DJ Uiagalelei patiently waited a year for the opportunity to become the Clemson Tigers starting quarterback.
There were never any questions about Uiagalelei’s talent. He was arguably the best quarterback in the recruiting class of 2020 and many have long viewed the big-armed West Coast kid as a prospect to be seen.
He spent his first year watching, listening and learning from Trevor Lawrence, while gaining valuable experience, starting two games in his first college season.
Before the Tigers stepped onto the pitch for the first training session of fall camp, head coach Dabo Swinney highlighted how this season under his belt has made a big difference for Uiagalelei.
“At this time last year, he hadn’t organized a camp yet,” Swinney said. “He hadn’t been a part of match week and the way we’re preparing for match week, you know, all of that. He’s done it now.”
After going through spring atop the Depths Board, Uiagalelei enters the Fall Camp with a completely different mindset.
“He’s just mentally in a different place and he was ahead last year for a typical freshman,” Swinney said. “His whole mind is different, you know. His maturity, his leadership role, all of those things. I’ve seen him assert himself a lot better.”
Xavier Thomas is “incredible”
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney has praised Xavier Thomas since spring training and added that he was thrilled to see the growth of the entire defensive line throughout fall camp.
Uiagalelei entered the camp at 247 pounds after hitting over 250 last year. It was enough weight loss for Swinney to jokingly suggest changing his quarterback’s nickname. However, while he may be a bit lighter, Swinney noted that Uiagalelei is now stronger as he enters his second season on the schedule.
“He’s stronger, he’s in great shape,” Swinney said. “I was playing with him (Thursday), I called him Little Cinco. I told him if he was four he would be Little Cinco until he came back in five. Then it comes down to Big Cinco. “
Uiagalelei has always had this quiet confidence in himself. To date, no moment has seemed too big for the 6-foot-5 California quarterback. He didn’t even make his first career road start at South Bend against Notre Dame.
When asked if he’s worried his new quarterback is putting too much pressure on himself, Swinney insisted he didn’t anticipate this to be an issue with Uiagalelei. That it’s just not something that is part of the mental makeup of his new starting quarterback.
“He’s a very confident kid, it’s been a long time,” Swinney said. “He’s been in the spotlight for a long time. The big high school football scene, the TV, the expectations, I mean he’s been there. Shoot, I also have some confidence in what I’ve seen at Notre Dame last year. He’s not really a He might be an outdated kid, but you can’t see him. I don’t care about him, I think it depends on who he is.
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