Don't Underestimate Uiagalelei's Good Health, Ability to Improvise | Yardbarker

2022-09-17 01:54:16 By : Mr. Henry Lee

DJ Uiagalelei is off to a solid start in 2022. 

The Clemson quarterback is completing 67.8 percent of his passes through the first two games. He's thrown for 441 yards and tossed three touchdowns with one interception. 

Uiagalelei's QB rating is 35 points higher than at the end of last season, and he's averaged 7.5 yards per throw, which is also better than 6.0 in 2021. 

Those numbers aren't going to blow anybody away, but they're a sign of improvement thus far. More importantly, Uiagalelei is moving around better in the pocket. 

He's making plays while getting tackled, like against Georgia Tech when he flipped the ball on a sure sack to Will Shipley, who picked up a first down on the improv play that Dabo Swinney said changed the game in Clemson's 41-10 victory. 

Uiagalelei also completed a pass while getting pulled to the ground against Furman. It was another impressive play that he likely wouldn't have made last year. He might not even have attempted it. 

Those creative plays show a few things: 

2. He's seeing the effect of a 30-pound weight loss. 

3. Maybe most importantly, his start to the 2022 campaign proves how healthy he wasn't last year. 

While there are myriad reasons for Clemson's offensive issues and Uiagalelei's passing struggles in 2021, it's easy to forget that he played hurt, and based on the fact that he needed knee surgery in the offseason, he played injured.

"Injuries are tough, man," Uiagalelei said. "I never really dealt with an injury before in my life before that (2021) knee injury." 

This isn't an excuse for some of his poor play. Uiagalelei will be the first to tell you he should've been better. But it's absolutely a reason why he couldn't move well or make improvisational plays. 

"I don't know how guys do it, wearing a knee brace. I couldn't," Uiagalelei said. "I hate wearing a knee brace. I can't move with it, but I just feel 100% normal how. I think that's the biggest thing, I just feel healthy, confident."

Brace-free, it's allowed him to feel like himself and not be worried about contact or fighting through it. 

Uiagalelei still has a ways to go on his road to improvement, but the health hurdle has passed. It'll be interesting to see if there's a distinct trajectory and if the kind of plays he was known for in high school and early in his Clemson career continue enough to make a real difference in this offense. 

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This article first appeared on FanNation All Clemson and was syndicated with permission.

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