There aren’t many weaknesses when you look at the Clemson roster heading into the 2021 season.
One of the few areas that are of concern, though, is obviously the lack of depth behind starting quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.
With backup Taisun Phommachanh going down with an Achilles injury in the spring game, walk-on Hunter Helms is all the Tigers have behind Uiagalelei. While Helms has been impressive when given the opportunity, it has come in limited action.
Currently those are the only two healthy quarterbacks on the roster. Both 2021 signees, Will Taylor and Bubba Chandler, look like they will be first round draft picks in the upcoming MLB Draft, but Billy Wiles will join the team over the summer as a preferred walk-on.
Unless the coaches can find a suitable quarterback in the transfer portal, it’s possible the Tigers will enter the 2021 season with Uiagalelei and two walk-ons in the quarterback room.
During a recent appearance on the The Packer and Durham Show, offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said the coaching staff still feels good about where the Tigers are at the moment.
“We have some freshmen coming in that are highly recruited and we have a couple walk-ons coming in,” Elliot said. “Obviously with Taisun going down in the spring game, it creates a little bit of anxiety, but as we progress and see how he progresses with his recovery, we feel good with where we are at.”
However, one thing that hasn’t been addressed is exactly how long Phommachanh will be out. The coaches have yet to give a timetable for his return but Elliott said the staff is very encouraged with how the redshirt sophomore is progressing and it’s very possible that the quarterback could return at some point during the season.
“We’re encouraged by where he is,” Elliott said. “I anticipate that we’ll be able, at some point, to be able to move him back in, get some work out of him.”
The lack of depth has led some to question whether or not the Tigers will be hesitant to use Uiagalelei in the running game. Over the last several seasons Deshaun Watson, Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence have all been used in the rushing attack with tons of success and Elliott maintains the Tigers will not deviate from what has worked in the past.
“He’s (Uiagalelei) got to be able to make us right within our system,” Elliott said. “That’s where the quarterback’s athleticism and legs come into play in what we do offensively. He has to be able to make us right. Again, he doesn’t have to be Travis Etienne or have the huge, explosive plays in the run game, but he does have to keep us honest. That’s what Trevor, Deshaun and Kelly have done in the past, keep us honest. We’ll coach him to do that.”