Even with spring practice concluding over the weekend, there is still plenty going on at Clemson. Senior writer Matt Connolly is ready to answer whatever questions you might have. You can submit your question for the “Question of the Day” here. Today’s question is about Clemson’s linebackers.
Did you notice anything specific about DJ? Thoughts on him?
— Anticipation (@mailabull) April 5, 2021
D.J. Uiagalelei couldn’t have been more impressive during his two starts last season against Boston College and Notre Dame, but he still has plenty of room to grow as a quarterback.
It’s unfair to the sophomore to expect him to step in during his first year as a starter and be as productive as Trevor Lawrence was in Year 3.
Uiagalelei will go through some growing pains this season, which was evident even during Saturday’s spring game. He finished 20 of 28 passing for 174 yards and a touchdown but was unable to lead the Orange down the field for the game-winning score in the final two minutes.
“Just really taking ownership of this offense. Go back through the installation, go back through all the spring,” Dabo Swinney said when asked what he wants to see from Uiagalelei this offseason.
“We’re talking about trying to be elite and helping him. He’s a very good player, obviously, but helping him become the best version of him.”
Uiagalelei’s arm strength is undeniable. He can make all the throws, and that’s the first thing that stands out when watching him. A deep post, a throw across the field to the opposite hash, he can do it all.
The area I think he needs to improve most is just making quick decisions and getting rid of the ball.
Obviously he couldn’t run in the spring game, and when defenders got close to him the play was blown dead and ruled a sack. But being sacked six times (even in a spring game) is a lot.
Holding onto the ball was costly in last year’s double-overtime loss to Notre Dame in the regular season as well. Uiagalelei took a pair of sacks in double OT as the Tigers suffered their only loss of the regular season.
Other areas Uiagalelei needs to improve include becoming a better leader and “transforming his body” to be a true dual-threat quarterback, according to Swinney.
“Being a little more verbal, because he’s been the backup. Really becoming a leader. And then just playing within the system,” Swinney elaborated. “He’s a little more of a gunslinger mentality, which you like. More disciplined.”