DJ Uiagalelei’s improvement so far this season, from where he was a year ago, has been obvious.
After completing only 55.6 percent of his passes with more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (nine) during his first full season as Clemson’s starting quarterback in 2021, Uiagalelei has hit on 64.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 10 touchdowns with just one pick through four games this season.
The biggest reason for the strides Uiagalelei has made this season?
Dabo Swinney says it starts with the junior signal-caller’s confidence.
“He’s just playing with a lot of joy,” Clemson’s head coach said Tuesday. “He’s very confident, and that’s the first thing that jumps out. He wasn’t very confident last year. He got in a bad spot. He’s in a good space there.”
Swinney added that Uiagalelei’s improved accuracy is a reflection of that increased confidence.
“If you’re not very confident, you’re probably not going to be very accurate,” Swinney said, “and now he’s in a very good spot from a confidence standpoint and his accuracy’s been a lot better.”
Not only is Uiagalelei’s confidence translating to his arm and putting the ball where it needs to be, but his confidence is also showing up in his legs.
Thus far in 2022, the former five-star prospect from California has shown a willingness to tote the rock and is averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He has a rushing touchdown and ranks second on the team behind only sophomore running back Will Shipley in rushing attempts (41) and rushing yards (169).
Uiagalelei also has the second-longest run of any Tiger this season, a 23-yard scamper in last Saturday’s win over Wake Forest that trails only Shipley’s 53-yard run in the same game.
“That’s the biggest change – just his confidence in running the football, but also just creating and extending plays,” Swinney said.
If not for the way Uiagalelei has played, Clemson’s offensive line might be the most improved position on the team from last season, and Uiagalelei has certainly benefited from that unit’s growth as well.
“The guys around him have been better, and it’s just kind of all come together well,” Swinney said. “He’s much more confident with the guys up front. I think they’re doing a good job for him. But again, four games, working hard every week to just stay consistent, and so far he’s been able to do that.”
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