With star quarterback Trevor Lawrence sidelined for at least Saturday's game against Boston College after testing positive for COVID-19, Clemson is expected to turn the offense over to another former five-star prospect who ranked among the nation's best players in his recruiting class.
True freshman D.J. Uiagalelei (pronounced: oo-ee-AHN-gah-leh-lay), from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California, chose the Tigers over dozens of offers from the nation's top programs, including Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
Since verbally committing in May 2019, Uiagalelei has been identified as Clemson's quarterback of the future once Lawrence leaves for the NFL. Lawrence, a junior, said earlier this season that this year would be his last, though he hedged on that statement in remarks made this week.
Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei during warm-ups before the Tigers' game against Miami. (Photo: Ken Ruinard, USA TODAY Sports)
"He has everything that the great ones we’ve had (had), just bigger," coach Dabo Swinney said of Uiagalelei last December. "He’s not 6-6 like Trevor, but none of those guys were 240 pounds, and he can run as well as anybody we’ve had. Just a special young man. Just a very humble young man. No entitlement. No drama."
Swinney is right: Uiagalelei is only 6-foot-4, according to Clemson's roster.
An early enrollee, Uiagalelei has quickly moved ahead of redshirt freshman Taisun Phommachanh to serve as the Tigers' primary backup through the first six games of the 2020 season.
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Being the backup comes with its privileges. With Clemson typically well in front in the second half — the Tigers are outscoring opponents by an average of 35 points per game — Uiagalelei has seen action in five games, completing 12 of 19 attempts for 102 yards and rushing for two scores.
"I think D.J. has picked up the offense fast," Clemson tight end Braden Galloway said earlier this month. "He's starting to be in control of the offense, he's starting to understand protections and protection schemes, and things like that."
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