CLEMSON — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney knows a thing or two about wide receivers as he played the position for the Alabama Crimson Tide and coached wide receivers at his alma mater and at Clemson before taking over as head coach in 2008.
But there is one receiver who immediately comes to his mind when he thinks about being a ready-made receiver — Sammy Watkins. But Swinney believes he has two of those "no-bake" receivers on campus right now in true freshmen Frank Ladson Jr. and Joseph Ngata.
After Swinney spent the spring practice season singing the praises of Ladson and Ngata, Saturday was their first chance to show the fan base what they could do — and they did not disappoint.
"Oh, man. You've all heard me say many times, I'm not trying to keep a secret on those guys. They're ready," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "They're really, really talented players. Very coachable. Just love to prepare. High-character guys. ... Frank and Joseph are pretty elite as far as just where they're starting.
"They've got a ways to go, but their starting point, it's pretty impressive to have something inspiring."
Ngata led all receivers with 127 yards on five receptions, including a 70-yard reception, and averaged 25.4 yards per reception in the Tigers' spring game, and Ladson had 102 yards on the five receptions, including a long of 42 yards, and averaged 20.4 yards per reception.
Ladson entered Clemson with an impressive pedigree, ranked among the top 51 players in the nation by five services. As Clemson’s highest-rated player in the class of 2019 by PrepStar, he was 22nd overall and the fifth-best wide receiver with a five-star rating. He was rated No. 23 player in the nation by USA Today Chosen 25 and ranked the 33rd-best overall player by 247Sports, who also listed him as the fourth-best receiver in the nation and fourth-best overall player from Florida.
But a knee injury has kept Ladson sidelined for the majority of fall camp, giving Ngata a chance to show what he is capable of doing.
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And he has not disappointed.
In fact, his play through fall camp has ensured that the talented wide receiver will avoid the dreaded redshirt.
"Ngata. For sure (will not be redshirted)," Swinney said. "“Ngata has just been awesome. He’s just getting better. Sometimes freshmen hit a wall as camp goes, and he’s just gotten better and better. He has really had a great camp."
One of the things that has separated Ngata from some of the other players vying to avoid redshirting this season is his work-ethic. In fact, Swinney believes that Ngata is one of the hardest workers he has ever coached.
"He's one of the most focused, one of the most committed young people I have ever seen. It's amazing to watch him work," Swinney said. "I saw pretty quick in the spring that this guy is wired unlike your typical freshman, mentally and physically. Them great ones, it doesn’t take long to see it when they’re ready and ahead of the curve.
"He loves to be coached. He loves to learn. He's a sponge. Loves to soak up knowledge and then he applies it."
However great the true freshman has been through the spring and now fall camp, there is a difference in camp and when the time comes to lineup against another team.
But Swinney believes that when that moment comes, Aug. 29 against Georgia Tech, he will be ready to perform – as he has all camp.
"No question. No doubt," Swinney said. "He learned everything in the spring and carried it into the summer. He's proven he can handle it. He can play either spot (slot or outside). ... He could play the slot and be a great slot. He's just one those guys that could play all three positions. He's long, technically very advanced. He's going to be a great player."