D.J. Uiagalelei knew he had big shoes to fill as the Clemson starting quarterback. After backing up No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, the sophomore finally has a chance to be the next major star in college football.
However, an underwhelming performance in the Tigers season opener has cast some doubt on the start of the Uiagalelei era.
The Clemson offense struggled greatly throughout its Week 1 game against No. 5 Georgia. The Tigers offensive line lost the battle to the Bulldogs defensive front protect and Uiagalelei looked out of sync during key moments of the 10-3 loss. He was sacked seven times and threw a devastating pick-six that proved to be the only touchdown of ballgame.
Uiagalelei was the first to take the blame after the loss. He spoke candidly about his own performance and kept the focus on how he can play better moving forward.
“I felt confident in the game plan,” Uiagalelei said in his virtual postgame press conference. “I just have to go out and execute. I didn’t execute or make the throws when I needed to. Took a couple sacks when I should have thrown the ball away. I just need to be able to grow from that and not make those mistakes.”
The Clemson sophomore gave credit to the Georgia defense for mixing up coverages throughout the game, but said that the game ultimately came down to him not being able to make plays.
“[Georgia] ran a lot of different coverages, mixed coverages. A lot of two-high, one-high and different stuff out of that. For the most part, I just have to make the throws,” Uiagalelei said. “I didn’t play very well today and everyone could see that and it showed. I make those throws, and it’s a different ball game.”
Uiagalelei deserves some credit for putting the onus on himself to improve, rather than laying the blame at the feet of his teammates. However, there’s also plenty of truth in his comments. He needs to play much better if Clemson hopes to get back to the College Football Playoff.