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Clemson QB Uiagalelei slimmer, mentally ready for season

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei was bulky, bothered by injuries, and beaten down this past year by critics upset that the Tigers were from the ACC and national championship picture.

Now, some 15 pounds trimmer, 100% healthy and mentally refreshed, Uiagalelei believes hes once again the dynamic playmaker he showed his freshman season rather than the misfiring mess he appeared sometimes this past year.

I believe I visit a completely different guy, Uiagalelei said Wednesday. Ive gotten better from the final game, someone whos been through it and is really a completely different quarterback.

The fourth-ranked Tigers open the growing season Monday night vs. Georgia Tech at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Few thought Uiagalelei had little to improve after his stunning cameo as a freshman. Uiagalelei replaced starter Trevor Lawrence the NFL No. 1 overall pick missed two Clemson games with COVID-19 in two stellar performances.

In his first college start, Uiagalelei threw for 342 yards and two TDs to rally Clemson from 18 points down in a 34-28 make an impression on Boston College. Seven days later, Uiagalelei threw for a school-record 439 yards in a 47-40 overtime loss at Notre Dame probably the most ever thrown by an opposing QB at the house of Touchdown Jesus.

The next fall, Uiagalelei was the highly anticipated starter and a Heisman Trophy contender. Things, though, quickly went awry.

Uiagalelei was off-target in a season-opening, 10-3 loss to eventual national champion Georgia and a 27-21 OT defeat at NEW YORK State three weeks later that took the Tigers out of contention for his or her seventh straight ACC crown and College Football Playoff berth.

Thats once the criticism hit hard. The cool California kid heard demands his benching and rumors he could transfer because he needed a brand new start someplace else.

He previously hurt a finger in early stages, then sprained a knee ligament last November. He could play through both. Still, that has been certainly one factor in him completing significantly less than 56% of his passes for 10 interceptions against nine touchdowns.

Works out all Uiagalelei needed was time and energy to heal, change his diet and restore a wholesome mindset.

Personally i think hes in an extremely good spot, first-year Clemson offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said. He’s got confidence in himself and we’ve confidence in him.

Probably the most difficult part for Uiagalelei was changing his eating regimen. He previously to stop sweets, something impossible for most college students. The outcomes were apparent as Uiagalelei will play at a more tapered 235 pounds than his listed 250 pounds from the year ago.

Uiagalelei watched film with Streeter to shore up his technique. Streeter would stop the tape and have, You coach yourself, DJ.

He was quick to answer, Streeter said. Hes an extremely sharp kid.

The result on the field can be apparent during Clemsons fall practices. Defensive end K.J. Henry said the junior looks more elusive and decisive heading into Monday nights game.

Hes done far better and one of these guys wholl function as best version of himself this season, Henry said.

Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins can be anticipating the very best version of Uiagalelei.

Hes a dangerous runner, throws a good deep ball. They way he runs that offense when theyre clicking, Collins said, I believe they won six right to end the growing season.

Uiagalelei hung tough to power that closing run and knows hes ready for another step of progress. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney routinely asks his players for a word they carry in to the season. Uiagalelei opt for phrase, Roll The Dice.

To him this means not dwelling on others opinions. Without a doubt on yourself, Uiagalelei said. You show people you skill.

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Join the APs college football newsletter: https://bit.ly/3pqZVaF

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