This year, the Ohio State quarterbacks coach has the task of helping freshman Terrelle Pryor grow into his own as a Buckeye. Although it is early to be mentioning Pryor in the same breath as the likes of the NFL's second-most-prolific passer and a Heisman Trophy winner in Marino and Smith, respectively, by Daniels' own admission Pryor has that kind ability.
"No question," he said. "Give him the opportunity to have as many reps as he will have three years from now. The only thing you can do is project that he'll be very much like those guys."
Those are lofty words of praise from the team's passing game coordinator, but that is a situation Pryor has grown familiar with. During his prep career at Jeannette, Pa., Pryor was often referred to as the next Vince Young. After his recruitment became a national story, he started getting described as football's LeBron James.
But Pryor is clearly on the fast track to becoming a special type of player in Daniels' eyes. He is the only freshman the coach has ever had start at quarterback under his tutelage.
For that, Pryor has his own ability to quickly grasp the team's playbook to thank.
"I think the thing that we didn't know and I don't think anybody could know was how well he would learn the offense and how quickly he would learn the offense," Daniels said. "That's probably the most interesting thing about him. The thing that he does, we felt pretty good he could do. We felt he could throw the ball well but he's thrown the ball even better than that.
"I think the biggest thing is him learning the offense. It's amazing."
That knowledge of the team's offense has helped Pryor unseat incumbent starter and sixth-year senior Todd Boeckman for the starting role. It has also led the OSU coaches to a point where they do not feel limited in what they can call because Pryor is under center.
Without being able to forecast that ability to learn the playbook, Daniels said he was did not predict Pryor to ascend to the role of starter so quickly.
A dual-threat quarterback who can make plays with his legs as well as his arm, Pryor occasionally looks like a work in progress as a passer. However, head coach Jim Tressel said there are no plans to alter his throwing motion.
"We don't care about the motion, only the results," Tressel said. "Unless it's glaring, and Terrelle Pryor is not glaring."
Building from that, Daniels said the coaches have had to fix a number of little things involving Pryor's mechanics, but none of them have been actually throwing the football. Rather, they have involved parts of his mechanics that then affect his throwing.
"Guys need more work and constant work on their feet, on their footwork," Daniels said. "You've got to keep harping on them as far as their feet are concerned and all the footwork that's involved because if there's a problem throwing the ball, most cases it's from the waist down. It's not something fundamental on top as they're throwing: It's going to be from the waist down."
From the neck up, however, Pryor appears to be ahead of the game. Daniels described him as being ahead of the game at this juncture when compared to Smith as a freshman. During the team's 20-17 victory against Wisconsin, Pryor connected with sophomore wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher for a 17-yard pickup on the fourth play of the game.
The play involved Pryor recognizing that the Badgers were in a defense he had not practiced against and instinctively making the correct play, Tressel said.
"I'm thinking, ‘He never did that once in his life,' " Tressel said. "I mean, we didn't rehearse that. Now, he'd seen it on film, so I think he does not only process when he's trying to learn, but he has a good feel for things around him."
With at least two more years on tap in Columbus, Pryor stands to continue to grow as he takes more and more reps with the team. The final result could be a quarterback who goes down as one of the all-time greats – in college and beyond.
"He's caught on very well," Daniels said. "He asks a lot of questions. The amazing thing is he just remembers things. If you tell him something, he'll remember it. Now, it doesn't always happen the way you want it to, but he's a sharp kid."