DJ Uiagalelei leads breakout candidates nationally for 2021


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Uiagalelei gets a chance to show more of what he can do as a starter this season. (ACC photo)
Uiagalelei gets a chance to show more of what he can do as a starter this season. (ACC photo)

Clemson's DJ Uiagalelei led a contingent of five Tigers considered as "breakout" candidates by Pro Football Focus for the 2021 season.

Uiagalelei is PFF's No. 1 breakout candidate in all of college football as well.

"He earned an 83.6 passing grade, making five big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays in those two (starts) against Boston College and Notre Dame. And Uiagalelei also showed that he has a rocket launcher for an arm," said PFF. "Both of those outings were among the team's three most efficient passing performances of the 2020 season.

"A few of Uiagalelei's inaccurate throws stemmed from mechanical issues, but that is nothing major to worry about. He displayed all the requisite tools to be an elite college quarterback and wasn't being protected by easy throws as a true freshman."

Next up on the list from Clemson is reigning ACC freshman defensive player of the year Bryan Bresee at No. 11.

"Bresee was as good as advertised when it came to rushing the quarterback as a true freshman last year. He posted an 81.2 pass-rushing grade and a 14.1% pass-rush win rate, both of which ranked sixth or better among Power Five interior defensive linemen. Once he gets to the side of an offensive lineman, they are toast."

D-line teammate Myles Murphy is No. 12 and cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. is just two spots after in the top-15.

Rounding out the top-25 is former 5-star receiver Joseph Ngata.

"Ngata was a major breakout candidate for the 2020 season," PFF said, "but injuries got in the way. He ran 68 routes across seven games and battled to stay healthy the entire way. But as a true freshman, Ngata looked like he was on track to become the next great big-bodied Clemson receiver.

"He fits that mold at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, and pairs his massive catch radius with excellent body control. Nearly 53% of his routes in 2019 came against press coverage — the sixth-highest rate in the Power Five — and yet, he still was near the 80th percentile among that group in per-route production on those reps, averaging 1.91 yards per route. He can climb the ladder on anyone and somewhat resembles former teammate and current Cincinnati Bengal Tee Higgins."

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