Clemson had just 9 practices in the spring, Uiagalelei made the most of them
Redshirt freshman Taisun Phommachanh came into spring practice as the No. 2 guy. When Clemson broke from camp on March 11, the sophomore was still holding his spot after nine practices.
However, head coach Dabo Swinney said D.J. Uiagalelei was competing hard and was already starting to push Phommachanh to be Trevor Lawrence’s backup.
“He is going to compete every single day. He is just a natural,” Swinney said. “It is going to be very competitive, and Taisun is the same way.”
Uiagalelei enrolled at Clemson in January after signing as the nation’s No. 1 quarterback and No. 2 overall recruit in the 2020 class.
Phommachanh redshirt last season after playing in three games.
“When he came in, in the spring, no quarterback that comes in right away has confidence because they’re trying to learn the system and they’re trying to figure it out,” quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter said in January prior to the national championship game. “As (last) spring went on, he got better and better, and he then he made a tremendous amount of improvement over the summer and just felt more and more comfortable with the system and understanding the system. And then this fall has been an awesome year for him.”
Swinney saw his growth as well and says Phommachanh is a completely different guy than he was this time last year. Streeter felt sitting behind guys like Lawrence and Chase Brice last fall really helped with Phommachanh’s development.
“Didn’t get nearly as many reps, other than in preseason camp, and when he did get his reps in practice and in games, he really took advantage of them and I think he really learned a lot of stuff this fall,” the Clemson coach said. “I really believe that by having guys like Trevor and Chase Brice in front of him, it was really good for him to learn under those guys and see how they go into the meetings and how they learn and how they take notes and things like that. So just a ton of improvement, and I’m very, very pleased with where he is.”
However, that’s not going to scare Uiagalelei off. He did not become the nation’s top quarterback recruit because he was scared of a little competition.
“D.J. is as advertised,” Swinney said. “He is who he is. He is here because he is a great talent, but he is also a great competitor. So, there ain’t nobody out here that is not going to show up and compete every single day. And that is what has happened.”
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