If you’ve ever watched a Ducks game, witnessed No. 8 tackling and said, “Mariota, what are you doing on the defense!?” this article is for you. Of course, Heisman-winning Mariota is not moonlighting as a safety. The man in the jersey is Reggie Daniels, a redshirt sophomore from Chandler, Arizona.
This three-star recruit was a three-year letterman at Hamilton High School. He tallied 90 tackles (averaging 6.4 tackles per game). He began to see serious playing time during his junior year, where he recorded 46 of those 90 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions and four pass breakups. In his senior year, he set records with five interceptions, three quarterback sacks, six broken up passes and two fumble recoveries. Daniels led the Hamilton Huskies to a 13-1 record in 2011 and two Division I State Championship titles in his three seasons. These impressive accomplishments earned him a spot on the Arizona Football Coaches Association Top 25 Team as a defensive back. Senior year, he was also chosen to the Division I All-State First-Team.
Daniels redshirted as a freshman at Oregon. Sophomore year, he saw playing time in 10 games with six tackles (three unassisted). He also broke up one pass. This year, Daniels has been a breakout star on and off the field. He claimed one of the starting safety slots after the loss of Avery Patterson. Most impressively, he managed to become Oregon’s leading tackler after five games with 35 tackles (25 solo).
He’s also made some pretty memorable contributions to the Ducks. While many of us are still trying to mentally block out the Arizona game, Daniels made this incredible interception, seemingly coming out of nowhere to snatch the ball and then make sure to tap his foot inbounds.
He was also the guy who tipped the ball in the game-changing interception Ifo Ekpre-Olomu made during the Michigan State game. These feats are apparently unsurprising to his fellow teammates and coaches.
In an interview with Comcast Sportsnet‘s Aaron Fentress, defensive backs coach John Neal revealed, “He does that kind of thing in practice every day. Fentress wrote, “It’s so common, Neal joked that he gave Daniels a plus-2 for the tipped pass and a minus-1 for the failure to intercept the ball in the first place.” In the same interview, Neal said that Daniels is the most talented safety he’s ever coached and that he has an NFL future.
His teammates are also impressed with how dedicated he’s been and how much he has improved in such a short amount of time. Ekpre-Olomu told Fentress, “Daniels is consistently reducing his number of mental mistakes when it comes to adjusting coverages to formations and recognizing the greatest threats to the secondary.” These consistencies are the reason he’s earned more playing time than his fellow teammate Tyree Robinson.
This season, Daniels has over 55 tackles, along with pass breakups and interceptions. With two more years of eligibility, Daniels looks to become a centerpiece in the Oregon defense. If he continues to make game-changing plays, he could be a vital part of the Ducks’ road to the National Championship.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck