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Uiagalelei set up for productive summer ahead of pressure-mounting season

Caleb Browder

D.J. Uiagalelei (5) throws under pressure during the second half of the Clemson Orange-White Spring Game at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Whether it was Tajh Boyd, Deshaun Watson or Trevor Lawrence, Clemson has become accustomed to phenomenal quarterbacks in the past decade. However, with all of that greatness comes higher expectations for the future, which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on current freshman and next-year sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.
Following the spring game on April 3, head coach Dabo Swinney spoke about the next steps Uiagalelei needs to take this offseason. “Go back through the installation, go back through the spring, go back over every mistake and situation. He really had a good spring, but we are talking about trying to be elite,” said Swinney. 
Swinney added that “He’s a very good player obviously, but helping him become the best version of himself: really asserting himself as a leader. He’s got to lead the skills-and-drills.”
“Getting his body in the best possible position he can be in. He is a true freshman– his body is nowhere near mature as it’s going to be as he continues to grind in the weight room and nutrition.”
Uigalelei displayed his immense talent this past season during the comeback victory against Boston College and the high-scoring thriller against Notre Dame, but the intangibles are what Swinney is referring to. The all-time great quarterbacks, such as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, do not all have the same builds, athleticism or throwing mechanics, but they are all exceptional leaders who study the game of football relentlessly. Although we shouldn’t compare Uigalelei to NFL legends yet, the more equipped he becomes as a leader and the more experience he gains through watching film and studying the game, the better the chances he will become “elite,” as Swinney said.
Uiagalelei also spoke to the media following the spring game and emphasized his goals for the summer. “Feel like there are a lot of things I could work on, but that I did a lot of things well too. Just going through all of my reads, my RPOs, becoming a leader and being more vocal is huge,” said Uiagalelei. “Just keep growing and becoming the best leader I can for my team is the biggest thing.”
For Uigalelei, accomplishing those goals and being fully prepared for the upcoming season is critical, especially since Clemson opens next season against the formidable Georgia Bulldogs. The good news for Tiger fans is that if Uigalelei’s first two games as a starter are any indication of his future, Clemson will continue to have great quarterback play for as long as he stays.

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