DJ Uiagalelei pleased with spring performance, looks to become elite


by - Senior Writer -
Uiagalelei looks to take his game to the next level this summer.
Uiagalelei looks to take his game to the next level this summer.

DJ Uiagalelei is unflappable. Whether he’s dodging oncoming behemoths or answering questions from the media, he doesn’t get rattled. With that part of his game fine-tuned, he will spend the summer working on becoming a better leader.

Uiagalelei completed 20-of-28 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown during Saturday’s spring game. The offense was limited because of the touch rule on quarterbacks (once a quarterback is touched he is considered down). That rule takes away the quarterback run game that is perhaps the most important part of Clemson’s RPO (run-pass option) offense.

However, Uiagalelei was happy with the day and being back in the Valley.

"It felt amazing. Felt like a real game with the fans there,” he said. “Best fans in the country. Was fun to just go out there and compete."

He then was asked to evaluate his play and plans for the summer.

"Feel like there are a lot of things I could work on, but that I did a lot of things well, too,” Uiagalelei said. “Just going through all of my reads, my RPOs, becoming a leader and being more vocal is huge. Fine-tuning every single tool of my game, running, throwing, losing weight, getting faster and stronger. Just keep growing and becoming the best leader I can for my team is the biggest thing."

Head coach Dabo Swinney said that Uiagalelei needs to focus on the things that will take him from great to elite.

"Really taking ownership of this offense. Go back through the installation, go back through the spring, go back over every mistake and situation,” Swinney said of his quarterback. “He really had a good spring. But we are talking about trying to be elite. He's a very good player obviously, but helping him become the best version of himself. Really asserting himself as a leader.

“He's got to lead the skills-and-drills. Getting his body in the best possible position he can be in. He is a true freshman-- his body is nowhere near mature as it's going to be as he continues to grind in the weight room and nutrition."

Uiagalelei’s lone touchdown of the day was a first-quarter 14-yarder to former Bosco (Calif.) teammate Beaux Collins, and Uiagalelei said it’s been fun having re-establishing the connection he has with Collins. There were also other players that stood out.

“One hundred percent. It felt like old times back in high school,” Uiagalelei said. “We definitely have a connection. It was a cool experience. I feel like Joe Ngata had a really good spring. Kobe Pace ran it well."

He then said that Clemson’s offense found it tough to score against a Brent Venables’ defense that is looking to make amends for a lackluster effort against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.

"Shoot, they have some killers over there. I feel like our secondary and linebackers played really well, but think the defensive line has been the biggest issue for us,” he said of the challenge in practice. “Bryan Bresee has been balling out, Tyler Davis, Myles Murphy, Justin Mascoll, XT (Xavier Thomas). They have made a big jump from last year. Our defense has been playing really well."

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