Cade’s Time: QB Klubnik prepares to start Orange Bowl

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CLEMSON, S.C. – Cade Klubnik looked poised and confident in his new role as the No. 1 quarterback at Clemson. The only difference is he didn’t have experienced teammate DJ Uiagalelei alongside to help guide him.

Klubnik took control of the offense – for good this time, after Uiagalelei entered the NCAA transfer portal last week – as the 10th-ranked Tigers continued postseason preparations for their Orange Bowl game against No. 6 Tennessee on Dec. 30.

The game marks Klubnik’s first college start after a season mostly on the sidelines behind Uiagalelei, Clemson’s often criticized two-year starter.

Klubnik, who came on in relief in a 39-10 win over North Carolina in the ACC Championship game, has had “a front-row seat to the good and the bad of what it’s like to play quarterback at this level,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday.

Klubnik was among the country’s top quarterback prospects when he signed at Clemson. Many supporters were looking to replace Uiagalelei, who fought through injuries and poor play as the Tigers’ streak of six consecutive ACC titles and College Football Playoff appearances ended with a 10-3 season in 2021.

But it was Uiagalelei, a junior, who led Clemson to a 7-0 start and a projected playoff spot.

That’s when things went off the rails for the Tigers’ offense. Klubnik came off the bench for an ineffective Uiagalelei to spark a 27-21 victory over then-ranked Syracuse on Oct. 22.

Klubnik was called on again in relief two weeks later in a 35-14 loss at Notre Dame. Then, when Uiagalelei started with two three-and-out series against the Tar Heels with a league title at stake, Swinney put in Klubnik and never looked back.

Klubnik was ready for the moment, finishing 20 of 24 passing for 279 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown and was named the game’s MVP. Uiagalelei made his departure official two days later.

Klubnik said he was coached all year to prepare as if he were starting and it paid off in helping the Tigers won their seventh ACC crown in eight seasons.

“I’ve learned so much this year,” he said. “I’m just super thankful for me just kind of getting to sit back and watch.”

Those days are finished for Klubnik, who took the first series in each drill at Clemson’s practice. After a sharp pass to tailback Will Shipley, offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter shouted, “Good job. That’s the way.”

The Tigers seem to have made peace with the change at quarterback – and with Uiagalelei’s departure. Swinney said the team would not have won the ACC title without Uiagalelei.

“Of course, I miss `Big Cinco,”‘ said defensive tackle Tyler Davis, referring to Uiagalelei’s nickname and uniform number. “Great teammate, one of the best teammates I have had. But it’s his decision, he’s got to do what’s best for him.”

Uiagalelei won’t be the only Clemson regular missing against Tennessee. Tigers starting defensive end Myles Murphy, a projected high first-round NFL draft pick, has opted out of the Orange Bowl to start training for the pros.

Starting linebacker Trenton Simpson, second on the team with 77 tackles, re-injured his ankle in the ACC title game and won’t be ready to play, Swinney said.

The coach has had to sit more experienced, well-liked quarterbacks in the past such as starter Cole Stoudt in 2014 for freshman Deshaun Watson and Kelly Bryant during Trevor Lawrence‘s first year in 2018. Swinney anticipates a smooth transition going forward.

“These guys are all competitors, they all understand the game,” Swinney said of his players. “And Cade’s an easy guy, it’s not like he’s some hard personality. He’s an easy guy to get to like.”

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.