officially opened on Monday, and shortly after noon ET, one of the biggest names in college football entered its name into the database. Clemson quarterback DJ Wiagaleley, a two-year starter for the Tigers, announced his intention to leave after being substituted in the ACC Championship game over North Carolina in favor of five-star freshman Cade Strawberry.
Wiagaleley threw for 5,681 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions in three seasons, falling short of the five-star hype that followed him upstate. Wiagaleley was a five-star prospect and 10th overall in the class of 2020 at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California and was considered “next in line” for Coach Dabo Sweeney’s team following the success of former starters Trevor Lawrence and Deshawn Watson.
The transfer portal is full of talented quarterbacks and there’s no doubt that the Huiagalel advantage will be attractive to coaches looking for a new signal player. Where will he land? Let’s lay out a few options.
The Bruins immediately came to mind as soon as rumors of the Huiagalel move surfaced. Senior Dorian Thompson-Robinson had great success under coach Chip Kelly, throwing for 2,883 yards and 25 touchdowns while rushing for 632 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wiagaleley has rushed for 913 yards and thrown 15 touchdowns in his career with Clemson, making him the perfect match for Kelly given how he used not only Thompson-Robinson but other quarterbacks throughout his college coaching career.
Additionally, Wiagaleley hails from the greater Los Angeles area, near the UCLA Westwood campus. There’s no sign that Wiagaleley didn’t fit in with Clemson’s culture, but moving closer to home is what usually attracts players who do.
The Ducks aren’t necessarily a perfect fit geographically if Wiagaleley really wants to be closer to home, but it’s a West Coast attacking juggernaut who could open up as a quarterback. The senior Beau Nicks had a fantastic 2022 campaign after moving from Auburn, throwing for 3,388 yards and 27 touchdowns, as well as 504 yards and 14 touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham left to take over at Arizona State, but coach Dan Lanning is unlikely to change his philosophy since it worked so well for the Knicks.
One question mark to keep in mind though: can he beat Ty Thompson? Thompson was a four-star quarterback in the Class of 2021 who saw limited playing time behind the Knicks this year despite the hype that followed him to Eugene, so Wiagaleley won’t start from behind if he turns duck in 2023. Of course, Thompson may also be considering a portal, so there may not be much competition.
3. Mother of God
Day one starter Tyler Buechner missed most of the 2022 season with a shoulder injury sustained in Week 2, which opened the door for Drew Pine to get first team shots. Pine, who has 2,021 yards and 22 touchdowns, announced that he would transfer and miss the Gator Bowl. Notre Dame was ranked 106th in the nation in passing offense (199.9 yards per game), which is out of date in the era of attacking football.
Will Wiagaleley start in South Bend? May be. But coach Marcus Freeman needs another option, if only to create the competition culture that every program needs to build a championship squad.
This may seem like an unfamiliar option, but there are several reasons why it might be attractive.
Virginia coach Tony Elliott was the offensive coordinator at Clemson for the Wiagalels’ first two seasons with the Tigers. Wiagaleley threw for 342 yards and threw for two touchdowns in his first start for Lawrence when Lawrence was on COVID-19 protocol, and then the following week he threw for 439 yards with two touchdowns against that Irish program. Moreover, Wiagaleley was very supportive of Elliott as the offense struggled to start the 2021 campaign.
Virginia lost former starter Brennan Armstrong to Portal following a 2022 campaign that opened up space for another signal caller. Armstrong had a disappointing season after throwing for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2021, and a little introduction could go a long way in getting Elliot to change the program.
Kenny Dillingham was Bo Nicks’ offensive coordinator in Oregon before Dillingham agreed to become the head coach of the Sun Devils. As mentioned above, Dillingham’s offense put the Knicks in contention for the Heisman Trophy midway through the 2022 season and is a perfect fit for the Huiagalels’ skill set. Also, geography-wise, Tempe, Arizona is not that far from Bellflower, California.
However, NCAA troubles have plagued the Arizona State program under former coach Herm Edwards, which can be a problem not only for the Wiagalels, but for every player on the portal.