There are lots of reasons why Dabo Swinney likes his new quarterback.
D.J. Uiagalelei is big, strong, athletic and has an arm that can make any throw on the football field. There is a reason why the Clemson quarterback was the top quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class and a top two overall prospect.
The gunslinger did not waste anytime proving his worth when he came in for an ill Trevor Lawrence last Halloween and led the Tigers to their biggest come-from-behind win in Death Valley history. Down 18 points to Boston College, he led Clemson to 24-unanswered points for a 34-28 victory.
With just two days’ notice, Uiagalelei completed 30-of-41 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start.
“I just like his demeanor,” head coach Dabo Swinney said this past spring. “He makes a bad play here or there, but he immediately knows his mistakes. That is what I love about him.”
The next week at Notre Dame, with Lawrence still recovering from COVID-19, Uiagalelei threw more yards against an Irish defense than any quarterback in history, as he racked up 439 yards on 29-of-44 passing and two touchdowns. He rallied the Tigers from 13 and 10 points down before finally taking the lead late in regulation before Notre Dame forced overtime.
“He is incredibly competitive. He is just going to get better and better and better,” Swinney said. “That is what I love because I know he is going to put the work in before practice, during practice and then when he is away, and nobody is watching.”
It would be easy for Uiagalelei to rest on his laurels considering he is already penciled in as the Tigers’ new starter. After last year’s success, everyone knows Uiagalelei can get the job done.
However, what makes an athlete in any sport truly great is how they push themselves to be better and never feel as if they have arrived. As Swinney noted, Uiagalelei knows he has work to do, and he is doing everything he can to make sure that he does.
“I know that he is working and thinking about how he could be the best quarterback here at Clemson and compete to be the best out there (in college football),” the Clemson coach said. “He is passionate about this opportunity he has in life. He is just fun to come to work with every day.”
Uiagalelei and Clemson will kick off the 2021 season on Sept. 4 against Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
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