Mike Norvell and quarterbacks coach Tony Tokarz have added an experienced signal caller to the mix for 2024. DJ Uiagalelei is a name that most FSU fans remember from his time at Clemson. After transferring from Clemson and spending a year at Oregon State, the California native is headed back east to play for the Noles.
The first detail to recognize, whether this name excites you or not, is that FSU had to take a transfer quarterback, period. With AJ Duffy and Tate Rodemaker now in the portal, FSU has only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster for 2024. I believe DJU is the perfect fit for what FSU needs and will immediately raise their win floor for next season.
There’s no doubt that the future of the quarterback position is now on the roster between sophomore Brock Glenn and true freshman Luke Kromenhoek. However, they are young and need time to develop. This is where a proven veteran who can walk in and be a day-one starter for a season makes sense, and that’s what DJU gives you.
Uiagalelei walks in the door with 40 starts at the Power 5 level compared to the 2 combined starts between Glenn and Kromenhoek. That’s a lot of valuable experience leading this offense AND helping teach the young guys a thing or two. DJ has also been successful as a starter with a 30-10 record.
The former 5-star recruit was the top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2020 class. His .9949 rating in the 247 Composite was higher than Jameis Winston’s .9915. He was also rated higher than CJ Stroud and Carson Beck from the same class. This shows you the potential upside with DJ. However, some would argue that he hasn’t lived up to the hype when looking at the others, which is fair.
I will point out that DJU didn’t play in the best offensive system at Clemson, and he openly criticized it on his way out. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney agreed, and they ended up making a change at offensive coordinator. Clemson’s biggest knock in recent years has also been their lack of dynamic receivers.
Their offense threw for fewer yards per game and fewer touchdowns this season, so it doesn’t appear DJ was the problem. Oregon State is a good team, but it just lags in talent around him. According to the 247 team talent rankings, Oregon State ranks 53rd compared to FSU at 20th, and Clemson was at 5th in 2022, DJ’s final season there.
My point is that if you put talent around him, and he plays in an offense with good coaching that can maximize his skill set, he can win games for FSU. In his final year at Clemson, the Tigers went undefeated in the ACC and won the conference championship. I’ll take that all day long and would also put FSU in the playoffs with the new 12-team format. Of course, FSU still has some work to do with stacking other positions on the roster, but you feel good about what they have at quarterback now.
At 6-foot-4, 252 pounds, DJ gives you a dual-threat ability with a build that provides durability. He also has one of the strongest arms in college football and can push the ball down the field. DJU brings a lot to the table and should play well in Norvell’s offense. If there is one concern with DJ, it’s with accuracy and turnovers. In fairness, Jordan Travis was a ridiculously efficient passer who was safe with the ball. DJU throws it down the field quite a bit, which leads to more challenging throws. So, in a sense, you get a bigger arm that’s a little less efficient when compared to Travis.
In my view, that is the key to this conversation. Mike Norvell found success in 2023 with Jordan at the helm, and as the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So, what if you could replace the production you got from Jordan this season? That would probably make us all feel like we would be in a good place for 2024, right? Well, let’s look at some numbers that might surprise you with how close they were in 2023.
As you can see, production-wise, DJU is basically a carbon copy of Jordan Travis that is 3 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier. If FSU were to get similar numbers out of Uiagalelei in 2024, I’d feel pretty good about where we would be towards the end of the year.
His numbers were similar in 2022 against the same ACC defenses he’ll face when suiting up in Garnet and Gold. During his last season at Clemson, DJ finished fourth in passing TDs and 5th in TDs responsible for. That was also a year with some pretty good quarterback play in the ACC, featuring guys like Drake Maye, Sam Hartman, and Jordan Travis, among others.
Am I saying that DJU is an immediate Heisman contender? No, but he’s a good college quarterback with the experience and skill set to win games at FSU. We saw how much the quarterback run opened up this offense. DJ carried the ball over 100 times, racking up 664 yards and adding 7 touchdowns on the ground in his final year at Clemson (sack adjusted). His mobile ability and size make him hard to bring down. This could be beneficial behind an offensive line that hasn’t always been perfect. DJ had a very impressive 8.8% pressure-to-sack ratio in 2023.
DJU gives you a guy with a big arm and big frame that is hard to bring down and has mobile ability. He was Top 15 in QBR, Big Time Throw rate, and average depth of target in 2023. I’m not saying DJ is a “safe bet” type of quarterback, but he feels like a guy that you know what to expect at a minimum with a potential high upside.
Combine all that with the fact that he wants to be here based on what he said in his commitment interviews, and I think it’s a perfect fit for both DJU and the Noles. Thanks for reading, and Go Noles!
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