The Southern University starting quarterback job has changed hands, and during last week’s open date, Bubba McDaniel tightened his grip on the job.
McDaniel got his second career start in the Jaguars' Southwestern Athletic Conference opener in a 38-25 victory against Mississippi Valley State, and the job is his for the foreseeable future. He’ll take the first snaps when Southern plays at Texas Southern in the Arlington Showdown at Arlington Stadium on Saturday at 4 p.m.
McDaniel went 18 of 26 for 235 yards and five touchdowns without an interception against MVSU, and his season numbers are 28 of 43, 379 yards and six TDs with no interceptions. Both of his starts resulted in victories, and the 6-2, 200-pounder from Dothan, Ala., shows a great deal of pocket presence.
Although Ladarius Skelton, who had started 25 consecutive games, remains in play, it would take an injury or massive drop off for anything to change. Skelton will wait in the wings while McDaniel fits into the weekly offensive game plan.
“This week was a good chance to look at what he does well,” Southern coach Jason Rollins said. “We were running a lot of things he did well in camp, but we’re kind of tailoring things to what he does well. He had an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I like this play. I like this formation. These are things I do well.’ It was good for him in that aspect.”
It’s an opportunity he seldom had in his three previous seasons while playing second and sometimes third fiddle in the rotation.
Football coaches see two sides of an open date. Many say they’d rather play a game, especially if their team is playing well.
“I’ve been trying to focus on getting better mentally and knowing the game of football, situational football,” McDaniel said. “Getting reps is important. You see the looks and play at the (game) speed, making plays. I just watch the film from the game, see the mistakes and take it into the week of practice. Every day at practice, I try not to make the same mistakes as the day before.”
McDaniel hasn’t made many. Zero interceptions and only one sack. He did have a fumble against Miles College, but he still led his team to victory after finding out he was starting on game day.
While Skelton gives Southern a dangerous dual-threat option, he struggles in the pocket. That’s where McDaniel shines, showing poise and the ability to step away from pressure with his eyes downfield. He’s not blessed with Skelton’s athleticism, but he can run when the play is there.
“He’s athletic and at the same time poised in the pocket, good with making decisions on where the ball should go,” said defensive tackle Camron Peterson, who is always trying to put the heat on McDaniel in practice. “He’s also consistent as far as accuracy and ball placement."
When asked whether he’s seen McDaniel get rattled in practice, Peterson replied, “Nah.”
The increase in reps has allowed McDaniel to get closer with second-year offensive coordinator Zach Grossi, whose first year was spent mostly talking to players on Zoom calls. They have bonded more, and McDaniel’s leadership qualities are starting to blossom.
“It’s important because the trust between the OC and the quarterback has to be strong,” McDaniel said. “If I trust him and he trusts me, we can communicate, and it shows on the field.
“My vocal leadership has gone up. I get on guys if I see something, but I’m the first one there to celebrate them when they score.”
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McDaniel said despite the flip-flop with Skelton, the senior quarterback remains a big supporter of his. Skelton always has been classified as a great teammate even when he was struggling.
Rollins and Grossi have said there is still a role for Skelton, who has been hampered by a bruised knee. His running ability makes him a good option off the bench if a game dictates it. The injury and untimely turnovers by Skelton have contributed to McDaniel's ascension.
“His role is determined by his health,” Rollins said. “If he’s healthy, his role will increase. He hasn’t been 100%. A 100% McDaniel gives us the best chance to win at this moment. It’s a good problem to have when both are capable.”
The Southern University Quarterback Club is sponsoring a bus trip to the Texas Southern game Saturday in Arlington, Texas, and for the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game Oct. 16. The bus will depart from the F.G. Clark Activity Center at 3 a.m. on game day this Saturday and at 4 a.m. for the UAPB contest. For more information, contact Reginald Jarvis at (225) 939-5906 or firstname.lastname@example.org.