Dabo Swinney is a positive guy. He always looks for the silver lining in everything, even after a tough loss like No. 4 Clemson experienced at Notre Dame last week.
The sliver lining in the Tigers’ double-overtime defeat to the Irish was quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.
“I think you can always be a half full or half empty person,” Swinney said. “It just depends on how you want to look at it. That is one choice that we all control.”
The silver lining for Uiagalelei was not the fact he threw for more passing yards (439) against Notre Dame than anyone who has ever played against the Irish. Instead, it’s the fact he got an opportunity to play in two games, tough games nonetheless, before he presumably becomes the starter next year should Trevor Lawrence leave Clemson for the NFL.
“It was definitely a silver lining that D.J. was able to get two starts under his belt, and not just two starts, but two battles. Two flat out battles,” Swinney said.
Uiagalelei got the starts after Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 29, two days prior to the Boston College game. All the freshman did was rally from 18 points down to lead the Tigers to their greatest comeback in the history of Death Valley.
Last week, he nearly took down No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend, while completing 29-of-44 passes for two touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown.
In his first two starts, Uiagalelei threw for 781 yards, six touchdowns and no turnovers. He also ran for two touchdowns.
“That is going to pay huge dividends for him this year and next year,” Swinney said. “I mean just the confidence he will have going into his preparation this week, going into the rest of this season, the confidence the team has in him and knowing you have a guy over there that you don’t have to hold your breath every time Trevor falls down. You have a guy that get it done.
“And certainly, for next year, having gone on the road and started in a top 5 matchup, GameDay and all of those things against a great opponent. He not only played well, he played amazing. Certainly, there are things we will coach him on. But, I mean, he threw for more yards than any quarterback in history to throw on Notre Dame. Notre Dame has been playing a lot of football for a long time and has played a lot of great quarterbacks, so that is pretty special what he has able to do from that standpoint. He found a way to give us a chance to be successful and win the game.”
Lawrence is expected to be back for the Tigers when they travel to Florida State on Nov. 21. But if Uiagalelei is called upon, there is no doubt he will be ready.
“I am really proud of him. That is definitely going to serve him well the rest of this year and into next year, no doubt,” Swinney said. “There is nothing like experience.”
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