Swinney likens Clemson's QB situation to another from recent past

Swinney likens Clemson's QB situation to another from recent past


Swinney likens Clemson's QB situation to another from recent past


D.J. Uiagalelei remains Clemson’s starting quarterback heading into the summer, but is Dabo Swinney planning on getting prized freshman Cade Klubnik some work early next season just in case?

That was a question posed to the Tigers’ coach this week during the ACC spring meetings. Swinney drew a parallel with his answer between the team’s current quarterback situation and the one two years ago during Uiagalelei’s freshman season when he backed up Trevor Lawrence.

“We know he’s going to have an opportunity to play just like we did with D.J. and Trevor,” Swinney said of Klubnik. “It’s no different. We knew with Trevor that we were going to try to get D.J. an opportunity to play. It’s no different with D.J. We know what we have in Cade, and we certainly want to get him opportunities to play. Just like we knew what we had in D.J. when Trevor was there.”

Lawrence was firmly entrenched as the starter during his final season with the Tigers in 2020 before becoming the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, but Uiagalelei still played in 10 games that season. The former five-star recruit made his collegiate debut in the Tigers’ opener against Georgia Tech and saw action in four of the next five games before Lawrence was diagnosed with COVID-19. That pressed Uiagalelei into his first two career starts against Boston College and Notre Dame.

“All of a sudden, D.J. had to be ready, and he had two amazing games as our starter,” Swinney said. “It was good experience for him.”

Clemson would like to get Klubnik, the program’s latest blue-chip quarterback signee, the same kind of experience early in case an injury or illness pops up or if Swinney feels he simply needs to make a change at the position at some point. With a strong arm attached to his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame, Uiagalelei has the physical tools that scream next-level talent. Some early mock drafts for next year even have him as a first-round pick.

But Uiagalelei doesn’t enter his junior season with the same stranglehold on the starting job that Lawrence did two years ago. Uiagalelei struggled in his first season as the full-time starter, ranking in the bottom third in the ACC in completion percentage (55%) and throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (9).

“Obviously he didn’t have a great year last year individually, and we didn’t have a great year around him offensively,” Swinney said. “He’ll be better, and we’ll be better. And we’ll go from there.”

Swinney largely praised Uiagalelei’s performance throughout the spring, though he completed just 17 of 36 passes in the spring game with an interception. Meanwhile, Klubnik went 15 of 23, threw the game’s only touchdown pass and showed a different level of mobility that he used to buy more time or scramble for chunks of yardage on broken plays.

Clemson’s quarterbacks will pick the competition back up during fall camp before the Tigers open the season against Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Labor Day.

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