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Friday, March 21, 2014
Meet ESPN Junior 300 DT Jacob Daniel

By Erik McKinney

Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

It's now a common occurrence for seventh and eighth graders to collect scholarship offers and even make verbal commitments to schools. Defensive tackle Jacob Daniel didn't take that route to becoming an elite prospect. In fact, when Daniel was that age, he wasn't playing football at all.

Jacob Daniel
Jacob Daniel didn't grow up a football player but took to the sport quickly in high school.
"I was a basketball player and I didn't play football until my freshman year," said Daniel, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman who now checks in as the No. 61 overall prospect and No. 10 defensive tackle in the country. "I didn't even really like football."

Daniel began his career as an offensive tackle, but was moved to the middle of the defensive line as a sophomore. It was during that season when his football light went on.

"We were playing Clovis High and we were undefeated," Daniel said of a game his team would eventually lose. "There were about 5,000 people in the stands and there was all that noise. I thought, 'Wow, this is fun.' That sealed the deal for me with football."

Daniel said he now can't live without the sport and is extremely grateful that night put him on a path to where he is now. He gives California two of the top 10 defensive tackle prospects -- along with Rasheem Green -- which should make Pac-12 coaches extremely happy, considering the position has been fairly thin in terms of depth in the state over the past few years.

Thomas Toki and Kahlil McKenzie also give California four of the top 20 defensive tackles in the nation, and Daniel said he's had his eye on the group for a while now, watching their highlight tapes.

Daniel, Green and McKenzie had a chance to meet during a trip to USC for the Trojans' junior day this winter, and while Daniel said he had a good time with the other ESPN 300 prospects and that he could see them working well as teammates, there's no guarantee they'll wind up at the same school, as all three still have plenty of the recruiting process left to explore.

For Daniel, roughly 30 offers have been cut to a final 11 schools, and he'll look to take that group down to five by the summer. And when Daniel ultimately settles on one program and makes his commitment, the coach might want to take a moment to send a thank you to the fans that filled that Fresno football stadium two years ago.

About his recruitment: Daniel made an early commitment to Washington, but pulled away from that when Steve Sarkisian left for USC. Daniel cut his list to 11 schools this spring, as Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, California, Fresno State, Mississippi, Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington remain in the hunt. The big defensive tackle is looking to trim that list even further before summer begins, as he'd like to head into the long break with a top five schools.

Scouting profile: STRENGTHS: Demonstrates very good upper- and lower-body playing strength with good down-the-line speed and quickness. Does a nice job seeing through blockers and is an instinctive football player in the trenches. Shows very quick, active feet. A high-effort player in getting to the football. An effective defender versus the pass and can collapse the pocket with his size and strength. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Will benefit from added speed and change-of-direction quickness. Needs polish in his hand usage and overall technique versus the run. Needs to improve his skills as a square wrap up tackler. ... BOTTOM LINE: Daniel is a tall, massive DT and an imposing figure who demonstrates good movement skills for his size. His size and strength might cause a move to the offensive line at the next level. -- ESPN player card Scouting Report

Handicapping the race: USC is the likely favorite at this point, considering Daniel has already committed to Sarkisian once and has said the Trojans staff is recruiting him the hardest. But a number of out-of-state programs, including Arizona and Notre Dame, have recruited the Fresno area well in recent years and will go hard after Daniel. Oregon and UCLA have also done well in recent years to put themselves in the mix for virtually any California prospect.