Swinney names Klubnik Clemson starter

Published: Dec. 4, 2022 at 10:26 AM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Cade Klubnik would get his shot in the third or fourth series. That was the plan Clemson coaches had put in place Sunday, following a 31-30 loss to South Carolina.

“We made the decision Sunday. I called Cade last Sunday and told him what we were going to do,” head coach Dabo Swinney explained in his postgame press conference.

The plan wasn’t necessarily for Klubnik to replace starter DJ Uiagalelei for the rest of the game, but after two series where he went 2-for-5 for ten yards, the senior left the door open for his freshman teammate.

Klubnik busted through that door.

Leading the Tiger on a nine play, 71-yard scoring drive that included going 5-for-5 for 50-yards passing.

It was just the spark Clemson was looking for and just the beginning of an MVP evening for Klubnik, whose second series of the night put Clemson up for good. His first five-of-six drives were scoring drives and led to the 39-10 ACC Championship win, and the starting job as Clemson’s quarterback.

“Moving forward, Cade will be the starter going in and DJ will be the backup and we’ll keep moving forward,” said Swinney.

Swinney said they had hoped he’d be ready to take over against Notre Dame, but Klubnik’s first pass attempt was intercepted, and Uiagalelei returned.

“He’ll be the first to tell you he wasn’t ready early (on). But he kept getting ready,” said Swinney. Adding the opportunity “could have happened earlier,” but that “guy’s got to earn it.”

Uiagalelei is set to graduate later this month and with a season of eligibility remaining, where he spends that year is now a big question mark.

“He graduates in a week or so,” said Swinney. “He’s got a bright future. A bright, bright future as a football player. He’s a guy who will always have a special place in my heart. No one has ever worked harder. These guys love DJ and I do too.”

Swinney said both he and offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter spoke with both Klubnik and Uiagalelei this week about the plan.

“They told me he’d get a shot and man Cade took that shot and ran with it,” said Uiagalelei. “He played an unbelievable game and the offense played great around him. He did an unbelievable job. He played free out there.”

“He’s a special person. He understood,” said Swinney. “We hoped that he’d play well. But he didn’t have a great series. We stuck with the plan. And the rest is history.”

Uiagalelei’s character was on full display throughout the night, celebrating Klubnik and the team’s success from the sidelines.

“At the end of the day, I’m a team guy. I love the team. I’d die for my teammates. I’ll do whatever it is,” Uiagalelei said. ”At the end of the day, I’m just happy we won. Cade played an unbelievable game, receivers made plays, defense played great.

“The team comes before me and at the end of the day I’m going to ride and die by that. I’m a team player. I just want to be able to win ball games and be able to see us win a ACC Championship. I’m super excited and I appreciate that.”