Redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels is riding the emotions of seeing his friend and mentor Matt Grothe go down with a career-ending ACL injury.
On Saturday, Daniels will be carrying new emotions when he makes his first career start against FSU at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee – his hometown.
“It means a lot,” Daniels said. “I told coach Leavitt when he recruited me that I wanted to play Florida State. It’s always been a dream to come back home and play in front of your home crowd.”
Daniels threw 34 touchdown passes as a high school senior, setting a Lincoln High record.
As Grothe’s backup, Daniels rushed for 144 yards on 15 carries and completed 12 of 15 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in three games this season.
“I feel like I’ve been practicing forever,” Daniels said. “I finally got in game situations and felt like I had a pretty good handle on the offense. Of course, there are always things you can work on and get better.”
Daniels said his confidence in his athletic ability has driven him this year. On Saturday, however, he’ll have a whole new set of circumstances to deal with.
“The biggest thing is keeping him poised and not let him get over-excited about going back home and playing,” said offensive coordinator Mike Canales. “(B.J.) got the extra reps during camp when he had to and those have paid dividends. He’ll be fine.”
Grothe had a non-medical redshirt his first year in college, meaning a sixth year of eligibility is out of the question. A player can’t have two redshirt years unless they involve injury.
Grothe was at Monday’s practice wearing a knee brace and will remain a captain, said coach Jim Leavitt.
“He’s fine,” Leavitt said. “He’s not going to worry about what he can’t control. He’s helping quite a bit.”
McGeoghan: We need guys to step up
Without Grothe and senior wide receiver Jessie Hester, the Bulls are looking for players to step up and make plays, said wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan.
Junior running back Mike Ford, who was suspended for the first two games, made an impact Saturday, scoring a 2-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. Ford finished with 19 yards on four carries.
“It’s good to have him back, we need him,” Leavitt said. “We want to get him more carries but in the end we were just so gun-shy.”
Junior wide receiver Dontavia Bogan, who was held without a catch against Western Kentucky in week two, caught three passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, gaining the praise of his coaches and teammates.
“He’s a playmaker. He has big-time ability,” McGeoghan said. “He didn’t have a catch last week and came with the right attitude. He was determined to make an impact and did just that.”
Hester did not play Saturday, and Leavitt said he’s unsure if he will play at FSU. He led the team in receptions and yards last year. After recovering from his ankle injury, Hester pulled his hamstring in practice last week.
McGeoghan said Bogan’s performance was encouraging.
“It’s big,” he said. “We need guys to step up. We need playmakers to make plays. It’s not going to come from one person when you run the spread.”
Sophomore safety Jerrell Young, who broke his arm against Western Kentucky, did not practice on Monday … Sophomore cornerback Quenton Washington (ankle) didn’t play Saturday but practiced Monday and “didn’t do too bad,” Leavitt said.