Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei did something this past Saturday night that got a lot of attention on social media with mixed reactions from Tiger fans.
When the dust had settled and he had finished his interviews with the media, Uiagalelei made his way back onto the field and threw with a Clemson football manager. He practiced the throws he missed during the game and spent time going through those motions.
By now, I’m sure you’ve already seen the videos.
For the last couple of days, I’ve mulled over what to make of those videos and I want to preface what I’m about to say by acknowledging that I’ve been as critical of DJ Uiagalelei as anyone.
His footwork has looked off all season. His pocket presence simply isn’t there. He doesn’t have the foot speed to elude pass-rushers or to find that extra gear on an RPO. Speaking of the RPO game, he never pulls the ball despite many times where the field in front of him was nothing but green. He has missed the easy passes and he lacks ‘touch’ on many of the passes that should be easy ‘give-mes,’ for lack of a better term.
I’m also not the one to sit here and pretend that a midnight session of throwing the ball around will suddenly solve all of his problems.
That being said, there’s something about this that gives me confidence in him moving forward.
DJ Uiagalelei is about to have a breakthrough
Through the first five games of the season, we’ve all talked about how frustrating his performances have been. Uiagalelei has completed just 54.3 percent of his passes for 793 yards (158.6 yards per game) for three touchdowns and three interceptions.
But him being on that field Saturday night was not a “PR stunt.” It wasn’t him virtue signaling. It wasn’t him trying to create sympathy or gain attention.
This is a quarterback who knows he can play better and as frustrated as Clemson fans have been, you’ve got to know that he’s even more frustrated.
He could’ve gone out and celebrated a Homecoming victory. He could’ve gone back to his room to rest after a long evening. Instead, he chose to come back on that field and work on his game past 1 in the morning. He thought it was that important.
Perhaps DJ Uiagalelei is too much in his own head and he just needs to relax. Maybe he’s beyond fixable like many Tiger fans have said, but I’m going to choose to believe in him and that a breakthrough is coming.
Please note, I have no football reason to tell you that DJ Uiagalelei is about to have a breakthrough. I’ve been as negative as anyone through these first five games and, trust me, it won’t be all warm fuzzy feelings as we move forward with our coverage, either.
That being said, maybe it’s just blind hope for the sake of being optimistic, but I’m going to call it a ‘gut-feeling.’
I’m here to tell you that I believe this bye week could lead to a transformed Uiagalelei. He’s willing to work and develop, and now he has some time to loosen up, get back to the basics and come out a better version of himself.
Perhaps he proves me wrong and there is no positive development, but I will say this: If it’s going to happen this season, it’s going to be now.