Tony Elliott showed some levity when discussing No. 9 Clemson's offensive struggles, lack of cohesiveness and lack of big plays Monday following last Saturday's 14-8 win over Georgia Tech.
"I think everybody likes the backup quarterback, or maybe even the backup offensive coordinator, whoever that may be," said Elliott, Clemson's offensive coordinator. "But it's football, and guys are going to have to learn."
Elliott included quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, whose starting job is not in danger, in that conversation of players who need to improve. Right now, the staff is trying to teach him fundamentals and techniques in the pocket that need to start translating onto the field in games for him to be more effective.
Through three games, Uiagalelei has completed 59.3 percent of his passes for an average of 5.5 yards per throw. Both of those numbers rank last among qualifying quarterbacks in the ACC. Uiagalelei's thrown for 475 yards and one touchdown. He has two interceptions and one fumble on the season.
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"(QB coach Brandon) Streeter's working his tail off to get him to fully commit to the fundamentals all of the time," Elliott said. "In fairness to him, we've got to get him more opportunities to throw down the field to work on his timing."
Some of his lack of production can be attributed to mechanics. Elliott said Uiagalelei needs to make sure he's not falling away on throws, not opening his shoulder too much and not throwing off of his heels.
The coaching staff also wants to see him pull the ball quicker and scramble, especially when defenses are taking away his passing game with eight defenders in coverage, which the Tigers could see again Saturday at 3:30 at N.C. State.
Elliott also believes that once an offensive line that's struggling with chemistry and cohesion figures it out, it'll help Uiagalelei have confidence in the techniques because he'll have more time to set his feet and throw.
"I think D.J. is an ultra-talented guy that can make every throw and every awkward, off-body throw," Elliott said. "Sometimes, like any great player, they tend to lean on their talent. We've just got to get him refocused on, 'Yes, your talent is great, but your talent can be taken to even another level if you just stay committed to the fundamentals and the details.'"
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