There is a reason why D.J. Uiagalelei is confident about the 2021 season. Though he was not the starter last year, he almost feels like he was because he quarterbacked the Tigers in their biggest regular season game.
With Trevor Lawrence benched due to COVID-19 protocols, Uiagalelei was charged with the task of taking the then top-ranked Tigers to South Bend to battle No. 4 Notre Dame. The then freshman did not disappoint.
Uiagalelei looked like a senior instead of a freshman as he torched the Irish defense, setting a record for passing yards against Notre Dame.
“Being able to play in a game like the Notre Dame game has got me ready to play and ready for what is coming up this season. I got my feet wet,” Uiagalelei said in the spring. “I felt like it was a great opportunity to play and show I could be a leader in this offense.”
Uiagalelei completed 29-of-44 passes that night in South Bend for 439 yards and two touchdowns. Even more impressive is the fact he did not throw an interception and had an efficiency rating of 164.7.
Though the Tigers lost the game in double overtime, it did not fall on the shoulders of Uiagalelei. He rallied the Tigers, twice, from double-digit deficits. He threw touchdown passes of 53 yards to Cornell Powell and 10 yards to Davis Allen.
Uiagalelei also ran in the go-ahead touchdown from a yard out in the first overtime.
“I feel like I got a full grasp of the playbook during fall camp, probably right after fall camp,” he said. “Going into the first week with my preparation, I felt like I had a really good grasp of the playbook and the protections and different things like that. Just knowing the different coverages… I feel like that is when it really came to me, and I had a good sense of everything.”
With Lawrence now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tigers are officially Uiagalelei’s team, and he is ready to show the world what he and Clemson are capable of doing.
He will get a chance to show everyone in primetime on Sept. 4 when the Tigers open the season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte against what should be a top 5 Georgia team.
“I am just trying to do my job,” Uiagalelei said. “I am not trying to do anything spectacular. Every time I am out, I am just trying to do my job and just trying to be a leader for the guys and be a voice and be a leader for the offense.”
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