CLEMSON, S.C. — The day Cade Klubnik walked on Clemson University’s campus in January, he was already tabbed the Tigers’ No. 2 quarterback.
“We did not want to waste a rep. We did not want to waste a minute,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said prior to the Tigers opening preseason camp on Friday. “He needed all of that work.”
Klubnik comes to Clemson from Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, where he was not only the top player in the state of Texas, but he was the No. 3 overall player in the country coming out of high school.
After DJ Uiagalelei struggled last season, it was important the Tigers brought someone in who could challenge the former five-star and No. 2 overall recruit from the 2020 signing class. Uiagalelei completed just 55.6 percent of his 344 attempts in 2021 for 2,246 yards. He threw just nine touchdown passes and had 10 interceptions.
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But despite his struggles, along with a knee and a hand injury, it was apparent Uiagalelei was Clemson’s only option as he started all 13 games. However, that should change this season.
Klubnik was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas after leading Westlake High School to back-to-back undefeated and state championship seasons. He was ranked as the top quarterback in the nation by Sports Illustrated, PrepStar, and Rivals.com.
The freshman was also one of three finalists for National Gatorade Player of the Year for 2021 and was named MVP of the Elite 11 Camp the previous summer. After he guided Westlake to another state championship, Klubnik threw two touchdown passes in the All-American Bowl and was named the organization’s National High School Player of the Year.
If Uiagalelei struggles this season, the coaches feel as if they have a viable option in Klubnik, which is why they pushed him so hard to be ready to go in the spring and summer.
“Obviously, mentally, he has come a long way since January,” Swinney said. “I think he was 179 pounds or something like that when he got here (in January). Now he is 197. So, physically, he had a lot of work to do, and he has done it. So, he is in a great spot, and I don’t think there is any question that he will be ready.”
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