It’s not rocket science to say that one of the most important responsibilities of the Clemson football offensive line is to protect quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei when he drops back to pass.
Call me Captain Obvious if you’d like, but sometimes reminders are nice, especially when you’re facing a talented and athletic defense that’s playing at home at night in front of a theoretically raucous crowd.
While I love numbers and analyzing football in that light, I realize not everyone does and I also recognize that it can, and often is, overdone, when an “analyst” relies on nothing but numbers and you wonder if you and they were watching the same game, or they even watched the game at all.
In this case, however, I think numbers are instructive. They add context to what we already know: Quarterbacks perform better when they are not pressured.
According to Pro Football Focus, Uiagalelei is completing 71.1% of his passes for 1,298 yards, with 12 touchdowns and an interception when he has a clean pocket.
Under pressure, Uiagalelei is only completing 35% of his passes for 164 yards, with 2 touchdowns and an interception.
Implied in those numbers and confirmed by the actual numbers is that Uiagalelei has had a clean pocket on 73.7% of his dropbacks.
For reference, Bryce Young has had a clean pocket 74.3% of the time and C.J. Stroud 81.3% of the time. So while Clemson’s line hasn’t been great, it’s been pretty good in protecting D.J.
For Clemson football, protecting D.J. Uiagalelei is more important than a lot of college quarterbacks
The difference is those players are completing a higher percentage when pressured than D.J. is – 50% for Stroud and 43% for Young.
It’s pretty simple – the difference between D.J. with a clean pocket and D.J. under pressure is generally bigger than the other quarterbacks I looked at.
So while it’s important to protect every quarterback, it’s just a little more important to protect D.J.