The NCAA transfer portal officially opened on Monday, and one of the biggest names in college football entered in his name in the database shortly after noon ET. Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, a two-year starter for the Tigers, announced his intentions to move on after being benched in the ACC Championship Game win over North Carolina in favor of five-star freshman Cade Klubnik.
Uiagalelei threw for 5,681 yards, 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions through three seasons, which wasn't up to par with the five-star hype that followed him to the Upstate. Uiagalelei was a five-star prospect and the No. 10 overall player in the Class of 2020 out of St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California, and was considered the "next in line" for coach Dabo Swinney's squad after the success of former starters Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson.
The transfer portal is loaded with talented quarterbacks, and there's no doubt that Uiagalelei's upside will be attractive to coaches in the market for a new signal caller. Where will he land? Let's lay out some options.
The Bruins immediately came to mind the moment rumors of Uiagalelei's transfer surfaced. Senior Dorian Thompson-Robinson was very successful under coach Chip Kelly, throwing for 2,883 yards and 25 touchdowns while rushing for 632 yards and 11 touchdowns. Uiagalelei rushed for 913 yards and 15 touchdowns during his career with Clemson, which makes him a perfect match for Kelly based on how he used not only Thompson-Robinson but other quarterbacks throughout his collegiate coaching career.
Plus, Uiagalelei is from the greater Los Angeles area, not far from UCLA's Westwood campus. There isn't any indication that Uiagalelei wasn't a cultural fit at Clemson, but moving closer to home is something that is typically attractive to players who transfer.
The Ducks aren't necessarily a perfect geographic fit if Uiagalelei does want to be closer to home, but it's a West Coast offensive juggernaut that could have an opening at quarterback. Senior Bo Nix had a fantastic campaign in 2022 after transferring from Auburn, throwing for 3,388 yards and 27 touchdowns while rushing for 504 yards and 14 touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham left to take over the Arizona State job, but it's highly unlikely that coach Dan Lanning will switch up his philosophy since it worked so well for Nix.
There's one question mark to keep in mind, though: Will he be able to beat out Ty Thompson? Thompson was a four-star quarterback in the Class of 2021 who saw limited playing time behind Nix this year despite they hype that followed him to Eugene, so it's not like Uiagalelei will start from behind if he becomes a Duck in 2023. Of course, Thompson could be considering the portal as well, so there might not be much of a competition at all.
3. Notre Dame
Opening-day starter Tyler Buchner missed most of the 2022 season with a shoulder injury suffered in Week 2, which opened the door for Drew Pyne to get the first-team snaps. Pyne, who tossed 2,021 yards and 22 touchdowns, announced that he will transfer and skip the Gator Bowl. Notre Dame finished 106th in the nation in passing offense (199.9 yards per game), which won't cut it in this day and age of offensive football.
Would Uiagalelei start in South Bend? Maybe. But coach Marcus Freeman needs another option if for no other reason than to build a culture of competition that every program needs to build a championship roster.
This might seem like an off-the-radar option, but there are several reasons why it could be attractive.
Virginia coach Tony Elliott was the offensive coordinator at Clemson during Uiagalelei's first two seasons with the Tigers. Uiagalelei threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns in his first start in place of Lawrence when Lawrence was in COVID-19 protocol, and he followed that up with a 439-yard, two-touchdown performance the following week against this Irish program. What's more, Uiagalelei was very supportive of Elliott when the offense struggled to start the 2021 campaign.
Virginia lost former starter Brennan Armstrong to the portal following the 2022 campaign, which has opened a spot for another signal caller. Armstrong had a disappointing season after throwing for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2021, and a little familiarity could go a long way toward Elliott turning the program around.
5. Arizona State
Kenny Dillingham was Bo Nix's offensive coordinator at Oregon before Dillingham accepted the Sun Devils' head coaching gig. As mentioned above, Dillingham's offense vaulted Nix into Heisman trophy contention midway through the 2022 season and is a perfect fit for Uiagalelei's skill set. Plus, if geography is a factor, Tempe, Arizona, isn't that far from Bellflower, California.
NCAA issues have plagued the Arizona State program under former coach Herm Edwards, however, which could be a problem not only for Uiagalelei but every player in the portal.