two touchdowns in the final four minutes for 325 total yards (114 rushing, 209 passing ).

That dual-threat prowess gave No. 17 ranked LSU (9-4, 6-3 SEC) its best season since 2019, including the SEC West title.Tigers find themselves back in Cheez-It Citrus Bowl (1 p.m., ABC) on Monday against Purdue (8-5, 6-3 Big Ten) at Camping World Stadium.

LSU quarterback Jaden Daniels has shown growth and stability this season. The redshirt junior had 3,592 total yards of offense (818 rushing, 2,774 passing) and 27 total touchdowns.

Daniels has impressed offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock with his progress as a complete quarterback.

“He’s always known he’s athletic and he’s got money out of his pocket, but what’s notable to me is his improvement in throwing,” Denbrook said. “His accuracy has improved, as has his ability to see things and his movement keys. All those things have grown as the season has gone on. His confidence and ability to play in the passing game has grown.”

“I know I’m athletic and can play out of the pocket,” Daniels added. “It’s back to the mobile keys and the huge growth in the passing game. I’d say Tennessee’s game has pleased me, and the offense and receivers are clearly on the same page.”

Daniels threw for 2,774 yards with 16 touchdowns and three passes while rushing for 818 yards with 11 touchdowns, good for fifth in total offense. His total offensive yardage of 3,592 ranks second in school history behind former Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow (6,093 in 2019).

His play didn’t disappoint Purdue defensive coordinator Mark Hagan.

“Every game you open, he plays,” Hagan said. “He’s able to get away with the rush. We use the word slippery for him. It looks like defenses have a chance on him, and he finds a way out of it. He’s the guy who gets them to attack.”

LSU ranked 30th in the country in total offense in its first season under new coach Brian Kelly.

“One of the things we’re most proud of offensively is the growth we’ve made throughout the year,” Denbrock said. “I think the consistency has improved in everything from how we play up the front field to the receiving room to the running backs and obviously Jadon.”

LSU offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and quarterback Jayden Daniels discuss the importance of the Tigers' season and victory over Purdue in Monday's Cheez-It Citrus Bowl.

That offensive growth should carry over into next season, especially with Daniels deciding to return to LSU in 2023.

“It was the best decision for me to come back,” he said. “I feel like I need to grow and have unfinished business in college, so I want to come back and compete for a national title.

“There’s a lot more football I need to learn. There’s another level that I can leverage in terms of growth, but it’s the competition. It’s a different level to go out and play in the SEC than just watch it on TV.”

That’s good news for the Tigers, who should be SEC West contenders, adding more transfers and a No. 7 recruiting class.

“What it does is help us build momentum in the offseason,” Denbrock said. “We’re a little bit more settled than we were a year ago, which gives us the opportunity to work on the finer details and make ourselves better.”

But until then, Daniel’s focus is on the Boilermakers, with the redshirt teenager feeling 100 percent about the game after getting bumped in the SEC championship game.

“After the SEC championship game, I had to work on my recovery,” he said. “Go out and work hard twice a day with the coach so I can be 100 percent back in the game.”

This article first appeared on Orlando Sentinel Network. Email Matt Mershall mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter @osmattmurschel.