Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is poised to tower over the college football landscape for the next two seasons. After a precocious freshman season where he won the starting job and led the Tigers to a national title, he projects as the most sure-fire quarterback prospect in the American collegiate system since Andrew Luck.
In theory, Lawrence’s exit could include a hand-off to another prodigious talent. On Sunday afternoon, the Tigers got a verbal commitment from the best high school quarterback in the country, D.J. Uiagalelei, who is also the Rivals.com overall No. 1 player in his class. He would enroll at Clemson in 2020, which means he’d overlap with Lawrence for what’s presumed to be the final year of his Tiger career, as he already projects as the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Uiagalelei, 18, announced via a YouTube video on Sunday afternoon, with more than 8,000 people waiting when the program began at noon Pacific. “I’m all in,” he said in the video. “Go Tigers.”
Uiagalelei’s verbal commitment to Clemson makes the rich exponentially richer, as the 6-foot-4, 235-pound quarterback projects to be a centerpiece of the program that won two of the past three national titles in the long term. The commitment does come with a pinch of caution, as Uiagalelei has maintained that he’s open to a professional baseball career and that he wants to play both sports as long as possible.
Will this be another Kyler Murray situation choosing between those two sports? It’s too early to say. But look for Uiagalelei’s decision of whether or not to enroll early at Clemson in the spring of 2020 as a bellwether for which sport he plans on pursuing professionally. If he heads to Clemson to take part in spring practice after his senior football season this fall, it would likely put that sport in the forefront over baseball. Uiagalelei can throw in the mid-90s in baseball and is considered a high-end prospect.
If Uiagalelei stays as a quarterback, he’ll maintain his status as one of the sport’s most intriguing prospects. He’s shined the past four years at the QB Collective camp, which features the country’s top high school quarterbacks coached by NFL coaches, coordinators, and former players. “I’ve never seen a junior in high school as physically gifted as D.J.,” longtime NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who has worked with Uiagalelei at the camp, told Yahoo Sports on Sunday. “He has the body of a Pro Bowl, athletic quarterback. The ball shoots out of his hand. He’s super-powerful, athletic and accurate.”
Uiagalelei is the latest quarterback prodigy to emerge from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California. He follows Josh Rosen, who went on to star at UCLA and was recently traded from the Arizona Cardinals to the Miami Dolphins. Last season at Bosco, Uiagalelei threw for 3,366 yards and completed just under 70-percent of his passes. He threw 48 touchdown passes and had seven interceptions.
Jason Negro, the veteran coach at Bosco who also tutored Rosen, projects an elite ceiling for Uiagalelei. “D.J. is a once-in-a-generation type talent who could transform the QB position because of his unique combination of speed, power, size and athleticism,” Negro said on Sunday. “Coupled with his humility and determination, he could be beyond special at the next level and beyond.”
As it projects now, Uiagalelei could have a year to apprentice under Lawrence before getting a shot to win the starting job at Clemson in 2021. While projecting quarterback depth chart years ahead in the era of the Transfer Portal is futile, it’s safe to say there’d be stout competition for Uiagalelei, which includes current Clemson four-star freshman Taisun Phommachanh.
Uiagalelei’s first college scholarship offer came from Indiana in sixth grade. His choice came down to Oregon and Clemson, with the Ducks considered a long shot as he’d maintained for more than a year that Clemson was the leader. Uiagalelei pointed to the program’s ethos, which ranged from the slide in the facility to the coaches bowing their head in prayer before meals. “It was just a great atmosphere,” Uiagalelei said this summer of the coaches there. “It feels like I’m talking to a family member.”
Through the QB Collective, Uiagalelei has been exposed to NFL minds like Mike Shanahan and Sean McVay and left an impression on them. “This is a guy that multiple NFL coaches could immediately compare his arm talent to starting NFL quarterbacks,” said Richmond Flowers, who founded QB Collective. “Mike Shanahan still asks me about him. You rarely see a kid that age with that level of arm talent. The arm talent and size is rare, but the way he works, buys into it and loves it sets him apart. He doesn’t have an ego or sense of entitlement.”
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