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D.J. Uiagalelei’s quote on pressure suggests he’ll handle succeeding Trevor Lawrence

Clemson Tigers fans probably aren’t fretting too much about D.J. Uiagalelei taking the reins of the offense from legendary quarterback Trevor Lawrence after his strong showing in two starts as a true freshman.

Nevertheless, it’ll be a different energy with Lawrence out of the picture and Uiagalelei fully in charge under center. If the sophomore’s remarks at ACC media days about pressure are any indication, though, he’s bound to thrive as Lawrence’s heir apparent.

Check out what Uiagalelei had to say regarding the pressure he’ll face as Clemson’s clear starter in 2021, per The Athletic‘s Grace Raynor:

Lawrence had one of the best three-year runs in college football history, and went on to be the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. While the Jacksonville Jaguars signal-caller will certainly be in touch with Uiagalelei when possible, the new Tigers field general is running the show.

But maybe seeing what Lawrence went through — or at least, becoming his teammate for a year and hearing about how he dealt with the scrutiny, particularly when fans packed the stands in the two seasons prior — was precisely what Uiagalelei needed.

D.J. Uiagalelei has the skill set and perspective to be a Heisman Trophy contender

D.J. Uiagalelei
Nov 7, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (5) warms up before the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Even at the best college football programs in the country, it’s difficult to maintain an elite level of quarterback play year in and year out. Clemson has been fortunate to have players like Deshaun Watson and Lawrence in relatively close succession, which leaves quite a legacy for Uiagalelei to live up to.

Both Watson and Lawrence won national titles for the Tigers, and those championship expectations will be placed on Uiagalelei as well. However, he’s already proven capable of dealing with adversity that’ll inevitably pop up during the season.

Uiagalelei was expected to see some spot duty at most in 2020, with Lawrence in place as the unquestioned starter. Instead, the unimaginable happened, as Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19, thrusting the frosh Uiagalelei into duty.

In his first start versus Boston College, Uiagalelei lit up the scoreboard in a 34-28 win, throwing for 342 yards and two scores against a stellar Eagles defense.

The following week was even more impressive. Although the Tigers fell to fellow College Football Playoff participant Notre Dame in double overtime, it was a coming-out party for Uiagalelei, who had another 439 yards passing — this time on the road in South Bend.

No wonder Uiagalelei is DraftKings’ No. 2 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy despite the small sample size.

So, it’s not as if Uiagalelei’s quote about pressure is coming out of thin air, or it’s faux posturing or deflecting to distract outsiders from the realities of the burden he faces for taking over Lawrence’s spot. Uiagalelei has a wholesome love for the game, and has already shined on the big stage more than once.

You’d be forgiven for discounting Clemson now that Lawrence and several other players have moved on to the NFL. With Uiagalelei as the new face of the team, though, the Tigers should continue rolling through the ACC and nab another CFP berth.