LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels has won the 2023 Heisman Trophy. Daniels was announced as the award's recipient Saturday night after totaling 50 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 total yards during a standout senior season. He edged Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. for college football's most prestigious individual honor.
Daniels is the second LSU quarterback in the last five years to capture the Heisman as Joe Burrow claimed the award following a prolific 2019 season. Daniels is the program's third Heisman winner overall, joining Burrow and running back Billy Cannon, who brought home the award in 1959.
Daniels' 328-point margin over Penix was the closest since 2018 when Oklahoma's Kyler Murray beat Tua Tagovailoa by 296 points.
The Heisman win caps a historically productive final season of college football for Daniels, who transferred to LSU in 2022 after three seasons at Arizona State. He emerged as one of the SEC's premier quarterbacks last season and took his game to soaring heights this year while guiding the Tigers a 9-3 record.
Daniels totaled 3,812 yards passing with 40 touchdowns and just four interceptions while adding 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rusher. He and Johnny Manziel are the only players in SEC history to throw for 3,500 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
While there are many arguments for what might have constituted a "Heisman moment" for Daniels, two games stood out as built a case for the award. In a Nov. 11 showdown against Florida, he became the only player in FBS history to run for pass for 350 yards and rush for 200 yards in a game as he led LSU to a 52-35 win. Daniels set a new SEC single-game record for total yards with 606 in the contest. The following week, he tied a school-record with eight total touchdowns in a win over Georgia State.
While Daniels' 317.7 yards passing per game ranked slightly behind fellow finalists Penix (324.5) and Nix (318.8), his passing efficiency mark of 208.0 ranked first nationally by a landslide entering bowl season. Daniels' running ability was also unmatched by Penix and Nix. Though LSU did not reach the SEC Championship Game, Daniels still finished the season leading the nation in total yards (4,946) by more than 500 over Nix (4,373) and Penix (4,200), both of whom competed in the Pac-12 Championship Game. That speaks to Daniels' effectiveness as a runner all season.
2023 Heisman Trophy voting
- Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU: 2,029 points (503 first-place votes)
- Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington: 1,701 points (292 first-place votes)
- Bo Nix, QB, Oregon: 885 points (51 first-place votes)
- Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State: 352 points (20 first-place votes)
- Jordan Travis, QB, Florida State: 85 points (8 first-place votes)
- Jalen Milroe, QB, Alabama: 73 points (4 first-place votes)
- Ollie Gordon II, RB, Oklahoma State: 31 points (1 first-place vote)
- Cody Schrader, RB, Missouri: 29 points (1 first-place vote)
- Blake Corum, RB, Michigan: 28 points (3 first-place votes)
- J.J. McCrathy, QB, Michigan: 21 points (1 first-place vote)
LSU's similarly dominant winners
Saturday night's victory further solidifies LSU as a destination for premier quarterbacks after Burrow set a historic tone in 2019 that Daniels emulated. Both players transferred into LSU following three seasons at another Power Five school and took huge strides in their second and final seasons starting for the Tigers.
Burrow set an FBS record with 60 touchdowns passing in 2019 while guiding LSU to a 15-0 record and College Football Playoff National Championship. His 202.0 passer efficiency rating marked an FBS record at the time, though it was bested by Mac Jones of Alabama and Grayson McCall of Coastal Carolina in subsequent seasons. Now, it's Daniels who is in line to finish with the single-season record for passing efficiency, pending his decision whether to suit up for the ReliaQuest Bowl against Wisconsin on Jan. 1.
Burrow and Daniels differed significantly in their styles, played for different coaches and didn't experience comparable levels of team success; however, heading into the Heisman ceremony, their staggering levels of statistical production bore obvious similarities. At the time of the award in 2019, Burrow had accounted for 51 total touchdowns and 5,004 yards. Entering Saturday night's ceremony, Daniels stood at 4,946 yards and 50 touchdowns, despite having played one fewer game.
A quarterback award
During a three-year stretch from 1997-99, three non-quarterbacks won the Heisman as Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson, Texas running back Ricky Williams and Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne took home the stiff-arm trophy. But the award has been dominated by quarterbacks in the 21st century with Daniels becoming the 20th quarterback to win the Heisman in the 2000s and the sixth in the past seven years.
Still, the past two seasons have dispelled the notion that Heisman is merely a "team award" granted to the best player on the top team. Of the four finalists, only Penix is playing in the College Football Playoff, and Daniels' victory comes a year after USC quarterback Caleb Williams similarly won the Heisman without appearing appearing in the CFP.