DJ Uiagalelei's Status as Clemson Starting QB Up in Air, Dabo Swinney Says

Doric SamOctober 24, 2021

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23: D.J. Uiagalelei #5 of the Clemson Tigers drops back to pass in the first quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on October 23, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Justin Berl/Getty Images

Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei was benched in Saturday's loss to Pitt. After the game, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said he needs to reevaluate his team, and he indicated that Uiagalelei's starting job is in jeopardy.

"Everything's under evaluation at this point," Swinney told reporters. "Everybody's got to show up every day and we've got to take it one day at a time. We'll practice and see who has the best practice and that's the guy who'll run out there first at every position."

Prior to being benched, Uiagalelei threw two interceptions. His second pick in particular was ugly, as he tossed an ill-advised shovel pass that led to a Pitt touchdown.

"I thought he made a couple bad plays in a row," Swinney said of Uiagalelei. "I just felt like I needed to give [backup] Taisun [Phommachanh] a chance."

Phommachanh led Clemson on a scoring drive, but Swinney decided to go back to Uiagalelei late. He returned to the game and led a scoring drive, which Swinney praised as a good response to the benching. But it wasn't enough as the Tigers fell to 4-3.

Uiagalelei, a former top recruit at the quarterback position, said after the game that he's prepared to prove that he's deserving of his role as the team's starter.

"You've got to go earn it every week," Uiagalelei said. "That's my mindset since I was little. If it wasn't me next week, I'll be right here and I'll be happy to see my brother Taisun."

Swinney was asked if he plans to make changes on his coaching staff, and he said, "Absolutely not. We have a great staff that I believe in wholeheartedly."

After a run of success over the past six years that included two national championships and four appearances in the title game, Swinney knows the Clemson fanbase is not happy with the team's performance this year. But he has faith that the Tigers will be able to turn things around.

"They have every right to be disappointed. I'm disappointed. Everybody's disappointed. I'm sick to my stomach. But I know what we're made of, and we'll grow through it and get back to winning some ballgames."

Clemson will look to bounce back at home next Saturday against Florida State.