Nation's No. 1 recruit has front row seat for Clemson's domination of Alabama
|Thursday, January 10, 2019, 7:01 AM- -|
There’s no better recruiting pitch in college football than a dominating win over Nick Saban and the Alabama dynasty, especially when the nation’s top 2020 recruit is watching from behind the Clemson bench.
Bellflower (CA) St. John Bosco 5-star quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, his father and coaches made the six-hour trip to Santa Clara for Clemson’s 44-16 win over Alabama in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship.
Clemson has been thought to be in the lead for Uiagalelei ‘s services, but Monday night may have only cemented the Tigers stance. To say that Uiagalelei came away impressed might be an understatement.
“I just wanted to see. It was the national championship game, and I just wanted to see Clemson play Alabama,” Uiagalelei told TigerNet Tuesday night. “That's a huge game right there, and I just wanted to be over there and be a part of it and see it.
“Me and Coach Terry (Bullock) and one of my other coaches left Sunday, and we got there Sunday night. I have relatives that live in San Jose, so I got to hang out with them, and then we went out to dinner with them. Monday, we ate breakfast with them, and I got to see one of my quarterback coaches. Then, we went to the game. My uncle Drew has a connection up there, and we were basically on the field. We were in the field clubhouse suite. Me and Coach Terry and my uncle were down there, and we got to watch the game from down there. It was tight. We got to watch the game right behind the Clemson bench, so that was sick.”
The outcome of the game wasn’t surprising, but the fact that Clemson outclassed and outcoached Alabama caught Uiagalelei a little off guard.
“It was crazy. To me, I didn't expect it. I knew it was going to be a good game, but I didn't expect Clemson to roll over Alabama like that,” Uiagalelei said. “I don't know if anybody thought that except for them. 44-16, not a day in my life did I think they were going to blow them out like that. I thought Clemson was going to win, but I thought it would be a closer game.”
Of course, Uiagalelei was watching as freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence put on a clinic, but he also came away awestruck by Clemson’s receiving corps – especially Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.
“He (Lawrence) played his best game of the season I thought. He saved his best game for the biggest game of the season,” he said. “Those guys - Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross - are the two best receivers in the country. They've got the best receiver corps in the country. It was crazy just to watch them in person. At the South Carolina game, I got to see how they big they were. To see them warm up, it's like 'golly, no wonder nobody can stick these dudes.' I thought if Clemson can get those two guys going, it's going to be a wrap because I didn't think Alabama could stick with Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.
“They were going to have double them and then that would leave the box wide open and then you still had Hunter Renfrow. That's the problem. If Clemson can run the ball, it's game over. Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross, those guys are monsters. They made every catch. It didn't even look hard for them. Justyn Ross is a true freshman, and he just beat Alabama by himself - him and Tee Higgins. It's not about how good you (the quarterback) are, it's about how good your supporting cast is.”
Not a lot has changed in Uiagalelei’s recruitment, as Clemson remains the frontrunner over Oregon.
“I want to go to a place that you can compete for a national championship and win a national championship. It's what you want to do,” he said. “I still like Clemson a lot. That's my top school right now. I'm still open. I'm not sure when I'll make a decision. I really want my mom to go up there and see Clemson. I know she likes Clemson a lot. My dad has been up there, and he loves Clemson. I just want my mom to be able to go to Clemson and be able to see it because she wants to see it, but she's sold already on Clemson. We'll most likely be coming in for the Clemson spring game.”