JT Daniels has been named West Virginia's starting quarterback for its Week 1 game against Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl, coach Neal Brown announced Monday. In being named QB1 for the Mountaineers ahead of a huge rivalry game, Daniels will play opposite former teammate Kedon Slovis, who was the Panthers' starting quarterback.
Daniels, a 6-foot-2, 226-pound junior from quarterback factor Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, had been bracketed with the dreaded "or" designation with three other quarterbacks -- redshirt sophomore Garrett Greene, redshirt freshman Will Crowder and true freshman Nicco Marchiol -- prior to the start of fall camp. Brown, however, didn't rule out playing his other quarterbacks, all three of whom are bracketed with "or" in the depth chart that was released on Monday.
The official announcement sets up a wildly intriguing matchup in the first Backyard Brawl since 2011 -- a 21-20 West Virginia win in Morgantown -- giving the rivalry a unique USC flair.
Daniels burst onto the scene as a freshman for the Trojans with 2,672 yards passing and 14 touchdowns after reclassifying to the Class of 2018. However, his follow-up sophomore campaign didn't go as planned. A leg injury in the season opener against Fresno State sidelined him for the season, opening the door for Slovis, then a freshman, to take the job and run with it.
Slovis threw for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns in 12 games that season, which earned him Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors. Slovis' success eventually led to Daniels' decision to transfer to Georgia, where he was a part-time starter in 2020 and 2021. Daniels threw for 1,953 yards and 17 touchdowns in two seasons, but was was eventually unseated as the starter by Stetson Bennett.
Things didn't work out for Slovis at USC, either, with the arrival of Lincoln Riley and, more importantly, sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams from Oklahoma. Now at new homes, the former teammates will square off in a game that features both bragging rights and tone-setting implications for both teams entering the 2022 season.
West Virginia is a 7.5-point underdog to Pitt, according to Caesars Sportsbook. They two rivals will tee it up at 7 p.m. ET from Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.