It’s no secret, Clemson has to be better at quarterback in the coming season.
During the Tigers run of six consecutive playoff appearances, most would just pencil in Clemson as the Atlantic Division winner, the ACC Championship Game winner, as well as one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.
However, the 2021 season proved that nothing is a given, as starting quarterback DJ Uiagalelei struggled to develop any kind of consistence and failed to live up to lofty expectations.
Uiagalelei showed during his freshman season that the talent is there and on a recent episode of The Gramlich and Mac Lain Podcast, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said until he sees that player again, it’s fair to question the ability of the Clemson offense.
“I’ll be honest, I’m very nervous about the play of the quarterback position at Clemson,” Herbstreit said. “I think DJ (Uiagalelei) has the goods. I think he’s a talented guy. I think we just need to see a better job of what he can do more consistently. Watched him in the spring game and it’s exciting to see he has a chance.
“Usually you sit around in the summer and say, ‘Who could Clemson lose to. And there’s one or two games respectfully. This year, I’m not saying they’re going to lose them, until you see them getting back to scoring 35-40 points a game, you sit there and say, ‘That could be a good game.’ ‘That could be a good game.'”
With the Tigers coming off a 10-3 season, Herbstreit said it’s a different type of offseason for the program.
“It’s kind of an exciting time for Clemson” Herbstreit said. “There for a while, ‘Alright, they’re going to win the ACC, they’re in Charlotte, it’s just a matter of who they’re going to play.’ And then they’re probably going to beat that opponent and just put them in the playoff. After Trevor (Lawrence) left, it’s OK, let’s see how things are going. DJ could have a monster year and shut everybody up. Because we saw what he could do the year before.”
Herbstreit doesn’t think any of the issues surrounding Uiagalelei have anything to do with talent level, and wants to see more from the the quarterback during his junior season.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of his skillset and being more decisive and making good decisions and letting it rip,” he said. “And when there’s an opening on 3rd and 4, take it. You’re a big guy, go, don’t wait. Not hitch, hitch, hitch, sack. It’s more hitch, go. Be a runner.”
One thing Herbstreit doesn’t question, though, is how good the Clemson defense is going to be. At the same time, the longtime analyst is anxious to see new defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin in his new role.
“It’s going to be weird this year to see Clemson without Coach V (Brent Venables) on the sidelines going crazy and being held back,” Herbstreit said. “I just think their defensive line is arguably going to be the best in the country. I really start there when it comes to forecasting who’s going to have a great defense. I saw enough in their bowl game, the Cheez-It Bowl against Iowa State, by then Coach V was gone, to say, you know what? They’re still going to be sophisticated, they’re still going to be active, they’re still going to be moving. Tough defense to figure out.”
“I think they’re going to have the top defense (in the conference), even though they’re going to have a lot of new faces, especially linebacker and in the back end.”
How far can Clemson go? As far as the quarterback takes them.
“I lean toward Clemson but I’m nervous about the quarterback play,” said Herbstreit.
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