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A More Experienced Kendal Daniels Ought to Be a Scary Sight for Offenses in 2023

Daniels said the game is slowing down for him.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — Kendal Daniels is the highest-rated defensive back prospect the Cowboys have ever landed, according to 247Sports, and all early signs point to him being let loose in Bryan Nardo’s 3-3-5 scheme.

Listed at 6-foot-4, 213 pounds, Daniels is a physical specimen. He’s the tallest and heaviest defensive back on the Cowboys’ roster. The Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2022, Daniels recorded 71 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, a forced fumble and five pass breakups. But in Nardo’s new scheme, the redshirt sophomore’s role should increase even further in 2023.

“I feel like it don’t feel no different than how I felt last year,” said Daniels after the first practice of fall camp. “I mean, like, I don’t come in here like, ‘Dang, I’m just gonna play this year.’ I’m coming here the same way I was last year, just trying to get ready for the season, try and go out there, learn the plays and go out there and win games.”

In the early parts of last season, OSU coach Mike Gundy likened Daniels to Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn of Major League. He was going to go 100 miles and hour, and OSU was just hoping it was 100 miles an hour in the right direction. But Daniels said Wednesday that things are starting to slow down for him entering his redshirt sophomore season.

Daniels was the No. 42 player in the 2021 recruiting class, per 247Sports. He initially signed with Texas A&M over offers from Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, Notre Dame, USC and others before he got out of his letter of intent and the Beggs product came to Stillwater.

With OSU being deep at safety in his first year on campus, Daniels redshirted while playing in three games in OSU’s Fiesta Bowl-winning 2021 season.

He recorded an interception in OSU’s 2022 season-opener against Central Michigan, a good sign of things to come. OSU was 5-1 a handful of weeks later when No. 20 Texas came to town. With the Longhorns driving into OSU territory down 41-34 in the final minute of the game, Daniels intercepted a tipped pass to push the Cowboys to 6-1. Then Daniels had a huge game Nov. 12 against Iowa State, forcing a fumble with a thunderous hit and grabbing another tipped pick.

Daniels was clearly ready for the moment and was only a redshirt freshman. With his frame and a better understanding of the game, Daniels should be in for an even better 2023.

“He’s a returning, experienced player,” Gundy said Monday. “He was out there last year. He made plays, but he was just out there — freshman. If we’re relying on freshmen to win games, it’s not generally gonna turn out very good. Now he’s a veteran. He gets it. He understands.

“… He’s at a unique spot. He has to be very aggressive but also defend the field. So, he has to study tape. He has to have an understanding and good savvy and a concept for the game. He seems like he’s doing well.”

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