Expectations were extremely high for D.J. Uiagalelei coming into the season.
After throwing for more than 900 yards in two starts last season, the offseason saw the sophomore quarterback become one of the favorites to win the Heisman.
However, Uiagalelei got off to an extremely rocky start in Clemson's season-opening loss to Georgia, with those struggles continuing throughout the next four games as well.
The guy many considered a can't miss prospect is completing just 54-percent of his passes and is averaging only 159 passing yards per game. It wasn't until his fifth game of the season that Uiagalelei went over 200 yards in the air.
Head coach Dabo Swinney maintains, though, that it is far from time to push the panic button and that those so quick to give up on the young quarterback will regret doing so.
"This is a special dude, man," Swinney said. "There will be a lot of people eating their words over this guy's career. I mean he's a big-time player and talent."
Swinney insists that Uiagalelei is just having a bad start, and with the Tigers getting set to go on the road for a Friday night matchup with Syracuse, he is hopeful that the bye week will help his quarterback get back on track.
Cris Carter Suggests AFC East Team Should Trade For Deshaun Watson
Could Deshaun Watson make sense for a particular AFC East team? One NFL media member believes so.
Strong Clemson Defense Isn't Pointing Fingers at Struggling Offense
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables says success and failure come as a team, not to individual units.
Clemson Tigers Don't Know Offensive Identity
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott admits that not even he knows what the Tigers' offensive identity is.
"Everybody can get in bad spots, and miss some shots," Swinney said. "Sometimes it doesn't just go in like we want it to, and you know, miss some putts. The best of the best, sometimes they don't putt very well, and I think when that's the case, you go back to the basics."
During the Tigers 19-13 win over Boston College, Uiagalelei had his best outing of the season. However, he still struggled with accuracy at times, missing on several throws. After the game was over, the quarterback was seen on the field working on those throws, and Swinney said that kind of work ethic is on display each and every day.
"Every day, that's just who he is," Swinney said. "And that's why you know he's gonna be awesome. He's just too talented. He cares. He's incredibly committed. It's just a matter of time."
Swinney goes back to Uiagalelei's two starts during the 2020 season as evidence of what his quarterback is capable of. Uiagalelei went 30-41 for 342 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 34-28 win over Boston College, his first career start. The next week in South Bend, in his first career road start, Uiagalelei was 29-44 for 439 yards and two touchdowns in a double-overtime loss.
"Y'all have all seen him," Swinney said. "I mean, it's not like it's some kind of theory in potential. He's a special player, who just had a rough start. But it's good for him. In the long run, it'll be great for him. It'll be great for him at Clemson. It's gonna be great for him in his future."
In typical Swinney fashion, the head coach prefers to focus on the positives instead of the negatives, and in his eyes, the rough start will only make Uiagalelei a better player.
"In the long run, like I said, kind of what he's been through this first half of the season, it's gonna serve him well," Swinney said. "Serve him well in his career. Learn how to handle criticism, or how to handle disappointment and expectations and all that type of stuff. As I always say, a little adversity either shines you up or grinds you up. It's all about what you're made of on the inside, right. And he's made of the right things on the inside. And we'll shine him up."
Want to join in on the discussion? 100% FREE! Interact with fellow Tiger fans and hear directly from publisher Zach Lentz, deputy editor Brad Senkiw and recruiting analyst Jason Priester on any subject. Click here to become a member of the ALL CLEMSON message board community today!