1st-and-5, ACC Rookies: DJ Uiagalelei has his moment, shows why he’s next in line at Clemson

Every week during the 2020 football season we highlight five ACC rookies that put together standout performances. This edition is led by DJ Uiagalelei, who helped keep championship dreams alive for Clemson, a pair of Wake Forest defenders and the return of Georgia Tech’s Jahmyr Gibbs.


DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson

Playing without Trevor Lawrence, Clemson looked stunned against Boston College, trailing by 18 points at home, with national title hopes hanging in the balance. That’s when freshman quarterback DJ Uiagalelei stepped up.

Uiagalelei completed 30-of-41 pass attempts (73.2 percent) for 342 yards with two touchdowns, while leading Clemson to the largest comeback in Memorial Stadium history. He joins Deshaun Watson (remember him?) and Lawrence as the only two true freshmen in Clemson history to win their starting debuts.

In one of the game’s defining moments, Uiagalelei made a huge play in a leverage situation: 4th-and-1, down 15 points in the third quarter. From a zone read, Uiagalelei perfectly scanned Boston College’s defensive line, which crashed on Travis Etienne. Uiagalelei, however, kept the ball and dashed for a crucial 30-yard touchdown — his third rushing touchdown of the season.


Nick Andersen and Gavin Holmes, Wake Forest

Nick Andersen followed up his near perfect performance against Virginia Tech with another strong outing in a win over Syracuse. As the Wake Forest defense dominated — three turnovers, 221 total yards for Syracuse — Andersen bagged five tackles and defended two passes.

Andersen ranks second on Wake’s roster with 38 total tackles. The freshman walk-on now has seven passes defended this season, tied for fourth most in the conference, including the three interceptions vs. Virginia Tech.

True freshman Gavin Holmes, a 3-star recruit in the 2020 class, made a name for himself against Syracuse. Holmes collected two tackles and returned his first career interception for a pick-six touchdown; however, that came with a cost, too.


Kyren Williams, Notre Dame

During the win over Georgia Tech, Kyren Williams recorded 100 yards from scrimmage and two more rushing touchdowns, which gives him seven for the season; Williams is averaging a cool 5.7 yards per carry, too.

With 600 rushing yards, Williams is just the fifth Notre Dame running back — since 2000 — to run for 500+ yards and 5+ touchdowns through the first six games of the season, according to Sports Reference. He’s the first to hit those benchmarks since Josh Adams in 2017.

Williams will need to improve his ball security, though; he’s fumbled three times now this season, including one which led to a 93-yard scoop-and-score for Georgia Tech’s Zamari Walton.

Can Williams perform in primetime this Saturday against a Clemson defense — ranked No. 6 in efficiency — that’s missing key performers: Tyler Davis, James Skalski and Mike Jones?


Jahmyr Gibbs, Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech fell to Notre Dame last Saturday, but freshman running back Jahmyr Gibbs continues to produce at a high level. Gibbs finished with 110 yards from scrimmage, on 19 touches: 5.8 yards per touch.

In fact, Gibbs joins Etienne as the only two players in the conference with 300 rushing yards, 250 receiving yards and five or more total touchdowns.

It hasn’t taken long for Gibbs to establish himself as a reliable receiver out of the backfield: 20 receptions (tied with Jalen Camp for tops on the roster) for 255 yards.


Read More on DJ Uiagalelei and ACC Football

Storm Duck, Beau Corrales out for UNC-Duke matchup