It was a short while ago when DJ Uiagalelei was tipped for greatness. A strong candidate for the #1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and the successor of a strong line of Clemson QB’s. Skipping forward to today and Uiagalelei won’t only not be going to the 2023 NFL Draft, but he’s also no longer the starting QB for the Clemson Tigers as he entered the transfer portal in early December and later committed to Oregon State.
So where did it all go wrong for Uiagalelei and what does his once promising future look like?
DJ Uiagalelei attended St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California. Ending his high school career as the number 2 ranked player of his class. Getting a 5 star rating by 247 Sports. His stats perfectly explain why he was ranked so highly as he threw for 10,496 yards and 127 touchdowns. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was 127:11 while he had an average of 249.9 passing yards per game and he was a two-time USA TODAY High School All-American.
DJ committed to the Clemson Tigers on May 5th, 2019 and enrolled on January 8th, 2020. Due to his Samoan decent, he was added to the list of ‘Throwin’ Samoans’. Alongside Jack Thompson – the original Throwin’ Samoan – Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and current Miami Dolphins starter Tua Tagovailoa. It was clear at this stage in his career that Uiagalelei was destined for greatness. It seemed a year of study under All-American Trevor Lawrence could only solidify the success that Clemson would see with Uiagalelei as their main man.
Everything coming up Uiagalelei
And this hope seemed to be coming true late into the 2020 season as Uiagalelei was given his first start against the Boston College Eagles due to Lawrence’s positive COVID 19 test. He completed 31 passes on 40 attempts for 342 yards and 2 touchdowns. Leading Clemson to a comeback after trailing by 18 points in the first half. A week later, he started his second game in place of Lawrence against undefeated Notre Dame. The Irish won 47-40 in an overtime thriller but Uiagalelei shined again as he completed 29 of 44 passes for 439 yards and 2 touchdowns.
With Trevor Lawrence set to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft and Uiagalelei destined to become the starter, everything was falling into place for the young QB. While Clemson were set to compete for National Championships for the foreseeable future.
DJ’s sophomore year began with Trevor Lawrence being picked number one overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Resulting in DJ getting the starting QB spot at Clemson, but this was expected especially after the flashes of brilliance in his freshman year. Clemson were ranked #3 in the preseason predictions and a place in the CFP was forecast. Uiagalelei also signed NIL deals with Dr Pepper and Bojangles (American restaurant chain) to appear in commercials throughout the season.
However, Uiagalelei’s sophomore year would be one to forget as he lead Clemson to a 10-3 record. Clemson were ranked #14 in the country which was majorly disappointing. DJ’s stats on the season weren’t great either as he threw for 2,246 yards with a completion percentage of 55.6%. Add on to that 9 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions and you have a howler of a season from one of the most hyped up players in college football.
And then we have the 2022 season where things somehow got worse for Uiagalelei. Head coach Dabo Swinney began to lose patience with his starting QB. He benched him numerous times throughout the season for poor play. The game against South Carolina was a standout for poor play as DJ threw 8 passes on 29 attempts for a dismaying 99 yards. Clemson would go on to lose the game 30-31, putting their CFP hopes in the gutter.
Then we have the ACC Championship game…
Uiagalelei lasted two offensive possessions and was then benched for the remainder of the game by coach Swinney as Clemson totalled only 7 yards of offence with no first downs. Freshmen QB Cade Klubnik was given the chance of a lifetime to impress. And that he did as he lead Clemson to a 39-10 victory over North Carolina, sending the Tigers to the Orange bowl. Uiagalelei would enter the transfer portal two days later. This after Swinney announced that Klubnik would start against Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.
On the 24th December Uiagalelei committed to the Oregon State Beavers. He will battle starter Ben Gulbranson who went 7-1 as a starter for the Beavers.
The Future for Uiagalelei
Uiagalelei’s future is his to determine at this stage. He’s joined a talented Oregon State team who were able to return all five of their starting O-linemen. Plus they have one of the top Young running backs in the country in PAC12-Offensive Freshman of the year Damien Martinez. Who ran for 982 yards in his first season of college football.
Also, Uiagalelei improved drastically in the 2022 season. Not least as he lost some weight and began to run more destined QB run plays. He set career highs in passing touchdowns (22), passing yards (2,521), in rushing yards (545), and rushing touchdowns (7).
Uiagalelei’s presence in Corvallis should boost the rivalry with Oregon, otherwise known as “The Civil War”. Also, his younger brother Matayo – who’s a top defensive end recruit – recently committed to Oregon. Meaning we could see the two brothers line up against each other in one of the Pac-12’s fiercest rivalries.
Banner Image: DJ Uiagalelei from SB Nation
Finlay Halliday is a new writer here at Ninety-Nine Yards, and if you like his work you can fnid more here.