Cade Klubnik opened up recently about what it was like to be mostly a backup quarterback in his freshman season.
The presumed Clemson starter heading into 2023, the five-star prospect from Austin, Texas, described to Adam Breneman on the Next Up Podcast what it was like to sit behind DJ Uiagalelei until the final two games of 2022.
“Yeah, it was definitely frustrating a few times, but like I said, it’s just kind of kept my head down and kept trusting Coach Swinney,” Klubnik said. “Coach Swinney ended up telling me later on in the year that he was going to maybe try to make the move at the Notre Dame game. And obviously the game didn’t go the way we wanted and then I ended up playing. I didn’t end up playing for about four more games after that. The next game I played in was really in the ACC Championship.
“So it’s a tough job to be the backup, but it’s a job that needs to be done. And it’s tough because you prepare every single week like you’re going to be the guy and you never know when that play’s going to come.”
Klubnik saw action in 10 games, but it was very limited, including the Notre Dame game in which he threw an interception on his only drive of the game, until December.
“You’re studying the defense, learning the offense, learning the install, and it doesn’t always go the way you want, but that’s part of it,” Klubnik said about his backup experience. “It’s the game, and only one QB gets to play at a time. It’s not like every other position where multiple guys are getting out there.
“But I didn’t know if going into this year if I was going to get to start the whole year, or not play until my senior year. And I just kept working.”
Klubnik replaced Uiagalelei on the third drive of the game against North Carolina in Charlotte, N.C. Then he made his only start of the season in the Orange Bowl loss against Tennessee. Uiagalelei entered the NCAA transfer portal before the bowl game and eventually transferred to Oregon State.
Klubnik will get first crack at running new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley’s run-heavy Air Raid scheme this spring. And while he only saw 224 live-action snaps last season, Klubnik hopes how he handled watching from the sidelines serves him well this fall.
“Really just my mindset is just trying to get the signal every play, just try to know what the play is, and then just trying to act like I’m in there every single play, and act like I’m in there playing the play,” Klubnik said. “I think that helped me a ton, just it’s like I’m getting more and more practice reps and game-like reps. Even if I don’t even get to step on the field that game, it’s like I’m getting game reps and mental reps.
“Watching the defense, seeing what I would be doing, thinking of footwork, protection, transition, progressions, safety movement, corner movement, blitzes, and just all that good stuff. So just really trying to act like I’m in the game and just make it as game-like, even though I’m sitting on the sideline.”
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