If there is one thing Tony Elliott learned about 2020 … he is not taking anything for granted.
Clemson’s offensive coordinator was one of several Tigers affected by COVID-19 last season, as he missed the Sugar Bowl after testing positive for the virus just a few days prior to the College Football Playoff semifinal. It proved that in a split second everything can change. Nothing is certain.
That is why Elliott wants to see a lot more out of backup quarterback Taisun Phommachanh this spring. Though D.J. Uiagalelei will likely be the starting quarterback when Clemson opens the 2021 season on Sept. 4 against Georgia, the coaching staff wants Phommachanh to be ready to go in case the unexpected happens.
“This spring is huge for him,” Elliott said. “I have definitely seen a different demeanor about him. When he has been out there taking his reps, you can see that he is trying to process things the way he needs to process them, not relying on talent, but really diving into the details.”
Clemson knows all too well how important it is to have the backup quarterback ready to play. Last year, Uiagalelei was forced into action after Trevor Lawrence contracted the virus two days prior to the Boston College game.
Lawrence missed both the BC and the Notre Dame game the following week. However, Uiagalelei was ready when his number was called and performed well in pressure situations.
“Last year illustrated that. Unbeknownst to us, Trevor is out for two games. D.J. had to step in,” Elliott said. “It really reenforced the concept that we have here … It is next man up and you are really one play away.”
Phommachanh is likely the Tigers’ No. 2 quarterback, so it will be important for him to be ready on a moments notice, like Uiagalelei and Chase Brice before him in previous seasons.
“I have just seen a difference (in him). There is a sense of urgency about him,” Elliott said. “He has really homed in on the details, and he feels he is one step closer to being able to touch, see and contribute to the team. You just see a renewed since of urgency.”
Phommachanh played in just four games last season, while completing 5-of-17 passes for 17 yards. The sophomore did not practice on Friday due to “protocol,” according to head coach Dabo Swinney.
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