DJ Uiagalelei to UCLA just makes too much sense to happen.
There are reports that Clemson football’s former quarterback was seen this week on UCLA’s campus, and it could be he was just in the neighborhood. Uiagalelei grew up in the Los Angeles area and became a phenom nearby at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California.
While that seems a perfect fit, there are couple of obstacles in his way.
Uiagalelei has started every game for the past two seasons but lost that job in the ACC championship when freshman Cade Klubnik led Clemson (11-2) to a victory against North Carolina. Klubnik was designated as the starter for the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 (8 p.m., ESPN) against Tennessee (10-2) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Uiagalelei went into the transfer portal.
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Uiagalelei is looking for high-profile place to excel immediately. UCLA needs a quarterback to replace Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a five-year starter. Match made in portal heaven.
But the last thing Uiagalelei needs right now is a quarterback competition. He’s best served by waiting as long as possible, well beyond Wednesday’s opening to the early signing period. UCLA is targeting a pair of other quarterbacks and either one would push Uiagalelei out of the picture.
Five-star Dante Moore, the No. 3 overall prospect in this class, is committed to Oregon, but there are reports that he could switch. UCLA is also recruiting Collin Schlee from the transfer portal. He was all-conference at Kent State but left after coach Sean Lewis joined the staff at Colorado.
It might be as simple as Uiagalelei goes where Moore does not. If Moore switches to UCLA, Uiagalelei could become another comeback candidate at Oregon. Quarterback Bo Nix transferred there after struggling at Auburn and revived his career with a combined 41 touchdowns passing and rushing.
Schlee, meanwhile, made all-conference despite not beginning the season as the starter. He passed for 2,000 yards with nearly 500 more rushing, 5.0 per carry, and a combined 17 touchdowns.
Uiagalelei passed for 5,681 yards and 36 touchdowns while running for 15 touchdowns in his two seasons as the starter, going 21-6. He graduated but still has two years of eligibility, including the COVID redshirt.
Todd Shanesy covers Clemson athletics for the USA TODAY Network.