Clemson remains to be ready on D.J. Uiagalelei to make the leap

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DJ Uiagalelei
Picture: Getty Pictures

There’s usually a greater sense of Clemson by this level within the season. Dabo Swinney isn’t afraid of a troublesome non-conference sport, and it simply so occurs that the Tigers’ large non-ACC sport at Notre Dame takes place in early November this yr. Clearly, that might’ve been a greater resume builder earlier than the Irish dropped out of the highest 25, however that’s irrelevant.

The purpose is the Tigers haven’t performed anybody this season, with lopsided wins over Georgia Tech, Furman, and Louisiana Tech. If the Yellow Jackets weren’t in such disrepair, we might glean extra info from the one sport towards an influence 5 opponent. That’s not the case because the Jackets have been outscored within the Clemson and Ole Miss video games by a complete of 83-10.

So it’s truthful to say Clemson hasn’t performed anybody, and you could possibly even add that these wins, as imbalanced as the ultimate rating appeared, weren’t significantly convincing given the opponent and the expectation of Clemson soccer. This week the Tigers go to defending ACC champion, No. 21 Wake Forest (I do know, it was as bizarre for me to kind because it was so that you can learn), and we’ll really get to see if Swinney’s group is deserving of its high 5 rating.

It’s not a problem of expertise as a lot as it’s who’s getting the expertise the ball. After a difficult first yr underneath heart in 2021 per any faculty’s requirements, beginning quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei entered this season because the starter with the caveat that he could also be pushed by Cade Klubnik, a five-star freshman who was the No. 1 QB in his class and went undefeated as a starter in essentially the most aggressive division of Texas highschool soccer.

Whether or not it’s only a sluggish begin, or some conspiracy to maintain the followers from calling for Klubnik, the Tigers have solely earned the tremendous frosh 5 collection. After one possession in every of the Georgia Tech and Furman contests, it regarded like Klubnik would have rubbish time to himself with Clemson up 34-6 late third quarter towards Louisiana Tech.

After a three and out, a failed four-play drive, and two Bulldog scores, Uiagalelei had to be reinserted because the lead was cut to 34-20, and Swinney got nervous. If you’re saying, “Well, didn’t D.J. get them the lead in the first place?” It was 13-6 at the break, and Tech opened up the second half by throwing picks on its first two drives that led to Tiger touchdowns, one of which came on a single Will Shipley 32-yard run.

The longest play from scrimmage this year for the Tigers is a 41-yard pass. That Shipley score is the longest run. For comparison’s sake, the Demon Deacons have four guys with plays that length or longer, including a 68-yard completion, and eight guys with gains of 20 or more compared to Clemson’s six. Granted Wake has been playing subpar opponents as well, and needed a stop on a two-point conversion to beat Liberty last week, but it can still move the ball.

The Demon Deacons played well enough to get their backup some work. Mitch Griffis has 14 more attempts and 222 more yards than Klubnik. Clemson is giving up more yards per game passing (244.7) than they’re throwing for (243). Wake actually enters this matchup with the higher average offensive output (434 yards per game to 425).

Demon Deacon coach Dave Clawson and quarterback Sam Hartman stole the ACC last season, they’re already in sync, and will put up enough points to force Clemson to throw. Longtime Tiger defensive coordinator Brent Venables is now coaching Oklahoma. Furman completed passes and sustained drives with well-designed screenplays, and ended up winning the time of possession battle by 10 minutes in their visit to Memorial Stadium.

A season ago, the Tigers beat the Deacs, 48-27, in Death Valley amid a six-game win streak to finish the season 10-3 after starting it 4-3. That means Uiagalelei has the team riding a nine-game win streak overall. In those wins, he’s 156 for 263 for 1,806 yards, 10 TD passes, and six picks. That’s 200 yards a game, with a 59 percent completion rate. Only once in that span did he run for more than 36 yards — he had 62 on the ground against La. Tech — and in no games did he break 300 yards in the air. And these are wins we’re talking about.

The Tigers didn’t light up the early season cupcakes in a way that convinces you Uiagalelei has turned the corner, and they failed to get plan B substantial reps. Going 3-0 is the goal for most programs — it wasn’t for Clemson.

This is a bigger game than you’d think to start Saturday, and I know how much that extra hour of tailgating helps on the East Coast. Winston-Salem should have good weather and a better crowd. Who knows about their defense, but who cares.

And now a word on Tennessee-Florida

The last time College Gameday came to Knoxville was 2016, and it also was the last time these two rivals met as ranked opponents. The14th-ranked Vols ended up beating the No. 19 Gators, 38-28, on their way to a 9-4 record, finishing 22nd in the AP Poll. That also was the last time UT finished the season in the top 25.

The meat of the SEC schedule is coming up after Saturday, with LSU, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 2 Alabama, and No. 1 Georgia slated for four of the next five weeks. Good luck to head coach Josh Heupel and crew.

Hendon Hooker is a dynamic QB in that offense, and if they play the way they’ve shown they can, this should be a Vols victory. It seems like a decade ago that Gator QB Anthony Richardson was leading Florida over No. 7 Utah in the season-opener, but it was still only September. He has yet to throw for a score this season and has four interceptions over the past two games.

The current Tennessee fan would see that and say, “Yup, he’s due, and we’re fucked.” Calm down. Remember your breathing techniques. You got this. ESPN is here. Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, and CBS are here. It’s your special day. What could go wrong? It’s only Florida. 



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