Heisman Handicap DJ Uiagalelei: Can Clemson’s Quarterback Put It All Together in 2022?

dju heisman thumb

The Heisman Trophy odds feature two favorites, a clear third choice and after that the board gets muddy. Caleb Williams is +850 to win the Heisman. The next two players on the board are listed at +3000 right now at FanDuel Sportsbook. For this piece we’re going to focus on Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.

Odds: DJ Uiagalelei +3000

2021 Stats: 54.7 completion percentage, 2,059 yards, 9 touchdowns, 9 interceptions

Why He Can’t Win The Heisman

Usually I like to start the handicaps with the case for why a player can win it, but Uiagalelei’s 2021 is impossible to ignore. Uiagalelei came to Clemson with a ton of hype as the top pro style quarterback recruit in his class, one spot ahead of CJ Stroud. Uiagalelei filled in for Trevor Lawrence for two games in 2020 and was spectacular, particularly in a 439 yard, two touchdown performance on the road against an excellent Notre Dame team. Expectations were high in 2021 and nothing went according to plan. Uiagalelei threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns in the regular season and didn’t eclipse the 250 yard mark passing in any game. His season-high 241 yards came against a dreadful UCONN team. He was also benched after throwing a really bad interception against Pitt. Everything was pretty much a nightmare for him. Clemson didn’t really have a better option to replace Uiagalelei with last year, but this year that have highly touted Freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik coming in. Will Clemson give him a shot if DJU struggles?

Clemson had a chance to maybe inject some life into its offensive philosophy which had grown stale by hiring outside the program to replace offensive coordinator Tony Elliott who left to take the head coaching job at Virginia, but as is his style, Dabo Swinney opted to promote from within, bumping passing game coordinator Brandon Streeter up to Coordinator. Clemson has relied on talent over scheme to do its damage on offense and it completely crashed and burned in 2021. What is going to be different in 2022?

Why He Can Win The Heisman

The talent is definitely there and generally speaking recruiting services don’t miss on talent alone. Uiagalelei had the sixth highest recruiting score of any quarterback in college football this year behind Bryce Young, Stroud, Klubnik, Caleb Williams and Texas’ Quinn Ewers. If he ever puts together the nuance of playing quarterback then he’s really going to take off. 

Also the Clemson defense has potential to be special in 2022. We just saw one of the great defenses ever at Georgia and the Tigers could follow it up with one that might be close. They return a ton of talent including all four starters on a defensive line that features players that were the number one, three and seven ranked players in their class. Clemson isn’t going to give up a lot of points which means they should win a lot of games. There are lines out for six Clemson games including what should be their four toughest. They’re three point favorites against Notre Dame, 7.5 point favorites against Miami and ten point favorites against NC State and Wake Forest. Simply put: an extremely talented quarterback on a legit playoff contender that will likely be favored in every game is someone who is worth considering for a preseason Heisman bet.

The Verdict

At the end of the day I can’t get past how much Uiagalelei struggled last year. He looked lost at times. A big time improvement is possible, but he’d have to play a lot better than he did last year and put up numbers in a Clemson offense that isn’t typically as explosive as Alabama or Ohio State so even though there’s certainly a case to consider him, I didn’t see enough last year from him to make me confident enough to bet on him this year.


Dan Weiner

Hailing from Atlanta and attending college at the University of Texas, Dan is passionate about sports, particularly college football and soccer. He's a diehard Atlanta pro sports and Texas Longhorns fan. He likes every sport and will watch anything and everything the weirder the better. He joined Betsperts after an 11 year career in television production at ESPN.

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