Clemson football: How long is D.J. Uiagalelei’s leash as starting QB?

D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson Tigers. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson Tigers. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

This is a make-or-break season for D.J. Uiagalelei as the starting quarterback of the Clemson football team.

While Dabo Swinney’s Clemson football program is poised to bounce back after a down year a season ago, so much of that rides on the improved play of second-year starting quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.

Clemson failed to reach the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2014 last season. Uiagalelei took over the reins of the offense from Trevor Lawrence and the results were a mixed bag. He has five-star talent at the position, but he will be pushed by true freshman Cade Klubnik this year. The question remains how long of a leash does Uiagalelei have as the Clemson starter?

PFF’s Anthony Treash pointed out the biggest issue surrounding Uiagalelei entering year three with the Clemson program: His mechanics are nowhere close to where they need to be.

Clemson football: How long of a leash will D.J. Uiagalelei have as the starter?

The good news for Uiagalelei is he has two years worth of experience in the Clemson program over Klubnik. However, Clemson has a new offensive coordinator with Tony Elliott leaving the program to lead Virginia up in Charlottesville. It may not be a huge departure from what Clemson had been running for years, but this at least gives Klubnik a puncher’s chance to maybe catch him.

What this comes down to is how well Uiagalelei plays, or does not, during the early part of conference play. Clemson opens with cross-divisional foe Georgia Tech at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a “neutral-site affair”. After hosting Furman and Louisiana Tech, Clemson will face reigning ACC Atlantic champion Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. This is where it gets interesting.

Clemson’s next two games after the Wake date are against fellow Atlantic contenders in NC State and Boston College. If Uiagalelei plays well during that three-week run vs. divisional foes, he will keep his job. Should he struggle mightily against the best competition in a mediocre ACC, Clemson is probably not playoff bound and it would serve the program to roll with Klubnik going forward.

By mid-October at Florida State, Clemson will know indisputably if Uiagalelei is still the guy or not.

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