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Oregon State’s DJ Uiagalelei Confirms Transfer Portal Move: Potential Options for QB

Ahead of the official opening of college football’s transfer window on Monday, Dec. 4, a number of prominent players across the country have entered their names as they weigh their options for the 2024 season. On Friday, Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei became one of the prominent quarterbacks set to enter the portal, he confirmed on Thursday afternoon.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to grow as a football player and a person within this program,” Uiagalelei wrote in a statement published to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “My brothers, I am forever thankful for the relationships we’ve built while I’ve been here.”

Uiagalelei will also weigh his options for the 2024 NFL draft, per the initial reports, though he did not address that possibility in the statement. After those reports, his father Dave Uiagalelei posted to social media indicating that no decision on the quarterback’s future has been made. On Tuesday, he shared a message in support of Oregon State’s promotion of defensive coordinator Trent Bray to head coach, after the departure of Jonathan Smith to Michigan State.

The transfer portal decision comes after one year under center for the Beavers, after beginning his college career with three up-and-down seasons at Clemson. Under coach Jonathan Smith, Uiagalelei threw for a career-high 2,638 yards (8.4 yards per attempt) with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, he was a steady hand for the Beavers, and ranks 12th among college quarterbacks in ESPN’s QBR metric, one spot below Caleb Williams. 

Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei drops back to pass against Oregon.

Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei will enter the transfer portal for a second time, after leaving Clemson last offseason.

Given his success under Smith and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren, who is heading with Smith to East Lansing, Michigan State stands out as obvious potential landing spot if Uiagalelei chooses to continue his college career elsewhere. The Spartans, who finished 4–8, struggled mightily on offense this season, passing for less than 200 yards per game. As a team, MSU threw for just 2,398 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the year. Junior Noah Kim began the season as the primary starter, but eventually gave way to freshman Katin Hauser, who led the team with 1,132 passing yards.

A move to the Midwest is no guarantee, however. The transfer from Clemson to Oregon State brought Uiagalelei, a California native, closer to his family on the West Coast.

Uiagalelei’s younger brother Matayo is a pass rusher at rival Oregon, and the two faced off in this year’s edition of the Civil War last week. Ducks quarterback Bo Nix has tread a similar path as Uiagalelei, beginning his career at Auburn before flourishing out West, emerging as a Heisman favorite and NFL draft hopeful in 2023.

Other West Coast programs could prove quarterback-needy in the coming weeks as well. UCLA is expected to retain Chip Kelly after significant hot seat rumors, after his offense struggled while flipping between freshman Dante Moore and junior Ethan Garbers under center. 

Earlier this week, one of the more intriguing programs out West, San Diego State, hired former Colorado offensive coordinator and Kent State head coach Sean Lewis, who runs one of college football’s most wide open offenses, to lead the program. The Aztecs will likely undergo a serious transformation after playing a far more conservative brand of offense under Brady Hoke.

During his last stint in the portal, Uiagalelei directly referenced the transfer of Will Levis (now the Titans quarterback) from Penn State to Kentucky as a model for his decision in an interview with ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg. Kentucky wound up dipping back into the transfer portal last year, adding NC State quarterback Devin Leary, who used his final year of eligibility in Lexington. Mark Stoops’s team could be among the many that could be in position to add yet another veteran quarterback via the portal.

Of course, while Uiagalelei is expected to draw plenty of interest, there is also sizable competition for the top spots among veteran quarterbacks in the portal. Other major names available include Will Howard (Kansas State), Riley Leonard (Duke), Tyler Van Dyke (Miami), Will Rogers (Mississippi State) and Grayson McCall (Coastal Carolina).