Who is Clemson’s backup QB? Meet D.J. Uiagalelei, Trevor Lawrence’s fill-in after COVID-19 test

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Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Saturday’s game against Boston College.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney confirmed the news on Thursday night with a statement:

ACC players who test positive for COVID-19 are required to self-isolate for 10 days, so it’s possible Lawrence could miss the Nov. 7 matchup with No. 4 Notre Dame.

Clemson now will turn to five-star freshman D.J. Uiagalelei as the starter. Here is what you need to know about the Tigers’ fill-in starting quarterback:

MORE: How long is Trevor Lawrence out with COVID-19?

Clemson football QB depth chart

  • Trevor Lawrence (junior)
  • D.J. Uiagalelei (freshman)
  • Taisun Phommachanh (freshman – redshirt)
  • James Talton (freshman)
  • Hunter Helms (freshman)

Who is Trevor Lawrence’s backup QB?

D.J. Uiagalelei was the No. 10 overall player in the class of 2020 and the top-ranked pro-style quarterback, according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings. The 6-5, 245-pound quarterback played for perennial powerhouse St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif.

He finished his high-school career with 127 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions. That includes the 2019 California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 1 championship game, in which Uiagalelei led St. John Bosco to a 39-34 win over Mater Dei and future Alabama signee Bryce Young.

Uiagalelei out-performed the Tide commit, throwing for 444 yards and five touchdowns to no interceptions. Young — the No. 2 overall player and top-ranked quarterback in the class — threw for 405 yards and five touchdowns, but also a season-high three interceptions. He also lost a fumble on a late sack to seal the loss.

Uiagalelei also led his team back from a 28-5 deficit.

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D.J. Uiagalelei part of Clemson’s loaded recruiting class

Uiagalelei was part of Swinney’s highest-rated recruiting class since taking over at Clemson. The Tigers landed five recruits with five-star ratings, though running back Demarkcus Bowman has already transferred to Florida.

Defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Bryan Breese have already made an impact as freshman, combining for 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Linebacker Trenton Simpson also has seen time.

Uiagalelei’s highlights are good so far

Uiagalelei has seen action in five of Clemson’s six games mopping up for Lawrence. He is 12 of 19 passing for 102 yards but has yet to throw a touchdown.

He also is a factor in the rushing attack: He has eight carries for 32 yards and two touchdowns.

MORE: Lawrence noncommittal about plans for 2021 NFL Draft

Uiagalelei might start against Notre Dame

Uiagalelei will get the nod against Boston College, a game in which the Tigers were 31-point favorites. That line should drop, but Clemson’s offense will not need to change much around the talented freshman.

Uiagalelei still is at the controls of a loaded team that features running back Travis Etienne, who averages 6.3 yards per carry.

The real test could come on Nov. 7 against No. 4 Notre Dame — if Lawrence is unable to play. Uiagalelei would be making his first road start against a legitimate College Football Playoff contender.

Who knows from there?

Remember when Lawrence took over for Kelly Bryant in 2018? He led Clemson to a 44-16 victory against Alabama in the College Football Playoff championship game.

Given Lawrence is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, it’s uncertain — though still probable — that he would return when he’s available to come back.

Uiagalelei is a talented freshman, but the fact his time has come this soon is yet another unexpected wrinkle in a college football season that continues to be affected by COVID-19.

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