By: Marty Coleman; Host of Sluggo Podcast
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Clemson’s need for a “generational” quarterback in the 2022 cycle or, at the very least, an early enrollee in 2023.
That’s still true, but there’s an even more pressing need at the position right now. Hidden by Trevor Lawrence’s next-level talent and the precocious play of D.J. Uiagalelei is this fact: Clemson is precariously thin at the most important position on the field heading into 2021.
Yes, the Tigers have bodies behind Uiagalelei, including former 4 star Taisun Phommachanh, but that’s about all you can say heading into the spring.
Uiagalelei accumulated 235 snaps, including 2 impressive starts, while Phommachanh totaled 43 snaps in an injury riddled season and none since his injury on October 17th.
More troubling, even before being injured, Phommachanh appeared to have regressed from the potential he showed as a freshman, finishing the 2020 season 5 of 17 for 17 yards with an interception. Yes, he was working with 2nd and 3rd stringers, but you’d also have to figure reserves were in on the other side, too or the opponents weren’t competitive.
This isn’t to say that Phommachanh can’t become a legitimate backup. He was recruited to Clemson for a reason and as the 168th ranked player overall and the number 4 dual threat quarterback in his class (per Rivals.com) came to the Upstate with credentials of his own.
But he hasn’t shown it on the field, like Uiagalelei has, and Phommachanh certainly hasn’t been under pressure from a big deficit at home or a road game at Notre Dame that Uiagalelei faced.
Behind Uiagalelei and Phommachanh? Walk-ons Hunter Helms (22 snaps), James Talton (0) and incoming freshman Bubba Chandler (did not enroll in January
Though it’s difficult to tell whether it’s truth or “Dabo bluster”, there’s been talk of another incoming freshman, Will Taylor, a 5’10, 157 pound high school quarterback (next Hunter Renfrow?) who was recruited as a wide receiver in the Adam Humphries mold, training as a quarterback initially which tells you all you need to know about depth at the position.
This past season Clemson had one of the strongest quarterback rooms in the country with Lawrence and Uiagalelei. You could argue that having Phommachanh, the former 4 star, as your 3rd teamer added to that strength, at least on paper.
Lawrence is off to Jacksonville and D.J. assumes the mantle, which sitting here in late January sounds fantastic.
What doesn’t sound fantastic is the Tigers being a turned ankle or stinger away from having a very inexperienced and unproven quarterback at the helm of one of college football’s powerhouses, whether that’s Phommachanh or someone else.
It’s easy to overlook when your quarterbacks are named Watson and Lawrence, but the backup has played a crucial role in recent memory from Chase Brice saving the Tigers perfect 2018 season to Uiagalelei rallying the Tigers from 18 down against Boston College this year.
There are those who say it won’t matter, Clemson will win their games no matter who the quarterback is and perhaps that’s true, but for some reason that 2017 Syracuse game keeps running through my head.
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