FORT WORTH, Texas -- If hometown means anything, Wayne Daniels comes from the right place. They call Kilgore, Texas, "The City of Stars." The former oil boomtown is home to "The World's Richest Acre."
Lots of oil. Lots of possibilities. At least at one time. Kind of like Daniels, TCU's redshirt senior defensive end. It will be up to him to carry on the program's defensive end tradition that, in the past five years, has produced an All-American (Jerry Hughes), a three-time all-conference performer (Chase Ortiz) and a top-five NFL Draft projection (Tommy Blake).
Another gusher? The signs are there for Daniels. As a first-time starter in 2009 he was second-team All-Mountain West playing in the shadow of Hughes. As a senior he is one of the 10 fresh faces in college football for 2010.
|Wayne Daniels will be TCU's top pass rusher after spending a season in the shadows. (Getty Images)|
Daniels, 6-feet-2, 250 pounds, is heading into his fifth season, second as a starter, after a redshirt year in 2007. With Hughes getting most of the attention on the other side, Daniels had 5½ sacks and nine tackles for loss.
TCU coach Gary Patterson specializes in making stars out of players switched from other positions. In high school Daniels played tight end, linebacker and on the defensive line. Not only was Daniels not sure he was a defensive end upon coming to TCU, he wasn't sure he was good enough.
"I remember coming here and the first time I ever saw Tommy Blake, I thought, 'What is that?'" Daniels said.
Blake might have been a top-five draft pick if not for psychological issues that left him undrafted in 2008. By that time Daniels had learned his place in the locker room. He arrived in 2006 with an attitude.
"I came in and I was cocky," Daniels said. "I didn't do anything but talk mess to everybody. They don't like that.
"I feel like I got redshirted because I wasn't where I should be coming out of my first year. I didn't really take football seriously when I first got here. I just wanted to be like a kid in college like everybody else. Apparently, that didn't fly."
Strange for the son of an oil-field worker, where hard work is a given. Athleticism is handed down in the Daniels family. A 15-year-old brother, 6-1, 300-pound Joshua, is a budding star at Kilgore High. An uncle, James, threw a 97-mph fastball as a teenager. Before playing one year of juco ball, Willie Daniels attended Richmond (Calif.) High School with Ken Carter, "Coach Carter" who had a movie made about him.
Little Wayne didn't want to play football in seventh grade after the family moved from the Bay Area to Kilgore. He was cut from his Pop Warner team.
"It was funny because it was like I had never played football when I came to Texas," Wayne said. "When we got here, I was bigger than everybody. Coaches would say, 'Do you play football?'"
"They'd say, 'No, what?' I didn't know I was supposed to say, 'sir.'"
"He was a little cocky," Willie Daniels admitted. "I admire Wayne, though. He is not a problem child. He's a very respectful young man."
Wayne learned manners and how to wreck a backfield. Halfway through high school, Willie sat his son down and stated the obvious. At 6-2, 220 pounds at that point, Wayne was born to be a football player. No more of this track and basketball stuff. Wayne's epiphany came when he nailed running back Kendall Hunter just right in a scrimmage against John Tyler High School.
"I hit him and I said, 'This is for me ...,'" Daniels said. "I don't get kill shots often. I'm a d-lineman."
It was quite a trophy laying there on the turf. Hunter got up off his back and somehow made it to Oklahoma State, where he led the Big 12 in rushing in 2008.
There will be lots of kill-shot opportunities this season. That's the way it goes for TCU's defense. It has been No. 1 in total defense for the past two seasons. But there is a big difference from playing in Hughes' shadow to being the No. 1 playmaker on the nation's No. 1 defense.
Hughes was double-teamed a lot last season. A lot of those double teams will come Daniels' way in 2010. It comes with being a star defensive end at TCU.
"They were obviously keying [on] Jerry," Daniels said. "I figured, 'OK, it was my turn.'"
Ten fresh new faces for 2010
Andre Debose, WR, redshirt freshman, Florida: Speed has never been a problem under Urban Meyer. The next Percy Harvin gets his chance to fly after recovering from a ripped hamstring. With Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey already running wild, don't be surprised if something called "Warp Factor 7, Mr. Sulu" is in the playbook.
Toney Clemons, WR, junior, Colorado: Michigan was his only recruiting trip. Then in two seasons Clemons, a four-star recruit, caught only 12 passes. Colorado needs a lot of help. Receiver doesn't seem to be one of those areas. Combining with 2009 leading receiver Scotty McKnight, Clemons can help scatter-armed quarterbacks Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins.
|Garrett Gilbert gave Texas a glimpse of its future in the BCS title game. (Getty Images)|
Garrett Gilbert, QB, sophomore, Texas: Orangebloods don't want to hear it but the best thing that could have happened -- in hindsight -- was Gilbert getting on the field in the BCS title game. Gilbert is no Colt McCoy, which is OK. He is a conventional drop-back quarterback and the offense will change to suit him.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, freshman, South Carolina: This is the guy Steve Spurrier had to have from nearby Byrnes, S.C., especially since quarterback has turned into a black hole at South Carolina. The Cocks aren't going to catch Florida in the SEC East but second place would be a huge improvement. Riding Lattimore to nine wins wouldn't be out of the question.
Robert Marve, QB, junior, Purdue: What hasn't this kid been through? Car accident. Broken arm. Suspensions. Torn ACL. Quarterback battle with Jacory Harris. Transfer drama. Is Marve worth it for Purdue? If the Boilermakers are going to become relevant again, yes.
DeMarcus Milliner, CB, freshman, Alabama: Never mind that Milliner got beat for the game-winning catch in the spring game, the five-star prospect came to 'Bama and enrolled early because three starters in the secondary (six corners overall) were departing.
Cameron Newton, QB, junior, Auburn: Newton comes to Auburn by way of Florida and Blinn College in Texas, where he accounted for 38 touchdowns last season. Off-field problems forced Newton to leave Florida and reinvent himself in junior college. Now he is the perfect dual-threat guy to run Gus Malzahn's offense.
Kyle Prater, WR, freshman, Southern California: There aren't a lot of sure things around Troy these days. There are no championships to play for. Recruiting has been gutted. We do know this: The 6-5 Prater will get every chance to become the next great receiver at USC.
Greg Reid, CB, sophomore, Florida State: On a bad defense, Reid excelled as a freshman nickel back. He also averaged 18.4 yards as a punt returner. In a rebuilt secondary, Reid will stand out in Mark Stoops' defense.