Lawrence, the No. 1 pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2021 NFL Draft, was drawing comparisons to Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning out of high school. The five-star quarterback led the Tigers to a national championship as a freshman and tore up defenses for the next two years.
Lawrence held the position for so long that it seemed impossible for anyone else to take it.
But this is Clemson we're talking about. Of course they have another five-star QB ready to go.
DJ Uiagalelei displayed his skills last year when Lawrence was out with COVID-19. Now that Lawrence is off to the pros, the Clemson huddle is his, and he's ready to prove he's one of the best quarterbacks in college football.
DJ Uiagalelei Recruiting
The 10th-rated recruit in the class of 2020, Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei had offers from Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, BYU, California, Florida, Florida State, Fresno State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, San Jose State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State and West Virginia out of St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California.
The recruiting analysts over at 247Sports praised Uiagalelei for his generational arm strength and large frame. They continued by saying he has great touch and accuracy in addition to a natural feel for the game.
He chose Clemson despite Lawrence occupying the position at the time.
Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei
Uiagalelei has to be one of the toughest QBs to bring down in the sport. He checks in 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. This dude is as big as a linebacker with a rocket attached to his shoulder.
The California native stepped up when his number was called after Lawrence contracted coronavirus and was forced to miss two games last season.
As the starting quarterback, Uiagalelei shined. He threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Boston College on Halloween. The next week, against No. 4 Notre Dame, Uiagalelei marched the Clemson Tigers into South Bend. Clemson fell 47-40, but Uiagalelei showed why he was highly touted. He threw for 439 yards and two touchdowns, plus another touchdown on the ground.
In 117 pass attempts last year, he didn't throw a single interception.
Beautiful, over-the-top 53-yd TD pass from DJ to Cornell!
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) November 8, 2020
The Tigers eventually got their revenge against Notre Dame in a 34-10 walloping in the ACC Championship Game when Lawrence returned.
Uiagalelei showed he's a worthy successor to Lawrence. Following a great QB along with playing for one of college football's biggest brands pays, too. Thanks to the NCAA's new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules, Uiagalelei has signed NIL deals with Bojangles and Dr. Pepper. That's right. Uiagalelei, who signed with agency Vayner Sports, is set to appear in Dr. Pepper's Fansville ad campaign throughout the 2021 season. We're sure to see him every other commercial.
DJ Uiagalelei's Commercials & Endorsement Deals
— DJ Uiagalelei (@DJUiagalelei) August 2, 2021
News: Dr. Pepper has partnered with #Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei for their next installment of Fansville - the first big brand to partner with a major college football player for a national TV commercial.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) August 11, 2021
Going into his first season as starter, Uiagalelei has a chance to do what Lawrence couldn't: win the Heisman Trophy. The Clemson football star has the fifth-best odds at +1100 according to OddShark.
If Uiagalelei leads the Tigers back to the College Football Playoff and slices up defenses, don't be surprised if he earns an invite to New York City alongside college athletes like Alabama's Bryce Young and North Carolina's Sam Howell.
Dabo Swinney, like any great college football coach, can never rest easy. But he can remain confident knowing his offense will be in good hands with D.J. Uiagalelei.
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