Who Is D.J. Uiagalelei?

Clemson’s QB of the future is already making waves

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Even though college football hasn’t been on since January, one could argue that the spring period is one of the sport’s most important periods. Spring football starts up, the NFL draft happens and recruiting is ongoing. In a window where there’s a lack of football storylines, with respect to games and transactions, there’s plenty of behind-the-scenes stuff happening that affects the sport’s outlook for years to come.

If you’re in the position of a team like Clemson—coming off their second national championship in three years—you’re hoping to keep your success at that level for as long as possible. No one stays on top forever. So even though standout freshman QB Trevor Lawrence can’t enter the draft until after his junior season, Clemson has to think about his replacement eventually, even if that ascension can’t happen until 2021, at the earliest. 

Enter D.J. Uiagalelei, the quarterback Clemson is grooming to be their next star.

D.J. Uiagalelei Highlights

Even though Uiagalelei is a four-star (out of five) prospect, he’s received as much media attention as the hyped prospects of the recent past, guys like Josh Rosen (who is now on the Miami Dolphins) and Lawrence himself. An extensive ESPN profile introduced us to a soft-spoken, patient decision-maker. It also introduced us to Big Dave, Uiagalelei’s father, a social media oversharer who has done body work for Rihanna.

Uiagalelei (ooie-anga-la-LAY) played high school football at St. John Bosco, in California, a team that regularly produces Division I talent. For years, he sat behind Re-al Mitchell, a QB prospect who is now at Iowa State; his patience served him well then, and he’ll likely have to rely on that trait again. At 6-foot-4, Uiagalelei is the prototype QB size, and he has a big arm.He throws a 95 mph fastball, according to ESPN, and will enroll at Clemson in January so he can try out for the baseball team. 

NFL Draft

While Uiagalelei won’t see the field for a few years, that hasn’t stopped NFL prognosticators from keeping him on their radar. If Clemson’s recruiting class for 2020 is anything like its past few classes, he’ll be surrounded by talent and won’t have to rely on film and potential alone to get drafted. Meaning: He’ll do numbers at Clemson.

The most interesting thing going forward is how Clemson will use Uiagalelei—if at all—with Trevor Lawrence behind center, or if Uiagalelei will redshirt and take a year to learn. As we’ve seen in the recent past, a strong arm is important, but the ability to see the field, read defenses and minimize mechanical weaknesses can lift marginal throwers. 

Above all, Uiagalelei is a talent worth watching because of the unusual nature of his situation. Most players of his caliber seek out situations where they’ll see the field sooner rather than later, and that Uiagalelei passed on offers from places like Oregon and Georgia, two powerhouses where he’d be on the field next year, could be a telling detail.

But telling of what? To be determined. 

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