In the aftermath of Clemson’s latest win, Dabo Swinney revealed the ultimatum he had stashed in his mind regarding quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. The Tigers’ coach called it “do or die” for his starting quarterback, who had been benched in Clemson’s previous two games.
That didn’t happen last week against Louisville. Uiagalelei performed better, completing 19 of 27 passes with no interceptions. He did fumble in the Tigers’ 31-16 win over the Cardinals but ended the day accounting for more touchdowns (2) than turnovers (1), the first time that’s happened since the Florida State game in mid-October.
True freshman Cade Klubnik didn’t make his first appearance against Louisville until midway through the fourth quarter. With the Tigers leading by two touchdowns at the time, his insertion was more about getting him some additional experience rather than providing a spark that Swinney and offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said they thought was necessary when Klubnnik entered with Clemson trailing against Syracuse and Notre Dame.
Swinney said following the Louisville game that he was prepared to go to Klubnik sooner if Uiagalelei had struggled the way he did in those games, though he didn’t specify whether or not that meant making a permanent change at the position. Streeter didn’t offer much clarity on that either when pressed this week, but the Tigers’ first-year play caller and quarterbacks coach has seen the same things other observers both inside and out of the program had seen the last few weeks.
Streeter said Uiagalelei isn’t oblivious to the fact that he has to perform well at the most important position on the field in order to maintain his status as QB1.
“I think he knows every day and every week, there’s competition,” Streeter said. “When you’re playing the quarterback position, the team is going to go as you play. It’s very simple. And I talk about that with the quarterbacks all the time. We’re going to play as well as you do. So as soon as you accept that pressure and accept that responsibility, that’s just life. That’s what you signed up for, which is not an easy spot. But hey, when it goes good, you’re getting all the praise. And when it doesn’t, you’re getting the blame. That’s just part of the territory.”
Uiagalelei will look to build on what he did a week ago Saturday when Clemson hosts Miami at Memorial Stadium. Despite some rough patches, the junior quarterback has still accounted for 24 touchdowns with just five interceptions on the season.
But as the last few weeks have shown, it’s a fluid situation.
“He understands that very, very well,” Streeter said.
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