To say last season was a huge disappointment compared to the Tigers’ recent seasons would be an understatement.
One of the biggest questions entering the 2022 season would have to be which version of Clemson’s quarterback DJ Uiagalelei will show up.
Will it be the freshman version that showed he could play at this level when he he started two games while number one overall NFL draft pick Trevor Lawrence was out due to Covid, or will he be the quarterback that suffered for most of the season with multiple injuries, couldn’t seem to get out of his own way and, at times, looked like a deer in the headlights.
Everyone knows there is a huge difference between the positions of quarterback and place kicker but Uiagalelei’s story, other than the ending which is still yet to be written, seems to be very similar to Chandler “Catman” Catanzaro’s story from 2010.
Catanzaro won the Tigers’ kicking job in his redshirt freshman season. His first season as a starter began better than Uiagalelei’s, going 5-of-5 on extra points against North Texas in the opener. He followed that up with six more PATS on as many attempts versus Presbyterian, while adding a 47-yard field goal.
Then came the Auburn game. Cantanzaro went 3-for-3 on his PATs against the Tigers and gave Clemson a 10-0 lead in the second quarter when he kicked a 42-yard field goal. It was all going well until Auburn rallied with 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. After a touchdown by Andre Ellington, Catanzaro made his way back onto the field to tie the game at 24. That kick helped the Tigers push the game into overtime.
In OT, Clemson called Catanzaro’s number once again in an attempt to tie it at 27 and he was good from 27 yards out but a Clemson penalty took it off of the board. After the Tigers had a penalty that backed them up five yards he lined up for another chance at it. He missed on his second attempt and Clemson lost 27-24.
That game turned a season that started out really good into a nightmare for the young placekicker but Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney never gave up on him. That is one of the things that make me feel like these two player’s stories are so similar. Another is the fact that, like Catanzaro, Uiagalelei sought help this offseason and has worked nonstop to improve in the areas that he needed to fix.
Catanzaro went on to become the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer and went on to kick for a half-dozen years in the NFL. If there was one play like that for Uiagalelei that stuck out, some would say it was the pick six that led to Georgia winning the season opener last year.
Now don’t misunderstand it. No one is saying that Uiagalelei is going to break every offensive record at Clemson this season but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could turn his story into a comeback story instead of ending his career as a bust. That jury is still out but we’re less than a week away from the start of that chapter.
Clemson and Florida State have released depth charts ahead of this weekend’s matchup at Death Valley.
Clemson vs Florida Atlantic: Depth Charts
The ninth-ranked Tigers will travel to Duke to face off with the Blue Devils. Kickoff is set for 8 pm and the game will be televised by ESPN.