ESPN features DJ Uiagalelei’s Fresh Start With OSU Beavers

By 750 THE GAME STAFF

DJ Uiagalelei is one of a handful of high-profile transfer quarterbacks who are stepping into new situations this college football season.

Sam Hartman went from Wake Forest to Notre Dame. Hudson Card left Texas for Purdue. Kedon Slovis is on his third team now at BYU, leaving Pitt (and USC before that). Devin Leary is the new QB at Kentucky after transferring from NC State, who in turn brought in Brennan Armstrong from Virginia.

Adam Rittenberg wrote a feature piece for ESPN+ focused on DJ’s new beginning in Corvallis while providing additional details on the other transfer quarterbacks in that group.

Head coach Jonathan Smith is quoted throughout the piece, including his initial impressions of encountering DJ.

When I first talked to him, he was prepared,” Smith told ESPN. “He had watched, he knew some of the scheme we’re running, followed the games, knew a little bit about Lindgren. He does his homework. He said he wanted to go to a style and a system like this, a place where he didn’t have to flat-out win the game himself. We’ve got a run game going, playing some defense, and the West Coast thing helped him.

Smith also revealed OSU’s offensive system puts more on the shoulders of the quarterback than is typical in a college offense.

I obviously don’t know everybody, but from what I heard he experienced at Clemson, we ask quite a bit more,” Smith said. “Protection, snap count, change the snap count, call the play in the huddle, there’s a lot of mechanics that go into that. We’re not trying to make things complicated. There’s strategy behind it.

Much of the early hype this spring has been on the 17-year-old freshman standout Aidan Chiles. But Rittenberg’s piece suggests OSU knows Uiagalelei gives them a real chance to lift the passing game, in particular, this fall.

“There’s no doubt about why the team added the 6-foot-4, 251-pound Uiagalelei: to spark a passing game that ranked 104th nationally in 2022,” writes Rittenberg.

Rittenberg also got a quote from a coach in the ACC who said he was surprised how much Clemson was committed to using Uiagalelei in the rushing game instead of maximizing his arm talent.

DJ, I don’t know, they just wanted to run him a lot,” an ACC coach said. “I don’t get it. The guy’s got a really strong arm and he’s enormous. They basically used him to run quarterback counter and quarterback power. I bet he has a great year [at Oregon State].

Smith reiterated to Rittenberg the team’s quarterback position remains a competition between DJ, Chiles, and the returning Ben Gulbranson who went 7-1 as the team’s starting quarterback last year.

We need to throw the ball better than we did last year, so we wanted to create that competition,” Smith said. “DJ knew the whole time that we had a returning starter and a freshman coming in. Ben hasn’t backed down one bit.

Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren will help DJ refine some technical aspects of his game over the summer, including his footwork and the way he grips and releases the football, per Rittenberg.

DJ says in the piece he already feels more comfortable in Corvallis than he did at his previous stop.

I feel more at home here than I did at Clemson,” DJ said. “My personality, I can be more myself here than I could at Clemson. I wanted to be closer to home. I’m a 2½-hour flight [from home], my brother’s 50 minutes from here. It’s easy for my parents to come see me.

Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Damien Martinez has played a little basketball with Uiagalelei during their time away from the gridiron; Martinez calls DJ “real chill, real smooth” in the piece.

The piece also says DJ looked to Will Levis as an example of a transfer success story. Levis played three seasons at Penn State before transferring to Kentucky and a pro-style offense with offensive coordinator Liam Coen in the 2021 season when Levis broke out on the national stage. The 2022 campaign wasn’t as friendly for Levis, as Coen had returned to the NFL, but the Wildcats QB still was a second-round pick in this year’s draft.

DJ also expressed how important it was to feel like the coaches at Oregon State believed in him and his skill set.

I wanted to go somewhere where they believed in me, where the coaches believed in me,” Uiagalelei said. “I wanted to go somewhere where they’re going to let me be who I am as a player, let me play free, let me go out there and just cut it loose. Just somewhere where the scheme’s going to fit me.

For the full piece on ESPN+ on DJ’s fresh start in Corvallis, click here. Rittenberg includes more quotes from fellow Pac-12 transfer quarterbacks Bo Nix at Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. at Washington, as well as more insight into what put Oregon State apart from other programs in winning DJ’s transfer decision.

DJ and the Beavers open the season on Sun., Sept. 3rd at San Jose State. That will be a 12:30 p.m. kickoff on CBS, part of a handful of games assigned kickoff times and television channels earlier this week.

@750TheGame

 

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