There is no doubt that D.J. Uiagalelei has won his teammates over with everything he has done since stepping foot on campus as a true freshman last year ahead of spring practice.
“Everybody has unbelievable respect for D.J.,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said of his rising sophomore quarterback following the team’s scrimmage on Friday. “He earned that last spring, last summer, last season. They all respect DJ tremendously.”
Uiagalelei was ultra-impressive in two starts last season, when he led Clemson to the largest comeback in Memorial Stadium history in his first career start vs. Boston College on Oct. 31 and a week later, passed for 439 yards at Notre Dame – the most yards ever thrown against the Irish by an opposing quarterback. He finished his freshman campaign with 914 yards and five touchdowns against no interceptions across 10 games.
Because of all Uiagalelei has accomplished in such a short time, Swinney says the young signal-caller is being reminded in spring practice that he is still a new starter and has plenty of room to improve.
“He’s done a lot of good things, but he’s still getting reminded quickly he’s not been the starter yet outside of a couple games,” Swinney said. “We’re trying to put him in as many situations and expose him as much as we possibly can so he can grow. We need him to grow.”
Friday’s scrimmage provided a great learning opportunity for Uiagalelei and helped the Tigers point out some areas where he can clean up mistakes and get better.
“He made some mistakes today, a couple critical mistakes in the red zone that we can’t make – whether it be the right decision in the run game, or just protecting the football, protect the ball, situational awareness, don’t try to do too much, play within the system,” Swinney said.
While Uiagalelei is still learning and growing, Swinney and the Tigers are certainly glad to have a guy like him to take over for Trevor Lawrence and lead the team in 2021 and beyond.
“Absolutely,” Swinney said. “He’s got tremendous respect from his teammates.”
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