The sophomore slump is real with DJ Uiagalelei.
The big-armed quarterback from California has struggled mightily at times in his first season taking over for Trevor Lawrence. The offense has been so bad this season that ot’s almost comical.
Truth be told, the issues go far beyond Uiagalelei, but he is the starting quarterback, and when the offense struggles, he is the guy who will shoulder the blame. Last week in the loss to Pitt, he was even temporarily benched. After that game, Dabo Swinney would not commit to a starter, saying everything would be evaluated during the week.
So who should be the Tigers quarterback on Saturday against Florida State? It seems half the fan base just wants to see Taisun Phommachanh get a shot, or even Hunter Helms. Anything different.
This coaching staff has shown multiple times in the past that they are willing to make a change at quarterback, but that hasn’t stopped many from wondering why they haven’t at least tried one of the other guys. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that NIL is the reason, which is just ludicrous.
Maybe the coaches, who are at practice each and every day, think the guy that gives them the best chance is already on the field. Phommachanh is still only six months removed from a ruptured Achilles, and really looked no better than Uiagalelei in his two series last weekend.
Helms does know the offense, but he doesn’t have the arm that the other two possess, and with Clemson receivers struggling to create any separation, putting him out there might not be setting him up for much success at this point.
When the Tigers take the field against the Seminoles on Saturday, expect Uiagalelei to be the guy taking the snaps. He might be on a shorter leash this week, but he should be the guy that gets the start.
Let’s face it. As off as he has been this season, it’s not like he doesn’t have the potential. We’ve seen what he’s capable of and it is far to early to call him a bust. The staff has to look at this from a big picture perspective too. With Phommachanh in his third season and on pace to graduate, he could be a candidate to transfer after the season with Cade Klubnik on the way in.
Think of it like a marriage. For better or worse, this is still Uiagalelei’s team for right now. Somehow, some way, you have to hope he can play his way out of this funk. He is a guy that looks to be severely lacking in confidence right now. Somehow he has to get some of that back and that can’t be accomplished by watching from the sidelines. Even if that means some kind of rotation.
It would also help him some if the guys around him would start giving him some help. The offensive line was a little better in pass protection against Pitt, maybe the receivers can start holding onto the balls that are thrown well.
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