Two sophomores (Daniels and Cornelius Wortham) ended up flanking All-SEC performer at middle linebacker Saleem Rasheed on both sides, even though both athletes played sparingly as true freshmen in 2000.
Daniels finished second on the team in tackles with 102, behind only Rasheed who finished with 118. That marked the first time two Tide linebackers totaled more than 100 tackles in the same season since Marty Lyons and Barry Kraus turned the trick in 1978
Coming into his junior season, Daniels believes that this defense could be very special, especially after a year of experience under the new staff.
"(In the spring) the front seven made minimal mistakes," Daniels said. "Everybody knows the defense now. When coach Torbush calls the play, everyone knows what to do now, whereas last year we made mistakes and we'd have people in the wrong places at times."
Seniors Kindal Moorehead (defensive end), Jarret Johnson (defensive tackle), and Kenny King (nose tackle); and juniors Nautyn McKay-Loescher (defensive end), Cornelius Wortham (strongside linebacker) and Daniels (Rover) return this season. That means that the Tide will have players with starting experience back at six of the seven up front positions. Only middle linebacker will sport an unproven starter.
"We understand the defense better," Daniels added. "To me, our front seven is great. Also, our cornerbacks are physical, they go after the ball, and they fight for the ball."
Starting every game in 2001, Daniels was double-figures in tackles six times, including a career-high 16 versus Ole Miss. The junior Rover was also credited with one sack, three pass breakups and five quarterback pressures. During the final six games of the season, Daniels averaged 11.5 tackles per game.
This season several new players enter the scene, such as redshirt freshmen Mark Anderson and Juke King. Daniels knows he must take a leadership role with the linebacking corps now that he is one of the older players.
"I try to pass on to then to play hard every play, and don't get rattled when the other opponents get excited," Daniels said. "When you mess up, forget that play and go on. You'll have more plays. That's all I tell them, to keep their head up and work hard."
Daniels also credits Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush for teaching him more about defense. "I've learned a lot of stuff from him," Daniels said. "(I've learned) where to put my hands, (learned about) shedding blockers to make tackles, I've learned a great deal."
A smile also comes to his face when the season-ending game at Hawaii is brought up, although he knows that the trip is for business first, and the pleasure will come later.
"The first thing I heard, I thought about fun, but it's just like going anywhere else," Daniels said. "We have to play Hawaii and win the game. The fun will come later.
"We're going to fight our tails off until that game. We're going to fight from week one until that game."
With NCAA sanctions presently barring the Tide from post-season play the next two seasons, Bama juniors and seniors could have transferred without penalty. In fact, Daniels was actively recruited by numerous schools around the Southeast, including Florida State, Georgia and Clemson. But he and his teammates made a conscious decision to remain loyal to Alabama and each other.
Remarkably, not a single scholarshipped player has transferred.
Daniels will spend his last two seasons listening to Crimson Tide fans cheer every tackle he makes. In fact, it was the fans that convinced him to come to Alabama in the first place.
"We have the greatest fans ever," he said. "When I first came here, they all welcomed me here, shook my hands, it was fun."