The University of Utah lost out in its pursuit of one of the top remaining uncommitted athletes in the 2019 recruiting class on Thursday, as four-star prospect Jayden Daniels announced he will play at Arizona State.
The dual-threat quarterback from Cajon High in San Bernardino, California, chose the Sun Devils in an announcement live-streamed on social media, revealing a Sun Devils shirt underneath his zip-up hoodie, then putting on the ASU hat.
Daniels is rated the 82nd best prospect in this year’s recruiting class in the 247Sports composite rankings.
Utah was in Daniels’ final four along with Arizona State, UCLA and California. He also held scholarship offers from schools like the SEC’s Alabama, Florida and Georgia, as well as the Pac-12’s Arizona, Oregon and USC, among others, according to 247Sports.
Before announcing his commitment to Arizona State, Daniels was the top uncommitted quarterback prospect in the 2019 recruiting class. He’s rated the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in this year’s class by 247Sports and third overall by ESPN.
The Sun Devils became a suitor for Daniels late in the process, after Daniels had originally narrowed his final three to Utah, UCLA and Cal. Arizona State is led by first-year coach Herm Edwards, the former longtime NFL coach. The Sun Devils' starting quarterback, Manny Wilkins, is a senior, leaving an open competition for a new starter in 2019.
Arizona State also has commits from two other quarterbacks in its 2019 class: four-star pro-style prospect Joey Yellen from California and three-star pro-style recruit Ethan Long from Oregon.
Greg Biggins, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, broke down Daniels’ commitment following the announcement, saying Utah had a strong chance to land the dual-threat QB after he had taken official visits to Utah, UCLA and Cal.
“Daniels took an official visit (to Arizona State) in mid-November but at the time, told us it was mostly just for fun and to experience and see something new," Biggins wrote. "Things changed following that trip and ASU became a serious player in his recruitment. The chance to compete for playing time with Manny Wilkins graduating played a big role as well as his relationship with the Sun Devil coaching staff.”
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Daniels told the Deseret News in October that one of his reasons for his interest in Utah was the stability of the program under 14-year head coach Kyle Whittingham.
“Coach Whittingham, he’s been there for a long time, so I know there would be longevity with him,” Daniels said. “Also, (Utah offensive coordinator Troy) Taylor, me and him have built a relationship over the time he has been recruiting me, ever since he offered me. Just showing that they care about me and they want me there, seeing the atmosphere there and the players there is very exciting.”
As a senior at Cajon, Daniels threw for 4,515 yards, 60 touchdowns and just four interceptions while completing 70.7 percent of his passes, according to MaxPreps. He also rushed for a team-high 1,536 yards — averaging 109.7 yards per game on the ground — and 16 touchdowns.
Daniels’ high school teammate and longtime friend, four-star wide receiver Darren Jones, committed to the Utes in August. Another Cajon High teammate, three-star running back Daniel Fortune, has been pursued by Utah as well.
Both Daniels and Fortune took their official visit to Utah the weekend the Utes beat USC 41-28 in late October.
After the win, Whittingham said he was hopeful the win would establish a positive image with the numerous recruits who were on their official visits that weekend, which included three-star safety commit Aaron Lowe out of Texas.
“We had a fairly substantial recruiting weekend this past weekend, so it’s very positive. I think it had a big impact. We’ll see what happens,” the coach said.
Utah signed four-star quarterback prospect Jack Tuttle of California in its 2018 recruiting class, but he sought to transfer in October before his true freshman season had ended. At the conclusion of fall camp, Tuttle found himself third on the depth chart behind starter Tyler Huntley and backup Jason Shelley, who has started the past four games after Huntley broke his collarbone in a loss to Arizona State. Huntley and Shelley have led the Utes to a 9-4 record and Pac-12 South title this season.
Utah currently has nine recruits verbally committed to its 2019 class, led by the four-star Jones. The 2019 early signing period is Dec. 19 to Dec. 21. National signing day is Feb. 6, 2019.
The lone quarterback prospect Utah has offered and remains uncommitted at this point is dual-threat David Baldwin out of Florida, according to 247Sports. The Utes offered scholarships to a pair of quarterbacks now committed to Boise State in four-star pro-style QB Hank Bachmeier and three-star dual-threat Kaiden Bennett, both from California, two other top options out West.
The Utah coaching staff has been hitting the recruiting trail since falling 10-3 to Washington in the Pac-12 championship game on Nov. 30. That included having several in-state recruits go on an official visit to the school last weekend, a group that included East defensive tackle Siaki Ika, a four-star recruit and rated the state’s top prospect by 247Sports, American Fork wide receiver Chase Roberts, a BYU commit, Skyridge center Logan Sagapolu, Bingham outside linebacker Lolani Langi and fellow Bingham outside linebacker Junior Tafuna, already a Utah commit.