Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei transfers to Oregon State as five-star prospect tries to reset his career

DJ Uiagalelei switches orange and purple for Clemson to orange and black for Oregon. Uiagalelei vowed on Saturday to join the Beavers outside the transfer gate for the 2023 season after a run that didn’t go as expected with the Tigers.

Uiagalelei, a five-star candidate in the Class of 2020, was benched for Cade Klubnik during Clemson’s ACC Championship Game victory over North Carolina State. He entered the Transmission Gate two days later. This is after Uiagalelei was pulled through a number of games throughout the season as Clemson’s offense constantly struggled to find its footing.

There was speculation that Uiagalelei would transfer to UCLA, Washington, or Oregon late in the season, but Washington and Oregon saw the return of Michael Bennix Jr. and Bo Nix for 2023, and Colin Schley transfer from Kent State to UCLA. There was even some speculation — including a 247Sports Crystal Ball prediction earlier in the week — that Uiagalelei would end up in Hawaii.

Instead, it’s another Pac-12 program that will help the former five-star prospect live up to his potential. Uiagalelei’s decision will come just days after his brother, 2023 EDGE five-star Matayo Uiagalelei, announced Committed to competing in Oregon On National Signing Day.

Best move for all parties

Projected as the No. 10 player in the class of 2020, Uiagalelei is Clemson’s next star QB, following in the footsteps of Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence. Did not live up to the hype. During two seasons with the Tigers as a junior, DJU struggled to find consistency as a passer. He completed just 59.8% of his passes for 6.6 yards per attempt, and finished the 2021 season with more interceptions (10) than passes (nine). While he bounced back in 2022 with 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, speculation that he might replace Klopnik in 2023 seemed to weigh heavily on him late in the season. He completed just 10 of 34 attempts over his last two matches.

Now, Uiagalelei is off to a fresh start in the Pac-12 with the Beavers. He will play in the same condition as the other transfer quarterback who needed a fresh start in the West and found one at the Bo Nix out of Auburn. Meanwhile, Clemson could move to Klopnik. Many Clemson fans will argue that Dabo Swinney has waited too long to make the move, and it’s likely that if Uiagalelei returns in 2023, he’ll still be the starter and the Tigers will risk losing Klubnik to the transfer gate.

DJU is Oregon’s upgrade

While it’s unlikely that Uiagalelei will live up to the hype surrounding him out of high school, it’s not like he’s not a talented player. Now he will play in offense under Jonathan Smith, which, frankly, is better equipped to take advantage of his talents. While Uiagalelei didn’t do himself any favors at Clemson, the Tigers’ scheme deserves a good share of the blame, too.

At Oregon, Uiagalelei joins a team that went 10-3 this season despite losing QB Chance Nolan to an injury five games into the season. Nolan was replaced by Ben Gulbranson, who performed admirably but was not the difference maker Uiagalelei could be.

Pac-12 deep into the QB league

Now, a lot of people — myself included — have been saying the same thing about the ACC in 2022, and we’ve seen how that works for Uiagalelei, Clemson, and the conference as a whole. However, Pac-12 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams will be back again next season. The Knicks are back in Oregon, and the Knicks are back in Washington. Schlee isn’t a household name, but he’s put up big numbers at Kent State, and the Bruins also have five-star freshman Dante Moore coming to Brentwood.

Add Uiagalelei to the mix—with Cam Ward at Washington State, Jayden de Laura at Arizona, Drew Pyne at Arizona State, and Sheduer Sanders at Colorado—and it looks like the Pac-12 has some great QB depth.

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