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Clemson's Uiagalelei Optimistic on Quick Phommachanh Return

Clemson sophomore D.J. Uiagalelei says backup QB Taisun Phommachanh could be back from an Achilles tear by Week 2 of the Tigers' season.

Clemson sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei is eyeing a quick return for backup Taisun Phommachan, who suffered an Achilles tendon tear in the spring game.

"Taisun's doing great," Uiagalelei said Thursday at ACC Kickoff. "I was just talking to him. He said he's doing really well. He's almost back. He should be back for the South Carolina State game. It's really exciting."

Under that timetable, Phommachanh would be back within 25 weeks of an injury that was once believed to be season-ending. However, Uiagalelei confirmed he wasn't "sure" about having Phommachanh available on Sept. 11, but that's what the backup QB is hoping. 

That would be huge for the position if Phommachanh is back for the second game of the season. The lack of experience behind Uiagalelei, the undisputed starter set for a big season, is one of the top concerns among the fan base and pundits. 

But if Phommachahn, a former four-star prospect, can be back in the first month of the season, it would ease some fears and give the coaches some reassurance. Dabo Swinney said last week that he fully expected Phommachanh to be back at some point in 2021. 

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"Initially, it's a tough injury. You really don't know, but he's been phenomenal with his recovery so we're going to be him back sooner than later and certainly back before the season is over," Swinney said last Tuesday. "That's big for us."

Phommachanh has only thrown 29 passes over seven career games, but that's more than the other QBs behind him. Uiagalelei, though, fully believes in Hunter Helms, a walk-on who's expected to be the No. 2 until Phommachanh is healthy. Helms' work ethic has caught Uiagalelei's attention.

"Whenever Hunter gets in, he's going to be ready to play," Uiagalelei said. "I know that for sure. I've got all the confidence in the world that when Hunter gets in the game he's going to perform and he's going to do a great job because of the way he works."

Nobody else in the room has taken a college snap. Will Taylor and Billy Wiles joined the team this summer and have done a nice job grasping the offensive concepts, Uiagalelei said. 

As for Bubba Chandler, another freshman QB who chose pro baseball over college this month, Uiagaeleli said he's going to be missed. 

"We had Bubba for a little bit," Uiagalelei said. "We lost him. Sad he went to the Pirates but totally happy for him."