Clemson’s quarterback room took a major hit last weekend.
No team ever wants to lose their backup quarterback. The Tigers already had questions regarding quality depth even before Taisun Phommachanh went down with an Achilles injury.
Losing Phommachanh hurts, there is no getting around that. Having said that, this Clemson team has major aspirations 2021. Much bigger than just winning a seventh straight ACC title. This team has national title hopes.
One of the biggest keys for the Tigers reaching that goal will be the health of starting quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. However, that has always been the case, even before Phommachanh’s injury.
Very few teams can survive losing their starting quarterback. While Clemson was in a situation last year in which they had a five-star freshman backing up generational talent Trevor Lawrence, years like those tend to be the exception and not the rule.
Most years, there’s a sizeable gap between the starting quarterback and the backup. The guy at the top of the depth chart is there for a reason.
Losing Uiagalelei for any extended amount of time would be devastating for Clemson in 2021. Whether it was Phommachanh or Hunter Helms as the backup.
While either may certainly be capable of leading the team to another ACC title, it certainly wouldn’t be ideal. But the chances of winning it all with either of those guys likely lies somewhere between slim and none.
Make no mistake, that isn’t a knock on either of those guys. Phommachanh was a Top-10 quarterback coming out of high school. He’s got talent, he just isn’t at that level yet. He’s still growing into the player that he can be.
As for Helms, he absolutely looked the part in limited action last season as a freshman and he certainly doesn’t look like the typical walk-on, but he’s still just a sophomore. And an inexperienced one at that. Like Phommachanh, he’s still developing and he didn’t have the luxury of a full spring and summer during his first season in the program.
The coaching staff will almost assuredly scour the transfer portal for depth. There’s a reason Danny Pearman has been moved into the role he is now in, which includes scouting the transfer market.
Finding the right guy won’t be easy, though. Most of the quarterbacks in the portal are there because they want more playing time, not because they are looking to go elsewhere and remain a backup.
With Cade Klubnik set to arrive after the coming season, a player with just one year of eligibility left might be the way to go. If he’s also a cultural fit.
Again, finding a quarterback that checks all the boxes could prove to be very difficult. Although as more teams finish up their spring practices, the more we will see players deciding to enter the portal. There could be an option out there a month from now that isn’t an option today.
At the end of the day, though, how successful this Clemson team is next season pretty much rides on Uiagalelei staying healthy. Always has. Even before the Phommachanh injury and even if Dabo Swinney does decide to dip his toe into the transfer portal for the first time since its inception.